Wherever you are, you are probably noticing Spring churning the cold clock of Winter forward. Perhaps leaves are sprouting or even are fully out on trees and bushes. Fields of dandelions have just bedecked the land with yellow or are already bloomed and given way to violet and wild mustard. Can you feel this change in your bones? Can you see this arrival where you live?
Now is the illustrious time when tea leaves are being plucked and made into fine first flush green and white tea throughout the world. Not only do we have the privilege of seeing our own lands grow vividly greener, but we get to actually drink in the exquisite elixir of Spring’s warming…with a cup of tea.
SPRING WHITE TEA ~ BAICHA ~ 白茶
You could say that white tea is the tea that is the simplest to make. Leaves are picked, maybe shaped a little, then dried in the sun. The Sun is essential to traditional white teas made in China. Sun gives the leaves their characteristic look and taste: delicate, crisp, and dry. Early Spring Sun-buds is one of our first arrivals in the shop for 2020! I love this tea because it shows within the structure of the leaf the time of year it was harvested….just like the first scaly buds that pop on all trees, signifying the start of Spring! This unique white tea is picked from Wild Pu’er trees…light in color, but so rich with sweetness and notes of fresh fir trees.
But there are many many other white teas from Spring which deserve a brief mention (and drinking!). The first that has me salivating is our 2013 Gong Mei pressed white tea cake. This tea has the freshness of a white tea but is aged like pu’er teas. With time the flavor will deepen and become more complex (read more on my blog on Pu’er teas). Then there is the famous Yunnan Silver Needle, a smooth elegant tea made entirely of the tips (first growth). Who could forget Bai Mu Dan, or “White Peony” which is a balance of different size and aged leaves. Then of course there is the unique Himalayan White Tea from Nepal’s Jun Chiyabari Estate. Each of them are well made and delicious!
SPRING 2020 BI LUO CHUN ~ Lücha ~ 绿茶
What says Spring like drinking a pot of green tea? Just as I am writing here, our fresh 2020 Bi Luo Chun has arrived from Taiwan! Now Greens are not dried in the sun like white tea. The leaves are picked withered, shaped and meticulously dried out of direct sunlight to retain their distinct color and vibrant flavor. Some green teas are pan fired like our Organic Long Jing or steamed like our Japanese Sencha teas, and often very specifically shaped. Check out this awesome video that shows Bi Luo Chun harvest and tea making! It was made by our friend Mr. Liao, who helps us source our tea in Taiwan.
Bi Luo Chun is famous tea in China, but lesser known is this Taiwanese green that shares its name. Larger leaf, delicately rolled, with bright green leaves, it tastes like fresh melon and is the sign that spring has indeed arrived! Bi Luo Chun translates from Chinese as “Green Snail Spring” (Check out babelcarp.org to explore tea translations, it’s a wonderful site resource). According to one legend this tea is named after a young girl Bi Luo. She was betrothed to a dragon – which might be hard to believe in this day and age but in the old days people married animals! Sadly, her dragon husband was slain. When she heard the news, she wept beneath a tea tree and died of her own grief. The next Spring, the tree having been fed by her tears sprouted fresh leaves, and was thus named Bi Luo Chun.
There is also another less romantic tale. They say Bi Luo Chun was originally called Xia Sha Ren Xiang or “Scared to Death Person’s Fragrance.” The story simply goes that a women was in the fields picking tea leaves when she ran out of space in her basket. So she began stuffing the tea between her breasts where there was still plenty of space. The strong scent of the tea mixed with her own hard working sweat and gave the tea it’s unique history and name. But, in the 17th century Emperor Kangxi drank the tea, declared it to be too refined for such a crude name and renamed it Bi Luo Chun. Whichever name you decide to adopt is okay by us because it has an outstanding taste regardless. Bi Luo Chun’s recent arrival to our shop is a sign for us to count our blessings because we are able to enjoy fresh tea in the midst of this global pandemic!