We want to give a shout-out to Basil Magazine ( http://basilmagazine.com/) for featuring a story about Tea Trekker on their website. Stacy Cox got right to the heart of our approach to seasonal teas, and does a great job illustrating which teas come to market during what season of the year.
Read her article bellow:
by Stacey Cox
For most of us, tea is something that sits on a cupboard shelf. It’s there year-round. Tea may be iced in the summer and hot in the winter, but other than that it doesn’t change much with the seasons.
Robert and Mary Lou Heiss, the duo the New York Times called “The Professors of Tea” are committed to changing all that by bringing seasonal teas to America.
The Heisses , co-authors of The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide ( Ten Speed Press, 2007 ) and The Tea Enthusiasts Handbook: A Guide to Enjoying the World’s Best Teas ( Ten Speed Press, 2010 ), frequently travel to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan to source premium, seasonal, artisan-made teas for their shop Tea Trekker
Teas of this distinction are prized by tea aficionados, and should be thought of in the same manner as fine wines, aged cognacs, hand-rolled cigars, and craft cheeses. As with wine, tea is influenced by terroir and weather. The weather patterns of each season contribute flavor and aroma characteristics to the tea that cannot be duplicated other times of the year.
Seasonality in tea refers not just to the particulars of the four seasons, but to a more precise timeframe of days and weeks within each season. In essence, all tea has a time at which its flavor and aroma is best, and many of the most distinctive teas are made just once a year.
Premium, seasonal, artisan-made teas such as those selected by Tea Trekker are highly anticipated by tea connoisseurs worldwide for the tea drinking pleasure they provide. Thanks to the Heisses, tea enthusiasts here in the United States can now enjoy tea of the same high quality that tea connoisseurs in Berlin, Hong Kong, Kyoto, Paris, and Singapore are drinking.
High-quality teas such as these provide an important, viable economic resource for the experienced tea artisans who produce them, while supplying a delicious, culturally-rich beverage of modest cost for the consumer. On a cup-by-cup basis, premium tea can be enjoyed for less than 75 cents per cup.
Here is a listing of some of the seasonal teas you will find offered at Tea Trekker:
Summer Tea – not the season for premium tea!
China: Autumnal Oolong and Yunnan Black Teas
- Oolong plucking begins anew, with fall crops that deliver teas with breathtaking and complex floral aromas: Fenghuang Dan Cong; Tieguanyin; Wu Yi Shan Rock Oolongs ( yan cha )
- Buttery smooth Yunnan black teas (Golden Needles, Golden Tips) that deliver stunning flavor and aroma.
Taiwan: High Mountain Oolong (gao shan )
- These are the teas of primary significance during this season in East Asia. Tea gardens that produce gao shan oolongs are located at altitudes of 6,000 feet or higher, and produce just two tea harvests each year: one in the winter (the most prized) and one in the spring. Gao shan is very difficult to obtain outside of Taiwan.
- The cold, thin air of this high-altitude environment produces teas that are chewy, juicy and that are a delicious combination of sweetness and slight astringency. Gao shan oolongs are intensely floral and mouth-filling, yet they have an austere, slightly ‘chilled’ aspect to their flavor.
- India: 1st flush Darjeeling Teas
- These teas are from the first spring plucking, the most anticipated ( but smallest ) harvest of the year.
- 1st flush Darjeeling is highly prized for its clarity in the cup, outstanding crisp flavor, and distinctive spicy aromas.
- China: 1st Spring Teas
- Mid-March ( Pre-Qing Ming): the arrival of early spring weather in mid-March begins the plucking season for several premium green, white, and yellow teas such as Longjing, Tianmu Shan Snow Sprouts, Mengding Mt. Huang Ya, and Yin Zhen.
- China: 2nd Spring Tea
- Early to Mid- April to Mid-May ( Before the Rains tea): green tea production continues for teas such as Lu Shan andTai Ping Hou Kui; black teas such as Bai Lin, Golden Monkey, Keemun Congou, and Yunnan Curly Golden Buds. This is the season for distinctive Puerh tea, as well as oolong tea ( the single malt scotches of the tea world ) that are celebrated for having the finest flavors: Fenghuang Dan Cong, Tieguanyin, and Wu Yi Shan Rock teas.
- Japan: Shincha
- Shincha is plucked in May and is the first tea of the new tea season in Japan. Shincha is vivid green in color, intensely vegetal in aroma, and pleasantly balanced between sweetness and astringency in taste. The Shincha plucking season is short, approximately 10 days, so tea lovers who await the production of this tea each spring must act quickly!
Tea Trekker was the first tea vendor in the US in 2011 to announce the arrival of Indian and Chinese spring teas. In some instances these teas were only several weeks old when they arrived at the Tea Trekker tea shop.
About Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss:
Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss are adventurous tea trekkers, tea educators and retailers of premium artisan tea. They are the co-authors of: The Tea Enthusiast Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas ( 2010, Ten Speed Press); The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide ( 2007, Ten Speed Press ) which was nominated for a 2008 James Beard Foundation Book Award and a 2008 IACP Cookbook Award; and HOT DRINKS ( 2007, Ten Speed Press). When they are not traveling the world sourcing tea, Mary Lou and Bob are often found teaching tea classes in various locations, or at work in their premium tea shop Tea Trekker in Northampton, MA.
For more information, visit Tea Trekker (www.teatrekker.com)
For more in-depth information on Tea Trekker’s blog about seasonal teas, please click here.