Since pu-erh tea gained its popularity in early 21 century, some labels like ancient-tree tea, big - tree tea, came into the market, and among which ancient-tree tea obviously means much more expensive due to its rare production. However, there is no any official laws define what is ancient - tree exactly. Date back to the late tea planting history, one was before Daoguang era(1820-1850), and the other time was in the early 1910s. The latest planting time in large area was in 1970s or 1980s, therefore, most experts and organizations agree that only tea trees over 100 years old can be called ancient-tree.
Here comes another question. Pu-erh tea can get better with age, do ancient trees? Most people said yes. Before we discuss it further, let’s see how does wine world think about the similar issue.
其实，葡萄酒届对老藤的定义同样模糊不清，从40年 - 60年不等。在新世界，老树树龄的界定相对偏小。著名葡萄酒大师杰西斯•罗宾逊（Jancis Robinson）撰写的《葡萄酒牛津辞典》（the Oxford Companion to Wine）一书中是这么描述的：老藤以出产能酿造优质葡萄酒的葡萄而著称(Old vines are reputed to produce grapes which make better quality wine) 。2000 年，加州古迹葡萄园协会（California Historic Vineyards Society）规定，只有树龄超过 50 年的葡萄树才能算是老藤。
Actually, such question is still confusing in wine field. Old vines can range from 40-60 years, and it may be even younger in the new world. Jancis Robinson, the famous wine master, wrote “Old vines are reputed to produce grapes which make better quality wine” in the Oxford Companion to Wine. In 2000, California Historic Vineyards Society defined that old vines must be over 50 years old. However, there is still part of people disagree with that.
Although a small part of people denied that, and there’s no hard science behind the effects of age on vines, most experts agree on several points.
The clusters become sparse, producing less fruit, and the skin-to-pulp ratio increases. This results in berries with more concentrated flavor，produce wines with more structure, intensity, and complexity;
Growers believe old vines have much deeper roots that can reach more mineral deposits and pull more terroir from the earth. In comparison, young vines with shallow roots may suck up more surface water, bloating the grapes and diluting their flavor. In Burgundy, where terroir is believed to be expressed perfectly by old vine, bottles labeled with vieills vignes are much more expensive.
In a drought, the deep root systems may tap into much needed water far below the surface, and adapt to nature harmoniously with the ability to anti-pests as well, therefore, old vines are able to produce grapes in more stable quality.
Old vines are very rare comparatively, so, the old vineyards are under careful management, farming by hands as usual. What’s more, those fruits from old vineyard are processed more delicately, and resulting in good quality.
It’s no hard to see that old vine can produce better wine due to its good grapefruits, refined process and scientific aging environment. So does ancient - tree tea.
Firstly, most ancient tea mountains are in the subtropical mountain climate, surrounded by giant trees and cloud and fog, therefore, those tea trees can benefit from the diffused light and big temperature differences, which are good for the quality of tea.
Secondly, Yunnan is an agricultural province, away from heavy industry, and local rainforest and ecological environment could remain. Those ancient tea plantations live harmoniously with other trees, plants and animals, together built strong and stable eco-system, can survive either in bad weather or pests. What’s more, the roots of ancient trees can grow deep enough, even break through rocks, and absorbs different nutrients, which provide tea with balanced tastes.
Thirdly, less yield of ancient trees guarantees that those leaves are able to grow mature enough for rich structures and complexity.
Last but not least, leaves from ancient trees are well processed by skilled masters as usual, who are experienced to adjust each step according to different weather, water content, mature degree, therefore make tea the good quality.
In general, ancient - tree tea come in good quality because of pleasant climate, ecological environment, strict plucking and skill, and scientific storage.However, regarding the other old species, which are not edible and very old, it is another issue.
Then, how about old tree, big tree, small tree, ecological, organic, terrace, can you tell the differences? Stay with us, hope to see you next time.