A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

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Jun 21st 12 7:19 am
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A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by SFLouis » Jun 21st 12 7:19 am

Much of what I have read online suggests that sheng made from old trees has more complex flavor, stronger qi, stronger hui gan etc. than plantation tea because older trees have larger root systems that allow them to pull more minerals and other nutrients from the soil. Judging from the teas I have had, it would seem that this is true. I know that elevation is also a factor, but I have had plenty of high elevation, young tree puerh that was far less impressive than good old tree tea from moderate elevation. However, I am curious about this. If a tea tree is in fact ancient, like 400 years old, 700 years old, or older, wouldn't the soil it grows in be bereft of nutrients from all those hundreds of years of supporting that tree?

MarshalN has pointed out that there are historical documents that show that old trees weren't always thought to be better- see his blog post called "The Faith In Old Trees".

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by wyardley » Jun 21st 12 4:34 pm

Old tree doesn't necessarily mean wild. I believe that a lot of the old tree / semi-wild areas are still somewhat maintained (and fertilized).

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by gingkoseto » Jun 21st 12 5:21 pm

Fertilization of old arbor tree is pretty much a new phenomenon caused by over-exploitation. And I don't know if fertilization can really do much compensation for an over-exploited tree.

Even if other factors are not considered, an old tree chopped short (which happens a lot in modern days) is not necessarily better than a 30 year old plantation tree (which is also common), and especially when the plantation doesn't have super dense cultivation.

About your question:
"If a tea tree is in fact ancient, like 400 years old, 700 years old, or older, wouldn't the soil it grows in be bereft of nutrients from all those hundreds of years of supporting that tree?"

In a healthy ecosystem, the nutrients are deposited and cycled all the time. The soil is only one stop in the nutrient cycle instead of a pool of them. But then that's exactly the problem if the ecological balance is broken and if no more nutrients are deposited to the soil (by dead plant/animal tissues and feces/urine). In good agricultural practice, organic fertilization (composed of plant dead tissues and/or animal wastes) are applied to mimic the natural deposit of nutrients. In bad agricultural practice, inorganic (artificial and highly dissoluble) fertilizers are applied, most of them washed off by rain to poison fishes and little of them is really available for plants. Then we would get poor quality crops/fruits/tea. :cry:

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by TwoDog2 » Jun 25th 12 6:52 am

SFLouis wrote: MarshalN has pointed out that there are historical documents that show that old trees weren't always thought to be better- see his blog post called "The Faith In Old Trees".

The "older is better" mantra probably stems from marketability and rarity as much as anything. People love to tell you how the tree supplying this tea is 800 years old and blah blah blah. The fact is, plenty of the aged cakes that people lust after today were made with plantation tea. So, while the age is a factor, take it with a grain of salt.

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by iovetea » Jul 15th 12 5:12 pm

TwoDog2 wrote:
SFLouis wrote: MarshalN has pointed out that there are historical documents that show that old trees weren't always thought to be better- see his blog post called "The Faith In Old Trees".

The "older is better" mantra probably stems from marketability and rarity as much as anything. People love to tell you how the tree supplying this tea is 800 years old and blah blah blah. The fact is, plenty of the aged cakes that people lust after today were made with plantation tea. So, while the age is a factor, take it with a grain of salt.
thats definetly true

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by needaTEAcher » Jul 19th 12 7:43 am

A few thoughts:

1-I have read that older trees have such deep roots that they can tap into deeper flows of qi, actually pulling the planet's qi into the leaves. :D

2-As per older trees killing the soil, my understanging is in line with what the folks above said, that a healthy, balanced ecosystem will renew the soil, as long as the tree it picked responsibly. It also follows to me that healthy old trees, as well as wild/semi-wild trees would likely have some space between then, rather than being planted row after row. This is extrapolation (as well as in a book I am reading), since I have not yet been to Yunnan. Thoughts?

3-I went to a bunch of factories in Nepal, Darjeeling, and Assam. All three grow the same big-leaf plant found in Yunnan and used for puerh (though significantly less in Darjeeling and Nepal, since they primarily use small-leaf varietals). Interestingly enough, the prevailing belief in these places was that trees are not good after 50 years or so. The folks I asked cited a drop in productivity, so it seemed to me to be a matter of quantity over quality. I did find one plantation in Darjeeling that had plants over 100 years old. But I think I agree with Gecko that an old tree chopped short is similair to a bush. Dunno though.

