It’s Hairy Crab Season

It’s the end of October and the fall oolong harvest for tea such as Hairy Crab  ( Mao Xie ) is underway in Fujian Province, China. Hairy Crab is a semiball-rolled, modern-style, greenish oolong made in the villages around Anxi in southern Fujian. It is plucked from its namesake tea bush cultivar, and  is similar  to several in flavor and aroma other oolongs made in this region from their specific tea bush cultivars –Ben Shan, Huang Jin Gui, Tieguanyin and Tou Tian Xiang.

But ask a shopper at a city wet market such as in Shanghai or Hong Kong about the seasonal Hairy Crab and they are likely to point to baskets of fresh crabs that have  begun arriving at the market.  The season  for this  seafood delicacy – Eriocher sinensis or mitten crab, known as ‘ Duaza ha’ in the local Shanghai dialect – has just begun, and availability continues until early February. Fall is when the crabs are fattest and the meat is sweetest. Unlike the Hairy crab oolong which is produced in one specific region of small villages, most of these namesake crabs are the product of freshwater aquaculture ( as are many frogs, turtles and eels in China ) in several locations along the Yangtze river in eastern China. Cooking preparations vary, but many believe that simply steaming the crabs and dipping the meat in ginger, vinegar and soy sauce is the best way to enjoy the sweet white flesh. Hairy Crabs are expensive – as much as $26.00 per crab, depending on where they were raised, so tasting the goodness of the crab meat is of paramount importance.

I can only make and educated guess as to why the tea and the crabs share a common name. Pictorially – and in a highly- imaginative kind of way, these army- grey-green, wrinkly little crabs with their oddly constructed bodies, pointy angles and jutting out arms and legs – do bear conceptional similarity to the irregular shape and color of the Hairy Crab tea leaves.

Hairy Crab oolong

As expected, the fall season is filling the markets with a new infusion of both tea and crabs. Our Hairy Crab oolong is from the 2011 spring season, and is fantastically  aromatic and rich in the cup. The fall version of this tea is more full-bodied and less sweet tasting, perhaps a more well-balanced counterpoint to the taste of the cooked crab. Coincidentally, both of these Chinese specialties carry the word ‘sinensis’ ( meaning from China or of China ) in their taxonomic name.


Change of Season: Time for Oolongs

For many tea drinkers the arrival of a new season means a change in daily tea drinking preferences. As fall advances, seasonal changes bring a moody metamorphosis to our New England weather – it can be sunny and golden one minute, then grey and slightly sinister in feeling the next. Bright fall colors are beginning to give way to more somber tomes of light and dark  grey, and a walk in the woodlands revel exposed rock walls, tree roots and fairy houses where summer foliage once thrived.

As the earth turns away from the sun seasonal changes affect all living things – plants, animals and humans, too. As creatures of our environment we respond to the shortened hours of daylight and increasingly cold days by craving different foods and beverages. If we listen to the wisdom of bodies and our inner self, we will find the right balance of sustenance and nurture to keep us in good health and in good spirits during the dark days ahead.

For me, the fresh-tasting, buttery or minerally-crisp green and white teas which gave me so much pleasure during the summer months appeal to me only for morning tea now. In the afternoon and evening, I crave bolder flavors and teas with richer mouth-feel, stronger flavors and more substance in the cup. So I reach for green-style oolongs in the early afternoon and dark oolongs later, when the afternoon light begins to fade and the winds bring a brisk chill to the air. The charcoal-roasted taste of traditional dark oolongs is so satisfying then; it provides a wonderful boost to sagging energy levels. When fall slips into winter, I will leave behind the green-style oolongs behind and settle-in for a rotation of dark oolongs and add some of my favorite Pu-erhs for evening drinking.

The pace of life seems to quicken as the days bring us deeper into fall, and I like to imagine that everyone is, like the squirrels, busy ‘gathering their nuts’ for the shortened days and long nights ahead. Certainly our store has become quite active as regular tea customers are joined by seasonal tea drinkers ready to replenish their cupboards with fresh tea and new tastes.

Fall is the perfect time for tea enthusiasts to replenish supplies of oolongs, or to consider a purchase of oolong this these remain uncharted territory for you. Our shipments of green-style oolongs,  yan cha and dang congs have all arrived in the last 10 days weeks, so our inventory is plentiful in choice and quantity. New selections of Pu-erh will be arriving in early November.

Click on the pictoral links below to view all of the delicious teas that we have for you!

Shui Jin Gui oolongFenghuang Dan Cong Mi Lan Xiang Pu-erh Black River Mountain