What is plucking?
Plucking is the first step in the manufacturing process of tea and refers to the harvesting by hand of the tea plant. The plucking process occurs when the tea bush “flushes” or pushes out new leaf shoots.
For a fine black or green tea, the pluckers will take the first two leaves and one new bud. For oolong teas, the bud along with three or four leaves are plucked. For white tea, just the bud will be plucked.
Plucking is an extremely labour intensive process. To put it into perspective, it takes 5 kilograms of freshly harvested tea leaves to produce 1 kilogram of finished tea leaves. For white tea, since only the centre bud is plucked, it takes 15 kilograms of freshly harvested tea leaves to produce 1 kilogram of finished tea leaves. Generally, smaller and fewer tea leaves also produce a more expensive tea.
Plucking takes place in the growing season which varies from region to region and is weather dependent. For example, plucking occurs between spring and autumn in Northern India and China. Whereas in Kenya, plucking can take place all year round since the weather is more constant.