While it is stating the obvious that careful and selective picking of tea leaves by hand will always give you better quality tea, the case is now being made for mechanical plucking methods.
The best tea is produced by careful picking by hand of two leaves and the bud from the new growth or ‘flush’.
However continued rising costs and the growing of tea in new regions, as against the traditional tea growing countries of China, India and Sri Lanka, have opened up tea plantations to mechanical harvesting of the tea leaf.
The issue with mechanical or ‘lawn mower style’ harvesting is that it also picks up lesser quality leaf and stalk, which adversely affects flavour.
Mechanical harvesting can also be only carried out on tea plantations that have been developed on relatively flat terrain and cannot be used on hilly or undulating plantations – where generally the best teas are cultivated.
The proliferation of tea bag use also hides the sins of lesser quality leaf that may also contain stalk which adds to the weight of the crop but reduces its flavour content.