There are so many different elements that affect the flavours of tea – soil, sunlight, precipitation, temperature, altitude. These elements are what we refer to as ‘terroir’ – borrowed from the world of wine: “the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced”.
I can’t say that any one of these elements are more important than the others, but I thought I would take a moment to explain the affect of one of these elements – one that I think makes tea leaves a lot like people: altitude.
The higher the altitude the tea is grown at, the more complex the flavours become. When we are at high altitudes, as I discovered on my trip to Darjeeling, we struggle as well. Our breathing is shallower and we tend to slow down. The tea leaf reacts in very much the same way – it’s growth slows down and it struggles. That struggle is what produces complexity and interest. Much like us. Each and every one of us has our own story. We struggle, we go on and we survive. And we all come out the other end more interesting than when we went in.
Remember that the next time you sit with a cup of tea. Think of the struggle that leaf went through to produce the delicious flavours in your cup. And when you do that, think of the person who has tested your patience, driven you mad, and provoked your anger today. And then remember that they have a story, a complex story with struggles…you just don’t know their story.