Friday, April 07, 2017

First days of Spring with San Hsia Bi Luo Chun

Even after 20 years living in Taiwan, the spring weather remains a constant surprise for me. This year was a little similar to last year: quite cold in the north for a rather long time. There was no snow in lower elevations this year, but it is very dry.
Luckily, there were several days of very nice weather with cool weather in end of March, early April. These days provided perfect conditions for the green tea harvests. The surprise came yesterday and today, just after the QingMing festival. All of a sudden, the temperatures are rising and it feels not like spring, but more like summer! This is a complete shift in conditions for the tea plants! This year again, there's a clear difference before and after this festival.
The pictures here were taken in the late afternoon of March 28th. 3 old ladies are harvesting the plantation of my farmer in San Hsia.
They are complaining that there are not many buds to harvest this year, because the weather had been too dry during the winter.
Indeed, I can't see many buds on the trees. But I see already a lot of insects, which confirms that this farmer isn't spraying his field, because he wants his tea to be certified as organic. 
This is a good thing for Oolong or red tea, as it adds a special flavor. But the insect bites cause some oxidation that is not what we are looking for in green tea. This has further reduced the yield of this harvest, because you can see that many leaves were bitten:
It's tough to be a tea farmer! It's particularly hard to make pre QingMing BiLuoChun tea this year. But, while low yields are not a good thing for the farmer, they are generally a good thing for quality! And I'm very happy with this year's leaves:
They were harvested on March 31st, on the same plantation as above. I'm brewing them directly in my black glazed (preheated) JianYang bowl, using just boiled water. And, as you can see, I'm brewing very few leaves, because green tea is about lightness and finesse.
The taste is like sweet, cool sunshine. It conveys perfectly this early spring feeling when nature awakens under rays of sun that are not too warm, yet. The fragrances are delicate, clean and flowery rather than grassy. Very nice.
This San Hsia Bi Luo Chun shows that the tea harvests of spring 2017 are off to a good start in terms of quality, but that there will be challenges due to dry weather.

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