If you have been exploring the tea world for a while, you’d very likely have come across the terms “Spring Tea” and “Ming Qian Cha.” Teas harvested in spring have long been viewed as the jewels of tea. They are highly sought after and can be very expensive. “Ming Qian Cha” is also referred to as “Pre-Qingming* Tea.” This term is generally applied to teas harvested in China and Taiwan before April 4-6. Teas in this category are considered to be teas supreme.
Though in different tea growing regions the schedules for harvest can be different due to the different climates, in most areas, very often, the highest quality teas are yielded between April and June**. In spring, the land wakes up recovering from the cold winter. The sun is clear but not as intense as it can be in the summer. Occasional spring showers nourish the young sprouts. The slowly growing tea leaves and buds are delicate and bright, bringing forth unique flavors and aroma that embody the essence of spring.
Besides their highly desirable quality in flavor, aroma, texture and appearance, spring teas are costly because of their low yields. Teas in the spring do not grow as fast as in the summer.
Of course, in the world of tea, nothing is straightforward and few generalizations hold up across the board. Teas that are picked in other seasons, after being carefully processed can be great too. For certain kinds of tea, some people actually prefer later harvests. It is, however, commonly acknowledged that spring harvests are best for crisp, fragrant teas such as Japan Sencha, China Longjing, Taiwan high-mountain oolongs and India Darjeelings.
**Climate change has already begun to have an effect on the tea growing regions of the world. As time passes, we may see these harvest schedules altering.
|*Qingming Festival in China is also known as Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day. The Festival takes place on the 15th day from the Spring Equinox, which falls on either the 4th or 5th of April in the Gregorian calendar. Qingming literally means “clean and bright.” It is the time when temperature begins to rise and rainfall increases, indicating the crucial time for sowing seeds. However, Qingming is not only a seasonal symbol, it is also a day for paying respect to the dead. Many people also use this time to go on a spring outing and/or fly kites.|