Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring 2014 in San Hsia!

After 2 weeks of cool rainy days, the weather had turned up the heat in the north of Taiwan. It lasted for three days and I thought that it was summer already! I rushed to San Hsia to see the harvest of this spring's Biluochun. With such warm conditions and plenty of water in the ground, the leaves are growing faster than they can be picked! Like each year, the farmers struggle to find sufficient womanpower for this essential job...

This farm has renovated its production facility during the winter months. For that reason, it didn't harvest its plantation in winter. The consequence is that the tea trees had a longer resting period than usual.

Below, you can see how I taste and test different batches with the farmer. A few leaves are thrown in a white rice bowl and boiling water is poured on them to the top. Each bowl receives its dedicated porcelain spoon to smell the fragrances of the brew and to put some tea in your cup.

Here is the Bi Luo Chun I have selected for 2014. It's a little bit unusual, but I think it's a good fit for most of my readers.

Cultivar: Qingxin ganzhong
Harvested by hand on March 1st, 2014
Origin: San Hsia, northern Taiwan
Process: green tea (Hungqing)
Shape: Biluochun

Accessories used:
Gaiwan, dragon cups and water boiled in a silver kettle. On a green 'designer' Chabu with flowers in the middle.
We brew green tea differently than Oolong. What doesn't change is that the water must have boiled before pouring it in the gaiwan. The first pour should be very delicate. The main change is in the leaf to water ratio. With Oolong, we aim at a gaiwan almost filled with open leaves, but for green tea, the open leaves should only fill a fraction of the gaiwan.
The freshness of these leaves is impeccable. They are the first of the season, picked on a nice day just before the cool, rainy period. They feel very dry and hard to touch. The fragrances are very light, flowery and green. But they don't have the typical 'green bean' smell of mainstream Biluochun. The fragrances are much more linked to nature (flowers and very sweet grass).
The cups filled with ice symbolize the freshness of this tea!
The energetic taste is what sets this tea apart from those harvested mid March. It's not just fresh and smooth, but it carries an incredible 'zesty' aftertaste on the tongue and in the front of the mouth. That's why I think it should please those who like high mountain Oolongs.
The leaves are strong and thick. It's very good material!

But remember it's a green tea and meant to be drunk light to taste the delicate awakening of spring!
(My bamboo) buds also start shaped like a lance!

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