Handmade 2015 Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea

Woohoo! After a long time of this and that, we have finally received some Nie Jian – handmade Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea. This tea is from 2015 spring and it is stunning to look at and delicious to drink.

Bob and I visited the Tai Ping Hou Kui tea production area on our first tea buying trip to China in 2000. The core production zone for Tai Ping Hou Kui tea is Hou Keng village in Xinming Township. Two nearby villages – Hou Gang and Xian Jia – also contribute to the production. These tea areas are in Tai Ping county, at the southern end of Tai Ping Lake, situated close to the stunning Huang Shan Mountains in Anhui Province.


Read more: http://www.teatrekker.com/tai-ping-hou-kui

Tea Trekker Featured in Fresh Cup Magazine

Tea Trekker

Café Crossroads

teatrekker-7

Tucked up against the railroad tracks of a New England college town may not be exactly where you’d expect to find one of the best selections of Asian teas in the United States, but then tea appreciation in the United states is never as expected. What’s for sure, though, is that Tea Trekker, founded by husband and wife Mary Lou and Robert Heiss, has made their shop in Northampton, Massachusetts—or at least their website—required visiting for tea fans.

To read the article, please visit the Fresh Cup website: http://www.freshcup.com

Our 2015 Fresh Chinese Green Teas are Arriving

NEWS FLASH – WE WELCOME THE 2015 TEA SEASON 09pie2The first of our 2015 fresh new Chinese green teas have arrived. What is here?

  • Long Jing
  • Longjing Dafo
  • Gan Lu

Also just in…..2015 Winter Frost Tea from Nilgiri, India. This is the first time in nearly seven years that we have had Nilgiri teas.

Click here to see all of our 2015 teas that have arrived to date as well as a listing of other 2015 spring teas that will be arriving soon.

Seasonal teas are wonderful because they contain fresh, vibrant flavors of the new season in their tiny tea leaves. While many who sell tea ignore the notion of seasonal tea production, we feel that it is vital to understand and explore the changes that occur in the taste and flavors of tea from one season to another during the plucking year.

Many tea producers in China will say something like: ‘The tea is not good now.‘ What they mean is that the tea has entered a season in which the taste is less than delicious. This is a weather-driven, size-of-the-tea leaves issue and one that arises in the early summer when the tea leaves have grown too large on the bushes to make ‘good’ tea. One must wait for another season to have sweet, good tasting teas again.

All of China’s Famous Teas and other early spring green teas (such as the above mentioned teas and many more that Tea Trekker will be receiving), are made only in the spring season. Chinese black and oolong teas will begin spring production soon (or have just begun) and some of these teas will have a second plucking season in the autumn as well.

Want to learn more? Please refer to the seasonal tea dating and source information on  teatrekker.com that we list for our teas. And, we discuss seasonal dating in both of our tea books: The Story of Tea and The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook.

More new tea will be arriving this week – keep checking teatrekker.com for details and  announcements.

2015 Fresh New Harvest Tea versus ‘New Tea’

This post is something that we re-post each year at this time. We hope that it will clarified for many tea drinkers what they need to pay attention to right about now when purchasing tea in the weeks preceeding the arrival of fresh, new tea from the 2015 spring tea season.

Every year, right before the fresh tea season begins, many tea sellers begin to introduce ‘new’ tea. While this may suggest that these teas are fresh teas from spring 2015, savvy tea drinkers know better. It is important to read between the lines this time of year and pay attention to the actual harvest dates of the tea in question.

In the next two months, simply because a tea is advertised as ‘new’ to a store or website it does not mean that it is new tea from the 2015 harvest. And tea enthusiasts should not fall into the trap of assuming that it is.

Very little new tea has been made in China to date this late winter/ early spring, so most ‘new tea’ (if it does not have a 2015 harvest date), is not from this spring. If fresh tea from 2015 is what you want, it is important that you understand if the tea being offered can possibly be fresh tea from 2015 or if it is tea from some other season.

News Clip Art It is confusing when tea vendors add ‘new teas’ to their inventory and do not list a harvest date. 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 green teas are still tasty; but many are not.

But our point is two-fold:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 season teas are just around the corner.

It is helpful to know when in the spring premium Chinese green, black and white teas are made and will hit the marketplace:

  • a few teas are made from the end of March to April 5th ( pre-Qing Ming teas)
  •  most teas are made in mid-April (Yu Qian)
  •  some teas are made from the end of April to the end of May (Gu Yu and Li Xia teas) when the spring tea season is ending

Tea production times follow roughly the same pattern each year with slight allowances for weather, and there is seasonal timing to when tea factories make certain teas. It depends on when the leaf is the right size on the tea bushes to achieve the characteristic appearance of the tea, and that the flavor components of the fresh leaf is properly developed for the tea to have its identifiable, characteristic flavor.

