It's officially Spring and early Spring harvests have been entering the market. I'm very excited to get my hands on some Spring harvested teas from China and Taiwan.
In celebration of the oncoming of Spring, I'm going to break down Spring tea harvesting periods. When talking about harvesting, regardless of season, there is no definite harvest and production dates. I think it is more accurate to say there is a definite timeline that these harvesting periods will take place.
A rough breakdown of Spring tea harvesting...
Qing Ming festival is a traditional Chinese festival that falls on the 4th or the 5th of April. In English, it is known as Tomb Sweeping Day, Chinese Memorial Day, and Ancestor's Day. So, Ming Qian, also known as Pre-Qing Ming, refers to tea harvested before April 5th. In some areas of China, Ming Qian teas are harvested as early as the end of February.
Above, I mentioned Ming Qian teas are highly prized and often times, fairly expensive teas to get. So? Why are these teas prized over other spring teas?
This period of time can be seen as an in-between of Winter and Spring harvesting times. Once the Winter harvest has taken place, the gardens are dormant, growing slowly due to the low temperatures. The low temp keeps the fresh growth small, allowing all of the nutrients and sugars to be concentrated in a smaller area. This provides you a cup of tea that is much more delicate, sweet, and nuanced, with a lighter body.
Yu Qian tea is harvested between the dates of April 5th and April 20th. This harvesting period, like the Ming Qian harvesting period, is still chilly, resulting in smaller leaves that are more delicate than Gu Yu and Li Xia teas.
At this point, the weather is starting to get warmer, so Yu Qian tea leaves will be a little larger than the Ming Qian tea harvested days before. In your cup, the tea will still be light, delicate, nuanced, and sweet.
Gu Yu is your general Spring harvested tea. It is harvested between the dates of April 21st and May 6th. Though, Gu Yu tea is still incredibly delicious and sweet, these teas are not going to be as sweet, creamy, and delicate as the previous spring harvests. By this time, the leaves have fully woken up from their winter dormancy and the leaves are growing at a faster pace.
Gu Yu tea leaves are a little larger and the leaf plucks are going to be more varied;a bud, a bud and a leaf, a bud and two leaves, etc... In your cup, you're going to have a tea with more body, a nice sweetness, some nuance, and great aroma.
Li Xia tea is late Spring tea. This harvesting period is before May 21st. Li Xia tea is the last spring tea before the Summer harvest. These teas, though still very nice, will be a little bolder, have more body, and have a stronger flavor.
I hope this guide has provided you with some good information that you can use for your future tea purchases.