When the « all-seeing eye » looks over tea

No I won’t speak about the dollar, the Divine Providence or the Eye of Sauron. Although I think it would be interesting to ponder whether or not the whole history of the Middle Earth or of Arda would have been different if tea had been used from the beginning with Melkor. But writing such an uchronia would be something for another post and with the many pages written by J.R.R. Tolkien, it would be a shame to summarize all of them to a nice afternoon tea in the newly created Arda.

If I get back to my original topic and stay on tracks, I would like to remind all of us that we, human beings always try to solve problems through the use of our intelligence or of the tools we created. Just look at different myths starting with Prometheus or with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein among others (yes it seems I am in a big literature cycle right now with all kinds of references coming to my mind when I think on a topic).

The problem I am referring to is one that has always been important to any tea drinker, the increase in quality of the tea leaves. Peasants have been working on such problems for centuries and probably since the beginning of human history, selecting the best species to improve the overall quality, productivity of harvests/beasts…

Looking at different things on this trend, I just found out that like in other fields, the newest or latest technology (satellite) is being used to survey tea with a focus on improving its quality.

The idea behind this use is that the chemicals that are contained in the leaves are giving its colour, its taste… Thanks to the satellite views and data analysis, scientists are able to survey the different aspects of tea and predict the quality and quantity of the next harvest. They are also working on ways to improve the next production batches thank to all the data collected.

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) map showing the sections of two particular tea clones on the Tocklai Tea Estate, in Assam, Northeast India. Source: NASA

I knew that they were doing things like that for corns or for big productions like that, combining GPS, satellite views, work in labs to optimise the production, be it in quantity or quality. And even so, a little more rain or sun at the wrong period of time and the results are not that outstanding.

I must confess that I am not a peasant and that I don’t really know how things work but can everything be kept under control or monitored? After all, tea is a product of the land, the sky and of man. There are incidents, changes, things that were not foreseen and that are not always replicable but that can produce unique products.

A further question is do we really want all the teas to taste the same? This is done for some blends that are a mix of different teas and that have to taste the same, whatever the quality/taste/quantities of the different teas that are mixed into it can be in any given year but this is part of the charm of drinking tea, what we drink can change slightly or more between each year.

Call me old fashioned but I like the surprise and the uncertainty of letting Mother Nature do her own work. Of course, we can try to improve things, try to control things but should we really do it all the way along and for everything?

After all, according to some stories, the first tea was made when a dead leaf from a wild tea bush felt into the boiled water from Emperor Shennong. If this is not an unforeseen consequences of a little bit of chaos/luck, I don’t know what it is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *