Wednesday, March 28, 2012

San Hsia Bi Luo Chun - Spring 2012

Cultivar: Qingxin Ganzhong
Harvested by hand on March 15, 2012
Origin: San Hsia, Taiwan
Process: Bi Luo Chun, green tea. Oven dried.

Bi Luo Chun from Taiwan is quite different from the famous, original Jiangsu Bi Luo Chun. The leaves are much bigger, due to a different cultivar. Also, thanks to its more southern location, the start of the harvest happens roughly two weeks earlier than in China. This year, there have been a lot of rainfalls at the end of the cold winter. Plants had time to rest and get nourishment. The sun has arrived at the right moment to let the buds grow strong.

As spring progresses and temperatures rise, the shape of the leaves will change and loose its 'tippyness', its pointy, spear like appearance. So, it's in the early season that we can find the smallest and most tender tea buds.

So much freshness is concentrated in these young leaves, that it's best to enjoy green tea with a big ration of water to leaves. One very simple way to enjoy such a tea is brewing it in a tea bowl. Here, for instance, I use a very shallow celadon bowl that could be called a summer bowl. The large surface of water cools down faster than a deep and narrow bowl.

Bowls are also great vessels to simply watch and marvel at the performance of these green leaves as they open up.
Poured on the side, the boiling water creates a circular movement in the bowl.
 This brewing method also lets you taste the tea as it continues to brew, from the lightest to strongest concentration. The flavors go from sweet, light green freshness to a more vegetable (artichoke) green with zesty feeling. Somewhere during the brew even light flowers scents would appear.
Brewing tea in a bowl is so simple at first sight. This made me feel like exploring the impact of different bowls on this green tea:

- The black "hare's fur" glaze Jianyang bowl (left) kept the temperature the highest. The brew was noticeably darker. This made the flavors come out the most.

- The wide celadon bowl (middle) let the brew cool down faster than other bowls, resulting in lighter flavors.

- The completely dark bowl (made in Europe) was in between. The clay doesn't retain heat as well as that from Jianyang (Fujian).

I continued testing 2 more bowls and compared them to a brew with a gaiwan:

- Left, the blue/green bowl from Teajar gives similar results as the celadon. The rim is slightly bent inwards and the shape feels surely footed. Harmony and stability. His latest creations are very similar in shape, but the colors are fantastic.

- The unglazed wood fired bowl by David Louveau, in the middle, reacts very differently than the glazed bowls. It adds depth and sweetness to the tea. There is very little absorption of flavors. It's a rock solid bowl with little porosity. The contrast between the massive, rough bowl and the light, fresh fragrances adds an element of surprise.

The green leaves seem to have found back to their natural element. The brown, earth/rock color and the shape suggest more the autumn season.
I brewed the Bi Luo Chun with the gaiwan covered. The brew was much more concentrated (and hotter) than what I obtained in the bowls. What a difference a cover makes! It retains heat and enables an easy pouring out of the tea. It's such a convenient tea vessel, suitable for all kinds of teas!
 With the bowls, you can taste the tea as it evolves.


Pack Your Luggage Blog said...

It is impressing to see the tea harvest photos. Somehow I imagined it totally different. Not like that, that people go to the forest where is those "bushes" and pick the leaves. Whenever they mentioned tea harvest I had some industrial plantations in my mind. But I like this version more, it has a really relaxed and nice atmosphere. Would be nice to collect my own tea once like this.

Nick Herman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Herman said...

Thought you might enjoy this:

jay said...

It's not truly spring until I have my first cup of new Bi Luo Chun...hopefully soon!

TeaMasters said...

Monica, Thanks for noticing how natural the harvest feels.

Thanks Nick, Marshaln's blog is part of my list of tea blogs linked here. I had read that funny article. It reminds us to keep a cool head when tea becomes too romanticized.

Thanks Jay!

Marilyn Miller said...

Gorgeous tea illustrations in the different bowls. I haven't seen that before, but love seeing it. Thanks for helping me expand in knowledge.