Last Updated on 12/17/2020 by Desmond
In a stereotyping of loose Chinese tea, the tenderer the leaves, the rarer it is, and the higher the price. The old and rough tea stem is typically considered as a symbol of low-quality.
Some people got a Pu-erh or Tieguanyin back and found that it contains lots of tea stem; he might think duped into buying low-quality products.
The view of “tea stem” equal “low-quality” primary comes from the impression of the popular green and black tea by people. In fact, some types of teas will contain tea stems in the final products because of the picking standard and processing. Besides, the benefits and nutritions of tea stems don’t seem lesser than the leaves and buds.
Why Some Teas Contains Stems?
To green tea and most white and yellow tea, the usual picking standard is one bud and the first leaf, which are the tenderest. Even pick the stems during the picking incautiously, they will be removed in further processing and will not appear in the final products.
Most black tea also contains little parts of the stem because its picking standard is not focused on the tender leaves, except for the bud-tea like Jin Jun Mei. And the complicated black tea processing also does not make the stems appear in the final products possible, especially CTC.
The most common tea with stems is dark teas and Tieguanyin, and some old white tea like Shou Mei. The tea stems can help them improve their quality.
Dark tea, also called post-fermented tea, almost all sold in a compressing-tea style. During the long-time storage(also called aging,) leaves will keep fermented under the microorganism help, and improve the quality significantly. Especially in the Fuzhuan Brick Tea case, some golden flowers(Eurotium Cristatum) will be developed during the post-fermenting process. And these fungi make the dark tea got a better flavor and benefits.
The golden flowers need enough space to develop. The tea stems are hard and thick. They can make some small ventilated space up in the compressed tea brick, offer enough air for the golden flowers. And the rich nutritions of tea stems also provide the fungus growing need.
Tieguanyin is a kind of Oolong tea, stems often appear in their leaves. Oolong is partially-fermented tea; there is a step called Tossing during the processing. Tea masters tossing the leaves and let them crash each other to make a little break on their edge. Tea juice flows out from the broken part, covers the leaves, and fermenting, to create a unique and strong flavor.
Tossing is a challenge to the leaves. The fermentation process will generate heat and makes moisture keep evaporating, especially from the broken edge. The stem is an organ of the tea plant for distributing nutrients to the leaves, and it contains much moisture itself. Tea masters retain them when picking is for letting them keep offering moisture to the leaves during tossing, so the leaves would not be scorched by the over fermenting. Besides, the rich components of tea stems also provide more juice for leaves in the tossing process.
Of course, to most high-grade Tieguanyin, the tea stems will be removed in the final screening process; they already completed their mission. But many Taiwanese Oolong teas like Dong Ding will keep them left.
According to some tea experts’ studies, the tender stem contains amino acid(primary is theanine) aromatic substances, and tea polysaccharides much more than the buds and leaves. Especially the theanine content is 1 to 3 times higher than leaves. And tea polysaccharides also much richer; that’s why dark tea usually tastes sweet. And it is said that the tea polysaccharides have an excellent aid therapy on diabetes.
Why Tea Stem Gave A Bad Impression
Tea stems got such a lot of pros, and why people still consider the tea with stems in is low-quality?
Teas usually be graded according to the picking seasons. The spring tea is typically considered as has the highest quality, like the first flush Darjeeling. In winter, tea masters would not do the picking job. The nutrient accumulated in plants for one season will distribute to the newborn buds through the stem.
If to pick the stems down in spring picking, it will affect the following job. For the production, it seems not worth it. And when the tea stems are suitable for picking, they had got old, the nutrition and flavor are not as good as when they were fresh. So people consider the tea with stems in does not get a high quality as the spring tea.
Remember the removed out stems during high-grade Tieguanyin processing? They still got a nice flavor; most of the time, they will be processed into stem tea for sale. And these Tieguanyin stems are typically used to serve the customers by cheap restaurants, or as a deodorant for removing the smell in a newly decorated house(yes, they are excellent at removing the odor.) And tea stems looking not as good as leaves, they left a bad impression as a matter of course.
Tea Stems Brewing
Even though tea stems contain lots of water-solubility nutrition ingredients, they are hard to be extracted by simple brewing. Due to they usually exist in the dark and old white tea, and to these teas, the best making way is cooking. The specific cooking time and methods should be according to the leaves type, typically not more than 5 mins. Besides, the tea with stems is more resistant to brew than the common ones.