The days are warming up, the first blossoms and buds appear around us, while the sun begins to set later and later: these are the clear signs of the arrival of spring, the most awaited season by Chinese green tea lovers.
In fact, it is precisely in spring that the harvest of the best leaves begins in China, which will give extraordinary products that are highly valued on the market.
Why is tea harvested in spring considered the best?
The beginning of the spring season in China has always been a culturally important moment, celebrated with great joy: it corresponds to the end of the difficult winter period and celebrates the return to life, light and warmth, with nature starting to bloom again and give fruits.
This moment of awakening obviously also involves the world of tea, which stopped during the cold months and is now restarting its life cycle.
During the long winter period, the tea plant remains as if in hibernation, dormant. It preserves and accumulates the energy necessary to survive the cold, retaining all the nutrients and aromas which will then concentrate in the first buds and spring shoots. Winter is also a difficult period for the survival of plants because it lacks rainfall: the plant has to fight to gather the nutrients it needs and this leads to a condition of stress and very slow growth.
It is precisely these factors that determine the richness of the first tea that will be born from that plant in spring: the antioxidants, amino acids and essential oils contained in the leaves will be very concentrated and this is why the first harvest is sweeter and more aromatic than a second or third harvest.
Looking at many spring green teas, such as Mao Feng or Meng Ding Gan Lu, it can also be seen that they are rich in gems, recognizable by the silvery-white fluff similar to velvet that covers them. The gem is in fact the most delicate and vulnerable part of the plant, but also the richest and most aromatic: that thin silvery hair that covers it, called bai hao o pekoe, has a protective function, and defends the gem from the attacks of insects and from atmospheric events.
We have therefore seen the reasons that make green tea harvested in spring a high quality product: but have you ever wondered specifically what terms such as “Pre Qingming” or “Early Spring” mean, which we often read on the packaging of teas considered top range? These are important terms as they indicate a determining factor in defining the fragrance and quality of those teas: the moment in which the leaves were harvested.
If you find the term “Early Spring” next to the name of the tea you want to buy, you can be sure that the collection of the leaves took place in the very early spring period. The tea will have a delicate, sweet and extremely elegant fragrance: tea of this kind , such as Anji Bai Cha and Zhu Ye Qing in fact have a very fresh and delicate character, tending towards sweet and in some cases floral or light fruity.
The term “Pre Qingming”, on the other hand, indicates a harvest that takes place before the Qingming Festival (清明, literally “clear and bright”): this Chinese holiday, which usually falls between April 4 and 6, celebrates the end of winter and the arrival of spring light and warmth, with the return to life that the new season brings.The teas harvested in the days before Qingming are therefore considered the best, with a fragrance and a more delicate and refined flavor than the leaves coming from harvests just following such as Yuqian teas (“before the rain”, with reference to the rainy period which takes place between April 20th and the first week of May). These fine teas, such as Bi Luo Chun and Long Jing, which with this wording are further elevated to an indisputable quality precisely by virtue of the harvest period.
If you love sweet tastes, with the arrival of spring you cannot fail to try Snow Bud green tea: it is a particular green tea from Yunnan, obtained from a very careful selection of small leaves and buds that favors only the buds apical and younger, precisely to extract the aromas that are naturally concentrated in this part of the plant. Its unique taste, characterized by a marked sweetness reminiscent of honey, makes it almost resemble white tea.
Are you curious now?