'Terroir' comes up often in tea language just as you may have heard of it in the context of wine. What exactly is terroir and how does that affect the quality and flavour of tea?
Terroir generally refers to the climate, soil, altitude and latitude of the area that the tea plant grow in. Some say it encompasses more than just that - it also includes the genetic makeup of the plant varietal, or even the processing techniques. Depending on the terroir, the flavour of the tea plant varies vastly - just as pinot noir grown in California has a completely different flavour profile to that grown in Tasmania.
Climate has a significant impact on the survival of the plant as well as development of flavor, aroma. Generally speaking, it grows best in warm (21-29 degrees Celsius), humid climates with a good amount of rainfall. And just like us humans, the tea plant needs a little bit of stress to develop unique characteristics - tea grown in constant climates will have a 'flat' taste.
"And just like us humans, the tea plant needs a little bit of stress to develop unique characteristics"
Altitude is important as it influences local climate - high altitude areas generally have a complex climate (mist, temperature changes throughout the day, wind, rainfall, etc) which acts as a stressor on the plant. Tea grown in a high altitude will develop a distinct aroma as a result.
Tea is said to grow well in soil that allows water to run freely as the tea plant cannot tolerate stagnant water. This is why we often see tea estates or gardens planted on hillsides. Minerals are also critical to development of the taste.
Our tea farms in Boseong and Hadong, located in southern parts of Korea have the ideal environment - the regions benefit from being in hilly, mountainous areas surrounded by rivers, full of natural minerals. Temperature during picking season in both areas average 10-27 degrees, with a good amount of rainfall.
Combined with the environment, the genetic makeup of the teas as well as the processing expertise of the farmers completes the terroir of our teas – the cultivar (plant variety) grown in Hadong, for instance, is a direct descendent of the first tea brought to Korea some 1,200 years ago. Our farm in Hadong is a family run plantation that has been making finest quality teas for three generations. Some of our finest teas are sourced from Hadong.
The cultivar grown at our farm in Boseong is also a native cultivar to Boseong, which was bred specifically for the region. Bohyang Tea Company is a fifth-generation tea farm, which produces all its teas organically. Our signature Sparrow green teas are from the farm.