Whoohoo….it is fast approaching new tea time here at Tea Trekker. I am re-posting this announcement from last spring because, the timeline of tea harvesting is, well, the timeline, give or take the vagaries of global change in the weather.
Read on dear tea enthusiasts….the really exciting news is that as I update this post the first batch of just-made tea from 2014 SPRING on the way to us from Yunnan Province. If there are no delays at customs, the tea should be here about March 18th or so. Keep checking the website for updates and of course, we will trumpet it’s arrival.
Early spring is an exciting time for us. It marks the arrival of the new tea season in China, India, Japan, Taiwan and Sri Lanka, and with that the anticipation of delicious new tea. We eagerly await the moments when we are notified by tea supplies that the 1st plucked teas are ready and samples have been dispatched to us. The teas we select are then shipped to us via AIR CARGO in order to obtain these premium teas when they are just 10 days to 2 weeks old. They are such a taste treat, and so rarely available for sale in the USA this soon after manufacture.
Seasonality in tea is important. Tea enthusiasts are beginning to understand that some teas are plucked in only one season of the year, which is usually spring, while other teas may be plucked over the course of two or three seasons. Some teas are best when plucked and manufactured in the spring, others in the summer, still others in the fall, and so on. Some teas have a main spring crop and a secondary crop in the late summer or fall. Knowing the season that a tea was plucked can reveal important information about what to expect in the flavor and aroma of that tea.
All teas, even those manufactured in more than one season, have a time of the year when they are at their tastiest best. For example, for many Chinese tea enthusiasts, green teas plucked early in the spring ( premium teas which are harvested only once a year ) have flavor and aroma that is superior to that of green teas plucked during the summer months (standard teas). Japanese sencha, too, manufactured from leaf plucked in early May will have a sweetness and a delicacy that is lacking in sencha manufactured in the summer. While seasonal variations in tea reveal different flavor and aroma qualities, tea drinkers often find that they have personal taste preferences from one season over another.
Spring plucked tea implies ‘freshness’ and freshness is important with green, yellow, and white teas, and some oolongs. ( The notion of ‘fresh’ tea or ‘young’ tea does not apply to all classes of tea. Many Chinese oolongs are aged to enhanced flavor, and other teas ( like matcha, for example ) are best when ‘mellowed’ for several months before drinking. Sheng Pu-erh tea can be drunk young, but is traditionally stored for years to develop rich, deep flavors. Many black teas will hold well for several years and a bit of aging can soften their astringent edges. So knowing when a certain tea was harvested is a gauge to evaluating the tea.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, the spring tea harvest begins at different times in different countries and regions of each country. In the locations where tea has a dormant period, bud-break ( the re-awakening of the tea bushes after winter hibernation ) is triggered by seasonal weather changes.
Following below is an approximate timeline of tea harvesting dates in China, India, Japan, Korea, Sri Lanka and Taiwan based on a normal weather cycle. Of course, these dates are always subject to the whims of nature and the seasonal/unseasonal weather patterns and conditions that affect all farms and agricultural crops. Cold weather will delay plucking, and unseasonably warm weather can speed up leaf growth and the pace of plucking and manufacture by as much as a week or two.
Hopefully, this timeline will help our customers gauge when the 2013 version of their favorite teas might be arriving to our tea shop.
Tea Harvesting Timeline
China: production of green and black tea ( dian hong ) begins in some regions of Yunnan Province
India: the Darjeeling and Assam regions in the north begin plucking
1st flush black teas mid-February – mid- March
Sri Lanka: The quality season for the Southern Coast districts is February, and in the Central Highland districts of Nuwara Eliya and Kandy it is February and March.
China: weather permitting, the arrival of early spring in mid-late March begins the plucking season for some premium green and yellow teas. In Sichuan Province, Mengding Mt. Huang Ya and Zhu Ye Qing can be plucked beginning in mid-March. In eastern China’s Fujian Province, production of bud-plucked Yin Zhen white tea is from mid-March to the end of March. The earliest plucks of Xi Hu Region Longjing tea ( Zhejiang Province ) and tiny Bi Lo Chun ( Jiangsu Province ) begin to appear at this time as well. In Yunnan Province in western China, leafy green teas and tender bud green teas are often available for sale by mid-March.
