It’s the time of year when fresh tea from the new harvest in China and India begins to show up in the US. It is also the time when some tea vendors add new teas that are not from the new harvest. So it is important for tea enthusiasts to pay attention to harvest dates and know what they are purchasing. Some of you may know this information, many of you will not, so it is worth repeating.
It is helpful to know in what part of spring certain Chinese teas are made: some teas are made from the end of March into early April; many teas are made in mid-April; and others are made from the end of April into early May before the spring tea season comes to an end.
Tea production times follow the same pattern each year, so this information tells us that it is not possible to have certain teas ahead of their usual production dates.
The only 2012 China spring teas available now in the US are a handful of Pre-Qing Ming ( Ming Qian ) green and black teas ( tea plucked before April 5th ) that have been air-shipped over to a few eager tea vendors like Tea Trekker. Teas from the 2nd seasonal plucking time (April 6th to April 20th) such as white teas, yellow tea, some black and early oolongs will be here soon.
2012 green teas from Japan and Korea have not yet been made – the tea harvest in these countries begins in late spring. These teas (with the exception of Japanese Shincha) are still 4+ weeks away from being harvested (depending on the region and location of the tea gardens).
Right now many tea vendors are introducing ‘new’ teas to their store and websites, and tea wholesalers are looking to move out last years tea at reduced prices. The important thing to realize about that is this - simply because a tea is ‘new’ to a store or website does not mean that it is new tea from the 2012 harvest, and tea enthusiasts should not fall into the trap of thinking that it is.
If the tea is not dated, it may be last year’s tea ( or tea from anytime, really ) that is simply ‘new’ to that merchant or tea vendor. Which does not mean that last year’s teas should be avoided – that is not the point. Some of last year’s teas are still tasty. My point is two-fold:
- one should be an informed consumer and not assume that a ‘new’ tea is fresh, new harvest tea unless that tea is clearly identified as such
- do not stock up heavily on last year’s green, white or yellow tea unless that is what you mean to do. Some of these teas will keep quite nicely for several more months or even a year if the weather in that place of production had all of the right elements going for it. But in general, one does not want to purchase large quantities of green, white or yellow tea when the new harvest teas are so close to being available.
Tea vendors who bring new harvest spring teas over in early April send this tea by air so that the tea arrives when it is just days old and super-fresh. (Shipments of these same teas sent via sea cargo arrive at the historic ‘normal’ time in late July and August). Any tea lover who has had a chance to drink tea this fresh knows what a thrill it is!
So plan your tea purchasing accordingly and make sure that you understand what you are purchasing regarding the dates of harvest.
At Tea Trekker we have begun to list the season and year of the harvest on our green, white, yellow, and oolongs, and some black and Pu-erhs, too. We believe that when dating matters, it matters alot, and that tea enthusiasts who know what these differences mean are better able to make the right choices when purchasing premium tea.