This post is a re-post from last year. Because many new tea drinkers may not know how to evaluate some of the claims of ‘new tea’ that are being touted this time of year, we hope this will help. As well as be a good reminder to those of you who know this but need a little re-fresher on this topic.
Soon the earliest plucks of fresh tea from the 2014 spring tea harvests in China, India, and Japan will begin arriving in the US. In fact, Tea Trekker has already received 3 new 2014 season teas from Western China.
Confusingly, it is also the time when some tea vendors add ‘new teas’ to their inventory that are not from the new 2014 harvest. So it is important for tea enthusiasts to understand what they are purchasing by paying attention to harvest dates. Some of you know this information, many of you may not, so it is worth repeating:
In the next two months, simply because a tea is advertised as ‘new’ to a store or website does not mean that it is new tea from the 2014 harvest, and tea enthusiasts should not fall into the trap of assuming 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 green teas are still tasty; but many are not.
But 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 season teas are just around the corner.
It is helpful to know in what period of spring premium Chinese green, black and white teas are made:
- 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 over
Tea production times follow roughly the same pattern each year with slight allowances for weather, and there is an order to when tea factories make certain teas. It most often 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.
So awareness of when certain teas are made will help tea enthusiasts determine if it is possible for a certain tea to have been made in the new tea season or if it must be from last year’s harvest (or older!) For instance, spring high mountain oolong from Taiwan is not plucked until May, so any spring tea of this type being offered now is from last winter or last spring as it is too soon for 2014 high mountain oolong from Taiwan to be in the marketplace.
Our 2014 eastern China teas ( a handful of pre-Qing Ming green, yellow and black teas ) will be arriving as early as next week, followed soon by an early round of 1st Flush Darjeelings.Once the season is underway our tea deliveries arrive fast and furiously.To appreciate the absolute fresh goodness of these tea we will air-ship them to arrive at our store as fast as possible. (Watch your in box for email alerts that the tea has arrived – some sell out quite fast each year!)
Tea from the 2nd seasonal plucking (Yu Qian -April 6th to April 20th) of black, white and yellow teas, oolongs and Pu-erh will follow along as their production season arrives.
The 2014 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 2014 Japanese green tea to our shop about the middle to end of May. ( Again, watch your in-box for emails).
So plan your tea purchasing accordingly and make sure that you understand what you are purchasing regarding the dates of harvest. Tea enthusiasts who know what these dates and differences in freshness 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!