So awareness of when certain teas are made will help tea enthusiasts determine if it is possible for a certain tea to be fresh tea from the new season or if the tea must be from last year’s harvest (or older!) For instance, spring high mountain gao shan oolong from Taiwan is not plucked until late April or early May, so any tea of this type being sold now is tea from last winter or last spring. 2015 spring high mountain gao shan oolong is still many weeks away from being made.

As always, Tea Trekker will have fresh, 2015 new tea as soon as possible. We are right now readying orders with our Chinese and Indian tea suppliers for the time when these teas are actually manufactured and samples can be air shipped to us to taste and evaluate. We received samples and taste them immediately, placing orders for our supplies of these teas the very next day.

The first of our 2015 Eastern and Western China teas will be a handful of pre-Qing Ming green, yellow and black teas which will be followed by the first of the 2015 1st Flush Darjeelings from India.airplaneOnce the season is underway our tea deliveries arrive fast and furiously. So that our customers may appreciate the absolute fresh goodness of these tea we will have the teas air-shipped to us  to arrive at our store as fast as possible. (Sign up for for email alerts announcing that when certain teas arrive – many customers wait for these teas and some sell out quite fast each year!)

Black, green, white, oolongs and Pu-erh from the 2nd seasonal Yu Qian plucking (April 6th to April 20th) will be shipped to us as their production season is underway.

The 2015 green teas from Japan (with the exception of Japanese Shincha which will be available sooner) are still 4-6 weeks away from being harvested, depending on the region and elevation of the tea gardens. Weather depending, production in most regions will begin at the end of April or in early May. Which puts arrival of 2015 Japanese green tea to our shop about the middle to end of May. ( Again, watch your in-box for emails).

IMG_7473-1Spring is a very busy time in the tea gardens. Each tea has a time in the spring when conditions are right for that tea to be made. So plan your tea purchasing accordingly and make sure that you understand what you are purchasing regarding the dates of harvest.

Tea enthusiasts who are familiar with seasonal tea production and the relative times that certain teas will be available in the marketplace, will end up with fresher tea than those who are unaware of what they are purchasing.

Hooray for spring and happy fresh new tea drinking!

Our Thoughts About the Arrival Timeline of Our 2015 Spring Teas

Whoohoo….it is fast approaching new tea time here at Tea Trekker. I am re-posting this announcement from March 2014 (and 2013)  because, the timeline of tea harvesting is, well, the timeline, give or take the vagaries of global change in the weather.

Early spring is an exciting time for us. It is filled with anticipation of the new tea season in China, India, Japan, Taiwan and Sri Lanka. We eagerly await the moments when we are notified by our tea suppliers that new fresh teas are ready and the samples we requested have been dispatched to us.

The teas we select are then AIR SHIPPED to us in order to obtain these premium teas when they are just 10 days to 2 weeks old. These fresh teas are such a taste treat, and so rarely available for sale in the USA this soon after manufacture. We pride ourselves on being one of the first tea vendors to accomplish this fast availability of fresh new tea.

Seasonality in tea is important. Tea enthusiasts are beginning to understand that some teas such as premium Chinese green, white and yellow teas; Japanese and Korean green teas are plucked only once each year in the early spring. Other teas, such as hong cha and oolongs may be plucked over the course of two or three seasons. These teas are more expensive because the short manufacturing season yields less tea. But these teas have superior flavors and aromas and more finesse and character than the standard-quality green teas that are plucked during the summer months.

Some teas have a main spring crop and a secondary crop in the late summer or fall. Knowing what season a tea was made can reveal 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. 

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 and having an understanding of when that tea should be drunk, is an important tool in evaluating any tea.

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 2015 version of their favorite teas might be arriving to our tea shop. We announce new tea arrivals via our e-newsletters, so those who want to know when teas arrive (some sell out fast ) would be advised to sign-up on the teatrekker.com website to receive our newsletter announcements.

  Tea Harvesting Timeline

  • FEBRUARY (late)

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.

  • 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.

  • APRIL

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:

  1. Pre-Qing Ming or Ming Qian tea ( leaf plucked before April 5th )
  2. Before the Rains or Yu Qian tea ( leaf plucked before April 20th )
  3. Spring tea or Gu Yu tea ( leaf pucked before May 6th )
  4. 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 level elevation tea gardens begins.

………………………………………………….

  • MAY

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.

……………………………………………………..

  • 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.

  • OCTOBER / NOVEMBER

China / Fujian Province: Fall production of Tieguanyin and local Se Zhong varietals is underway

China / Guangdong Province: November (winter) production of dan congs begins

Taiwan: mid-to-end of October until mid-November is the time for winter production of high mountain gao shan and mid-level elevation semiball-rolled oolongs; and leafy Bai Hao and Baozhong oolongs;

  • JANUARY

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.