Nepal: Eastern Nepal begins plucking1st flush black tea in mid-March.
Taiwan: early spring semiball-rolled oolong production begins in central Taiwan.
China: April is the busiest time in eastern China for premium green teas from Anhui Province ( Huang Shan Mao Feng; Lu An Guapian; Tai Ping Hou Kui; etc ); Jiangxi Province ( Lu Shan; Ming Mei ), Sichuan Province ( Gan Lu ) and Zhejiang Province ( Longjing; Long Ding, etc.). The 1st Fenghuang Dan Congs are plucked beginning in early-to-mid April. Certain black teas are produced in mid-April: Yingde # 9; Bai Lin Gong Fu; Yixing Congou; Panyang Congou ( Golden Monkey ). The leaf and bud materials for Pu-erh are plucked from old tea trees in parts of Yunnan Province from April to July.
NOTE: the spring season in China is divided up into 4 periods of time, and the harvest dates of the most anticipated green teas, such as Longjing, are associated with certain dates on the agricultural calendar. This is the breakdown for the production time based on a perfect weather season:
- pre-Qing Ming or Ming Qian tea ( leaf plucked before April 5th )
- Before the Rains or Yu Qian tea ( leaf plucked before April 20th )
- Spring tea or Gu Yu tea ( leaf pucked before May 6th )
- Late spring or Li Xia ( leaf plucked before May 21st )
India: spring tea from the Nilgiris are manufactured in April/May.
Japan: limited early production of the first new tea of the new uear – Shincha – may begin in late April as well as first plucked Sencha (Ichibancha) teas.
Korea: the first of the season green - Ujeon – is plucked just before Koku ( the first grain rain and the sixth seasonal division), around April 20th.
Taiwan: spring pluck Baozhong comes to market towards the middle April. Production of jade oolongs from lower elevation tea gardens begins.
China: production of Lapsang Souchong begins in northern Fujian Province in early May: in southern Fujian semiball -rolled ‘green’ oolongs from the Anxi region ( Tieguanyin and SeZhong varietals: Ben Shan; Huang Jin Gui; Mao Xie; Tou Tian Xiang ) begin to appear in mid-May. Black teas such as Keemun Hao Ya A and Keemun Mao Feng from Anhui Province come to market, too. The base tea for jasmine tea ( zao pei ) is made and stored until the fresh flower blossoms arrive in the summer. Production of leafy Bai Mu Dan; Gong Mei; and Shou Mei white teas begins and ends in May.
India: 2nd flush teas begin to be plucked in Darjeeling and Assam.
Japan: production of Sencha begins and or continues in various regions throughout May. Gyokuro tea production can begin in mid May and continue into early June depending on the location of the tea gardens.
Korea: production of Sejak occurs during Ipha ( the start of summer- around May 6th ); plucking of Jungjak follows during Soman ( full grains season around May 21st ).
Taiwan: production of high-mountain gao shan begins in the higher elevation tea gardens. Plucking may continue into early June.
China: light roast Wu Yi Shan oolongs ( Da Hong Pao, Jun Zi Lan, Rou Gui, Shui Jin Gui, Shui Xian, etc.) are manufactured in early June
( sometimes late May ). Traditional charcoal roast Wu Yi Shan oolongs ( heavy roast ) appear about the end of June or early July.
Sri Lanka: the Uva district of the Eastern Highlands produces its quality season teas from June-September.
Taiwan: manufacture of Bai Hao oolong begins in early June.
China / Fujian Province: October production of Tieguanyin and local Se Zhong varietals
China / Guangdong Province: November (winter) production of dan congs
Taiwan: mid-to-end of October until mid-November for winter production of high mountain gao shan
India: frost teas ( black tea ) from the Nilgiri region of southern India are manufactured from December thru March.
Sri Lanka: West Highlands quality season in the Dimbula region is January thru March.