As Winter winds down, throwing out its last touch or cold and ice, we see more and more stories popping up online of tea leaf harvests and the processing of those leaves gearing back up after their months-long rest. Yes, it’s time to welcome Spring with those fresh teas!
First, I want to clarify that teas harvested in Spring are not the only fresh ones. Teas are harvested throughout the growing seasons, which will vary according to their locations (some have one season, some as many as five, but most have three). Which season a tea is harvested in tells you what flavors and aromas you can expect from those teas. Even teas harvested throughout the year will have a taste at certain harvest times that many tea lovers prefer. For example, green teas are said to be sweetest and most flavorful when harvested in Spring. Some, such as white teas, are by necessity only harvested in early Spring. Japanese Sencha, harvested about 3 times per growing season, is said to be best when made from leaves harvested in early May, being sweeter and more delicate compared to later versions.
Second, freshness is not the best thing in all teas. Some oolongs are aged and said to improve in flavor as a result. Pu-erhs that to not undergo wo dui (a wet-pile fermentation process) are said to need about 5 years before they are really drinkable. And those “fresh” teas can be good tasting after as along as a year when properly stored (as we detailed in another article on this blog). Even matcha should stand for a few months to mellow out the flavor a bit. Black teas can be good for 2-3 years if stored properly (away from light, air, moisture, odors).
Spring is just that time when we are all clamoring to an end to those heavy gray skies, biting winds from the North bringing that snow and ice with them, and the brown everywhere of leafless tree limbs, grasses and other ground plants lying dormant, and even the birds that stay behind while their kin migrate Southward. And a great time for tea it is!
January is the time of “frost teas” (aka black teas) that are processed in the Nilgiri region of southern India in late December through March, and in the Dimbula region of Sri Lanka quality teas are also being processed during this same period (they are considered the top quality by some). In February the production of dian hong begins in some parts of Yunnan Province, China; the southern coast areas of Sri Lanka are also beign producing some of their top teas.
But March is what many wait for. That is when the plucking for many white, green, and yellow teas begins. Mengding Mt. Huangya and Zhu Ye Qing are two of these, with harvest just having begun on the 15th of March. Yin Zhen from Fujian Province starts being harvested around this same time, along with the first harvests for Bi Luo Chun and West Lake Longjing. Yunnan Province gets into the act with some of their leaf and bud green teas. First Flush Darjeelings, the darlings of many European tea connoisseurs, arrive at about this time along with the Assam tea gardens coming back to life. (TIP: wait for the late March/early April versions of First Flush Darjeelings from higher elevation tea gardens.) And don’t miss the oolongs now being produced in the nation of Taiwan.
Wishing you happy sipping and hoping you’ll take a moment to check out our 2015 teas now available for pre-order.
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