It’s only a matter of time before we start slowly rolling out some fresh batches of the classics as well as some new surprise teas. We’ve been very busy over the past two months visiting tea farms in China to carefully curate the best teas, ensuring that they were produced with sustainable and ecological farming practices!
But as we wait in anxious anticipation for what 2018 brings, this is also the time of year where we come across all sorts of strange words, such as pre-Ming, Ming Qian, and pre-Rain. What in the world could these words mean? And how can knowing them help you select the best cup of tea?
In tea harvest terms, pre-ming or Ming Qian means before Qing Ming. Qing Ming, literally “clear and bright”, is one of four traditional Chinese festivals, celebrated on April 4-6. It is a day to grieve for the deceased by visiting their graves and tombs, and also for families to pay tribute to ancestors by providing offerings and burning candles and incense. In modern China, it is also an official holiday for family gathering, taking nature excursions and planting trees.
In tea harvest, Qing Ming is used to mark the early spring harvest, especially for green tea. Teas harvested before Qing Ming usually are of high or superior quality since the buds and leaves are well-rested from last fall and winter and have the most potent levels of nitrites. Since pre-ming harvest is the first flush crops and usually highly prized, tea leafs are usually meticulously scrutinized by farmers and artisans who look for the perfect leaves in color and shape to make superior tea. Using Dragon Well green tea as an example, tea makers comb over the most prestigious areas, such as Shi Feng or Lion’s Peak Mountain of the West Lake area, in search of the best tea leaves they can find. For these reasons, the government usually has "dibs" on these teas; such teas are considered to be of the highest quality, perfect for diplomatic gifts and tributes.
Once Qing Ming begins, tea becomes designated as pre-rain, which refers to tea leaves that have been picked after Qing Ming and before Gu Yu in April. Gu Yu, around April 19-20, literally means crops and rain, and is one of 24 Chinese solar terms per the lunar calendar. Chinese lunar calendar has 24 solar terms to mark the seasonal changes and weather patterns. Pre-rain means before Gu Yu. Tea harvested after Qing Ming but before Gu Yu (in tea terms referred to as pre-rain tea), generally makes for a perfectly fine, less expensive alternative to pre-ming. "After Guyu" tea will be much more diminished in flavor and appearance, especially as more time passes before the tea is picked.
The good news is that if you are curious about the difference, we are excited to announce that for 2018, we were able to source a pre-ming Shi Feng Dragonwell! It makes for a perfect point of comparison to our 2018 Top Grade Dragonwell. We invite you to taste the difference and let us know what you think!