2022 New Spring Tea Season
The most notable tea-related event in all tea-growing regions is the spring harvest
During the winter dormancy period, the plant accumulates large amounts of valuable macro-and microelements in its root system and stems. In spring, those accumulated nutrients flow into the first buds, therefore the teas from the first spring harvest are of the highest value. That is probably why spring harvesting and processing cover most of the annual consumption in all tea-producing countries.
In many places, the harvest takes place at other times of the year, sometimes even throughout the whole year. Yet, the spring harvest remains an event of great importance in those areas. In China, the spring harvest begins as early as February, March in India, April in Japan, and May in the high-altitude tea gardens of Taiwan. Tea enthusiasts never miss the finest and freshest teas of the spring harvest, so it’s easy to tell that their most anticipated season is March and April.
Fresh tea can be of great help to us in overcoming this spring fatigue. As our body receives less sunlight and plant nutrients in the winter, our vitamin stores deplete, making us feel weaker, more lethargic, and sleepy in the spring. We can almost directly feel the fresh tea recharge our drained batteries.
In Chinese tea harvesting traditions, the first picked tea sort is Tou Chun, which ripens from mid-February. Other early picked tea sorts are Longjing, Lushan Yun Wu, some Sichuan green teas, and the Yunnan greens: Yunnan MaoFeng, Yunnan Bi Luo Chun, and the fresh Ya Bao Cha. March is the peak period for fresh teas, and by this time, enough of them become already available in most production areas. Then, their prices start to stabilize, and high-quality, strong teas in sufficient quantities become accessible for everyday consumption. Tea sorts harvested from early March to the Feast of Pure Brightness in April are called pre-Qing Ming or Ming Qian teas. Teas are still expensive during this period, but they are sufficient in quantity and excellent in quality. MengDing GanLu, Emei MaoFeng, MengDing Que She, XiHu LongJing, XinYang MaoJian, AnJi BaiCha, Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun, HuangShan MaoFeng, GuZhu ZiSun, En Shi Yu Lu are the most admired teas from Sichuan, Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangsu, which will be available from the beginning of April.
In Japan, the spring harvest begins in early April, in the country’s southernmost tea-producing region, Kagoshima. In Kyoto and Shizuoka, the tea season starts in late April or early May. The first picking is called Ichibancha, which delivers the most valuable teas: gyokuro and matcha, being picked from early spring. High-quality sencha also gets harvested during this period. After getting processed, the freshly picked spring tea is sent as raw, semi-finished tea (aracha) from smallholders to the headquarters of tea companies. After sorting and blending, it acquires its final, beautiful pine needle shape. The most famous, traditional tea companies, often established hundreds of years ago, have their own tea gardens and plantations. They do everything from growing to packaging according to their well-established methods.
The remarkably complex taste of Japanese green teas is also greatly enhanced by several months of rest. Therefore, sencha picked in May is only on the tea house shelves by September, while gyokuro and matcha teas take until October to get prepared. Shincha, in other words: the new tea, is a specialty offered in smaller quantities a few weeks after picking, presenting fresh tea to the public.