Everything You Need To Understand About High Mountain Tea

As wholesalers operating within the tea industry, understanding the subtle nuances of high-altitude tea cultivation is crucial for recognizing and marketing teas to customers. High-altitude teas, also known as “high mountain teas,” have started becoming highly sought after in the international market for their unique flavors and potential health benefits that command premium rates. In this article, we’ll explore the impact that altitude and elevation have on the quality of tea. We’ll also get into the market potential of high-altitude teas for wholesalers, and understand the steps necessary to prepare a cup of high mountain tea.  

What is High Mountain Tea? 

High-altitude or high mountain tea is a unique category of tea that is cultivated in high altitudes. But what exactly is considered high altitude? Well! For teas to fit into this category, the tea leaves have to be grown at least 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level. Most high mountain teas are oolong teas. Since all oolong teas are semi-oxidized, high-elevation teas are also oxidized between 20%-40%.

A tea farm in the mountains.

These teas are well regarded for their elegant pale golden color, powerful aroma, and floral and creamy flavor profiles. They are also considered to be packed with health-benefiting compounds.

Grown at an altitude of 8,786 feet, our Everest Black tea makes for an incredible tea drinking experience. 

Understanding Altitude and Tea Cultivation:

It goes without saying that altitude plays a crucial role in building tea leaves and the overall quality of the final brew. Tea bushes foster and thrive when they are grown under specific environmental conditions. When the tea plants are exposed to optimal sunlight, ample water availability, ideal soil composition, and fresh air, they produce healthy leaves and buds for premium teas. While altitude has its share of benefits when producing teas, high elevation also introduces a range of challenges that significantly impact tea cultivation. 

Challenges of Cultivating Tea at High Altitude:

Growing teas at high altitudes presents several challenges as a result of the harsh environmental conditions. The lower temperatures mean that the tea plants grow at a much slower rate. The increased UV exposure, rocky soil with low nutrients, and reduced oxygen levels make it difficult for tea farmers to grow tea plants in high-altitude areas. All of these factors, along with the fact that high-altitude farms have a much lower water availability collectively make for a more hostile environment for tea plants compared to farms located at lower altitudes.

Impact of Altitude on Tea Plant Growth:

As mentioned, tea plants experience much slower growth rates and also lower yields compared to plants grown at lower elevations. The harsh environmental conditions force the tea plants to harness and allocate their resources in a more streamlined and efficient manner, focusing on only essential growth processes. This slower growth results in the tea plants, producing smaller, and more concentrated tea leaves that are more intense in flavor and aroma profiles. 

Flavor Development in High Altitude Teas:

The harsh but unique environmental factors mean that the teas cultivated in high-altitude locations develop teas with complex aromatic and flavor profiles. The reduced oxygen levels, water availability, and nutrient-rich soil prompt the bushes to produce plants with higher concentrations of essential oils, polyphenols, and other flavor compounds. This unique blend of environmental factors leads to teas with nuanced flavors that range from floral and fruity to subtle sweetness and creaminess.   

Chemical Composition and Health Benefits:

Studies such as one from ScienceDirect have shown that teas grown at higher altitudes contain higher levels of beneficial compounds like antioxidants, catechins, and amino acids. Furthermore, L-theanine, the amino acid known for its calming properties, is found in higher concentrations in teas grown in high elevations. These compounds do not only contribute to the tea’s sophisticated flavor profiles but also offer potential health benefits to consumers.   

Environmental Advantages:

While it is difficult for farmers to cultivate and grow tea in such high altitudes, high mountain tea cultivation offers some advantages as well. For example, these remote mountain regions typically have fewer insects and pests, reducing the need for pesticides.

A tea farmer plucking tea leaves.

This means that the tea leaves plucked offer a smoother and considerably less bitter tea-drinking experience. Additionally, the natural biodiversity and cleaner air contribute to the overall quality of these teas.    

Economic Considerations and Pricing:

High-elevation tea farming comes at a cost! It requires skilled manpower and the availability of additional resources to ensure the optimal growth of tea plants. Pairing these factors with an increased production risk, the cost of high mountain teas is considerably higher than their lower-altitude contemporaries. Farmers working in high-altitude farms must account for higher production costs and limited harvest quantities. These factors lead to these teas commanding premium rates in the market.

How to Brew High Mountain Tea

Tea connoisseurs looking to brew high-mountain tea need to follow specific steps in order to prepare the perfect batch of high mountain tea. The steps are as follows: 

  1. Boil water to 100ºC.
  2. Rinse the teapot and the tea cups with the boiling water. Keep in mind that the low temperature of the teapot will lower the temperature of the water when steeping tea. Hence, affecting the quality of the liquor,
  3. Place around 6 grams of high mountain tea into the teapot. 
  4. Pour hot water into the teapot. 
  5. Pour 150ml of hot water between 95 ºC to 100 ºC into the kettle.  
  6. Allow the tea to steep for 90 to 120 seconds, then pour the brewed tea into another teapot to enjoy.

High mountain tea leaves can be rebrewed up to 4 times. Note that you will need to increase the steeping time by 30 seconds with each subsequent steep.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.