We took a trip to Chiang Mai to visit one of our tea grower at Araksa Tea Garden.
Amid the rainy season, on a drizzling, foggy morning when we visited, made it a perfect experience for us. Unlike other tea farming we have seen in the Northern part of Thailand, where tea shrubs are grown along the hill slopes to maximize sunshine & water, which are best condition for growing Chinese tea. At Araksa, they grow Assam tea, which grow best in shaded areas so the tea shrubs here are grown in the forest under big trees and in a very clean air, healthy organic soil on the peaceful 300-Rai-Land. You really have to see it to feel how special this place is! This tea garden is one of the oldest tea garden in Thailand with some shrubs aged almost 80 years. Growing tea in an organic manner means that instead of using chemical fertilizers, they use fertilizer organically made from things like unused tea leaves, and bat guano. And in order to lure away unwanted insects from the tea shrubs, local knowledge came into play like growing Physic Nut Tree, Lemongrass, Acacia trees around the shrubs.
Did you know whether its the Black tea, Green Tea, White Tea, English Breakfast Tea, or Earl Grey Tea, they all come from the same tea shrubs! It's amazing how these leaves & bud can roll out so many different tastes & flavors depending on how they are processed after they have been picked. At Three Goats Brewery, we select black tea and green tea in our Kombucha. To make these black tea, after the leaves & bud are picked, they will go through Withering process, this removes the excess moisture from the leaves usually left over night before going through Rolling process. The Rolling process breaks down the structures in and outside the leaf cells, and allows for co-mingling of oxidative enzymes while releasing the leaf juices, this help to develop aroma & taste. Then come the Fermentation stage. Black tea require oxidation, when chlorophyll in the leaves are enzymatically broken down, tanins are then released during this process. The flavors is enhanced and the tea leaves change from green to black at this stage. Lastly, the tea leaves go through drying stage to reduce moisture and ensure the quality of its properties stay intact.
For green tea however, the processes differ. The tea leaves are roasted, rolled and dried on the day of the picking, so no fermentation is involved. This create a very different taste, color profile altogether.
So much craftsmanship in growing the tea at Araksa before they are delivered to our Brewery for more fermentation in the making of our Kombucha.
We tried tea leaf picking for a little while, and it's not as easy as it looks! You have to look for & pick only those with one bud and two young leaves. The reason is simple, greatest taste, & richest in nutrition. This mean the same shrub cannot be picked until new bud and young leaves are grown back.
One kilogram of freshly picked tea leaves is left with just 180g of dried tea (final product.)
Ever since we came back from our trip to Araksa Tea Garden, it really made our appreciation for tea grew even more. We love supporting organic tea growers who nurture the forest and ecosystem as well as support local hill tribes alongside of making high quality tea. We are happy to be a part of this sustainable, eco-friendly business.