What has age got to do with it?
Many factors affect the taste of tea. We will look at the influences that tree age have on flavours.
Wild ancient tree (usually more than 1,000 years old)
These are extremely rare wild tea trees. Such ancient trees generally have a trunk diameter of 50 cm, trunk circumference of 160 cm and height of 15 m or more. This puts them at an age of more than 1 thousand years old. Their leaves are usually large and sturdy, with veins that bulge and deep serrated edges (jagged edges).
Wild ancient tree leaves can be up to three times heavier too. The resulting flavours are quite different from those cultivated in farms. Classified by full and extremely long-lasting sweetness. This result could be due to its exposure to the elements and developing its natural mechanisms in response to its environment.
Big Tea Trees (500-1000 years old)
These cultivated trees are generally the oldest and largest trees within the tea garden. Old trees in this category are generally classified by being 5 to 15m in height, with a trunk diameter of 30 to 50 cm or a circumference of 100 to 160cm.
Generally, the older the tea tree that is grown in a good ecological environment, the more balanced the taste of the resulting tea.
Original Ancient Tea Tree (300 – 500 years old)
Trees in this range are classified with a trunk diameter of 35-100cm and height of about 3-6m. Such ancient tea trees offer tea layered with complexity, with a base note of lingering sweetness with a fleeting slight woody bitterness and astringency.
“Ecological” Ancient Tea Tree (100-200 years old)
Most ecological ancient tea trees have a trunk diameter of 10-25cm, a circumference of 35-80cm, a tree height of 2.5-4.5m.
The sun-dried green tea from such tree has strong buds and strong leaves, rich in pectin, and bittersweet in taste.
Old Tea Tree (60-100 years old)
Most trees in this range have a diameter of about 5-15cm, a chest circumference of 15-50cm and a height of 1.5m to 3m. The style and taste of old tea trees is quite similar to that of the ancient tea trees. It is rich in natural-occurring pectin, has a fleeting bittersweet astringent flavour and sweetness that lingers.
Small Tea Tree (35-60 years old)
Tea trees within this range are about 80-120cm tall. Resulting teas have buds and leaves that are comparatively less thick from those of the old and ancient tea trees. Astringency in these leaves are longer lasting. The resulting flavour is more coordinated that that of younger terraced tea trees, but not comparable to that of the ancient tea trees.
Terraced Tea Tree (0-35 years old)
These tea trees are usually more densely planted within tea farms in comparison. Most trees in this range are 60-90cm tall. Especially so for Pu Erh where quality is very much affected by tree age, Pu Erh harvested from these trees are less flavourful relative to the other older trees, but as a result more affordable and accessible to the general public.
Tea trees also have a larger yield, faster growth cycle since they are farmed. The taste of younger terraced tea is slightly more bitter, with the astringent flavour lingering longer as compared to its older counterparts.