Imagine if you had a chance to rewrite a calendar. Specifically, imagine that you’ve been tasked with designating the holidays. What would you do?
You might, at first, wish every day were a holiday, but then you would quickly discover that this would hurt productivity and detract from that special feeling a holiday is supposed to bring. What are some more reasonable alternatives?
For a tea lover, an obvious choice would involve taking a long, hard look at the annual harvest dates. These times of the year are so important that they already feel like a holiday for tea enthusiasts around the world. After all, there’s little more exciting than eagerly anticipating what kinds of tea the new year will bring.
In China, there are three seasonal harvests: Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Even though each is distinct, there’s not a particular date that everyone has agreed upon to go out and pluck their teas. Like farming, you have to pay attention to the temperatures and weather, ready to take advantage at different times throughout the season to optimize your quality and maximize your yields.
So, for example, during the Spring, tea leaves will be plucked anytime between late February and late May, but in general, when a tea is harvested during this time can have a significant impact on the quality of the finished product. Much of this turns on the Qing Ming festival (清明), a holiday that starts in the first week of April. Most (but not all) of the highly-regarded, top-quality spring teas are harvested in March.
Summer harvests occur between June and August. At this time, many of the tea bushes have grown their mature, larger leaves. Although the tea leaves are larger, they haven’t yet had sufficient time to develop the complex compounds that make for the rich flavors found in Fall harvest teas.
Summer teas thus kind of represent a compromise between the Spring and Fall, a transitional period that offers qualities from both but also misses some of the distinctiveness of each. One benefit is that this time of year offers peak production, and so costs tend to be at their lowest. In addition, the diminished flavor in these teas often make them the ideal candidate for a base in tea blends.
Finally, there’s the Fall Harvest. To use an analogy, if Spring Harvest is to Christmas, then Fall Harvest is to Thanksgiving, the 2nd most important holiday in the west with its large family gatherings and hearty meals. And indeed, occurring primarily throughout the months of September to November, the Fall Harvest happens to produce a cornucopia of oolongs, pu’erhs, and decadent black teas! It’s this time of the year that introduces teas with thick, creamy textures, complex flavor profiles, and deep aromatics.
So if a tea lover were to designate the new holidays for this hypothetical calendar, no doubt she would circle a couple of weeks in late May / early June to introduce the Spring Harvest teas to the world, a week in September to introduce the Summer, and a couple of weeks in December to welcome the Fall.
With Spring Harvest reaching a close, like this tea lover, we’re excited to showcase this year’s teas to you!
Over the next two months, we ask that you stay tuned as we begin to roll out some of this year’s amazing teas. We, of course, will be reintroducing some of your favorites, such as the coveted Pre-Ming Dragonwell, one-of-a-kind Anji Bai Cha, brothy and delicious En Shi Jade Dew, and the punk rock Liu An Gua Pian.
But we’ve also got a few new surprises planned as well!Happy Spring Harvest!