4-For the "anti-old-tree" folks, can you cite better reasons? Have you done some tests with old tree pu vs plantation pu and found them to be the same? Or is this some good old fashioned skepticism? In my experience, old trees and wild tree feel smoother and with a stronger qi feeling. But I can only truely attest to my own experiences... I'd like to hear what others have found. :wink:

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by iovetea » Jul 19th 12 1:24 pm

needaTEAcher wrote:A few thoughts:

1-I have read that older trees have such deep roots that they can tap into deeper flows of qi, actually pulling the planet's qi into the leaves. :D

2-As per older trees killing the soil, my understanging is in line with what the folks above said, that a healthy, balanced ecosystem will renew the soil, as long as the tree it picked responsibly. It also follows to me that healthy old trees, as well as wild/semi-wild trees would likely have some space between then, rather than being planted row after row. This is extrapolation (as well as in a book I am reading), since I have not yet been to Yunnan. Thoughts?

3-I went to a bunch of factories in Nepal, Darjeeling, and Assam. All three grow the same big-leaf plant found in Yunnan and used for puerh (though significantly less in Darjeeling and Nepal, since they primarily use small-leaf varietals). Interestingly enough, the prevailing belief in these places was that trees are not good after 50 years or so. The folks I asked cited a drop in productivity, so it seemed to me to be a matter of quantity over quality. I did find one plantation in Darjeeling that had plants over 100 years old. But I think I agree with Gecko that an old tree chopped short is similair to a bush. Dunno though.

4-For the "anti-old-tree" folks, can you cite better reasons? Have you done some tests with old tree pu vs plantation pu and found them to be the same? Or is this some good old fashioned skepticism? In my experience, old trees and wild tree feel smoother and with a stronger qi feeling. But I can only truely attest to my own experiences... I'd like to hear what others have found. :wink:
But it seems logical, less than 7 % of pu erh production is from wild leaf and considering, that according to some media hong kong and other collector already get the good teas for themselves before most come on the market...

also consider that many westerners do tend to know little about pu erh, also that there are like very little good publications of pu erh and many a just plain wrong. Also if you take the fact that even many Pu erh tea masters have serious holes in their knowledge about Pu erh, its probably the market to be in for black sheep.

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by iovetea » Jul 19th 12 1:29 pm

Also i think i read that in japan, the bushes get renewed not because of the quantity but because of the taste. Im not sure though i could remember it incorrectly.

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by beecrofter » Jul 19th 12 2:00 pm

I would seperate "old trees" from "wild trees" that have seen no commercial fertilizers or pesticides.
In my opinion this is why there are such pleasant surprises obtained from teas produced by minority peoples such as the Dai, and border teas from trees that were never a part of a plantation.

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by needaTEAcher » Jul 19th 12 2:33 pm

I agree that the market seems to be flooded with "fake" teas, or at least teas that claim to be something they are not. But I think our role as consumers should be to educate ourselves, learn what we like, and try to find it, rather than dismissing large swatches of the tea culture that are often imitated. Find a source you trust and go from there! And use common sense. If it is a lot cheaper than it should be, something is likely wrong.


Stupid mean dishonest tea vendors! :evil:

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by iovetea » Jul 19th 12 4:21 pm

beecrofter wrote:I would seperate "old trees" from "wild trees" that have seen no commercial fertilizers or pesticides.
In my opinion this is why there are such pleasant surprises obtained from teas produced by minority peoples such as the Dai, and border teas from trees that were never a part of a plantation.
i have a burmese colleague shame i forgot to tell him to bring some burmese pu....

ps yes yes to the above i think its because there is wild arbor and really wild tea and only the first is drinkable and usable for pu erh

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by iovetea » Jul 19th 12 4:23 pm

needaTEAcher wrote:I agree that the market seems to be flooded with "fake" teas, or at least teas that claim to be something they are not. But I think our role as consumers should be to educate ourselves, learn what we like, and try to find it, rather than dismissing large swatches of the tea culture that are often imitated. Find a source you trust and go from there! And use common sense. If it is a lot cheaper than it should be, something is likely wrong.


Stupid mean dishonest tea vendors! :evil:
yes but its hard to trust someone when its involves money, also i wish it were so easy that you could go by the price. i paid good bucks for fake pu erhs. I even had one with a berry in it.

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by needaTEAcher » Jul 20th 12 12:37 am

iovetea wrote:yes but its hard to trust someone when its involves money, also i wish it were so easy that you could go by the price. i paid good bucks for fake pu erhs. I even had one with a berry in it.
That sucks. Paying good cash for a fake is a good lesson, but not an enjoyable one. For what it's worth, I have seen feathers and sticks in puerh, and heard of crazy things like a fingernail! Doesn't exactly mean that it's fake, though I tend to not want to brew things I find in my puerh that aren't puerh.

I was taught that this is part of why we rinse!

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by Drax » Jul 20th 12 12:41 am

We have a thread or two around here on the topic of odd items found in pu'erh... not necessarily for the squeamish... :lol:

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Re: A Question About Old/Big Tea Trees...

by needaTEAcher » Jul 20th 12 12:45 am

Oh man, now I am imagining all sorts of gross stuff in my cup....right here...next to the computer....eeeewwwwww. There should be a green face that isn't happy. :mrgreen: