Leaf Shoot

Leaf shoot of a tea plant
Leaf shoot of the tea plant Camellia sinensis variety sinensis cultivar fenghuang shuixian. A leaf shoot is called an apical bud by some people.

A leaf shoot is the bud of a tea leaf before it opens from its natural curled up form. Sometimes it is referred to as the apical bud. Dependent on the cultivar, the climate and horticultural conditions, leaf shoots vary in size, colour, and surface quality — some can be covered with a down, some glossy, some with a scale leaf etc.

There is a popular misperception that all fine teas must be plucked with one shoot and two leaves. While this is the case for some green and black teas, this is not the case for many varieties. For example, the famous green teas Taiping Houkui and Luan Guapian are always plucked with all the leaves fully open. As for black teas, Red Plum Classic and Jin Guanyin are always newly spread tealeaves.

Variations in plucking the leaf shoot for various teas is common place. The standard for harvesting Tieguanyin, for example, is when the shoot just spread open, it is plucked with three leaves immediately under. That for premium Mengding Ganlu and many other high quality green teas, one shoot and one immediate tiny leaf. Some teas are always only the leaf shoots. Such as Silver Needles the white tea and Shihua ( aka Zhuye Qing ) the green tea.

The leaf shoots are never touched when plucking for many traditional oolongs. Paochong, Phoenix, Wuyi are so.

Some people also think that the leaf shoot has the highest content of tea catechins. It actually ranks second to the spread open leaf immediately under it. ( Read more at: Polyphenol Contents — Not All Tea Are Created Equal )

The term shoot, or leaf shoot, or apical bud, appears in the following articles:

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