Launch Into Spring With Prized Teas Harvested in Early Spring

Launch Into Spring With Prized Teas Harvested in Early Spring

Spring officially arrived on Monday. The day before, on Sunday March 19, the Northern Hemisphere experienced a bit more darkness than light across the 24 hours comprising Earth’s complete rotation. On Tuesday the 21st, the hemisphere welcomed slightly more light. But on the 20th, the Spring Equinox, light and darkness were fairly even. Now, more daylight will continue flooding the Northern Hemisphere until the Summer Solstice, on June 21 — the longest day of the year. After the Solstice, the volume of daylight begins ratcheting back for six months, until the Winter Solstice in December.

spring teas
A day gets evenly divided between light and dark on the equinoxes in spring and autumn.

In tea-growing regions around the world, spring means more than expanded daylight. For many tea farmers, spring is time to harvest the finest crops of the year. While most farmers plant in spring and harvest in fall, it’s the reverse for tea. The best buds and leaves unfurl just as winter begins to finally loosen its cold grip, and give way to warmth’s return. Following spring harvests, most tea farmers continue plucking leaves from shrubs — in some cases, they launch into three additional harvests, or “flushes.” But those spring leaves are the most sought-after.

The quality advantage hinges on biology. During winter, tea shrubs, like many plants, go into a kind of hibernation; nutrients dwell in the roots after leaves fall, the days grow short and colder temperatures arrive. But in spring, those reservoirs of minerals, sugars, vitamins and more stored in roots rise back up into branches and help create leaves. The early shoots of green life contain the highest concentrations of nutrients, and the flavors yielded by them. And they are prized by tea farmers and aficionados alike.

Spring Teas Celebrated Around the World

spring teas
A tea farmer harvesting young leaves in spring.

Reverence for early spring teas spans growing regions, from tea’s birthplace in China’s Yunnan Province to Japan’s Shizuoka region and the tea-abundant Assam region of India. The only major growing area that doesn’t offer much in the way of spring tea is Kenya, the world’s second-biggest exporter of tea, after China. As Kenya sits on the equator, the country doesn’t enjoy just one season for tea growing, with harvests across spring and summer. Instead, Kenyan tea farmers can harvest tea year-round, a condition that contributes toward its high ranking among tea-exporting countries.

We certainly share an affinity with many others for the pleasures of delicate, flavorful spring teas from Asia. Inhaling their aromas and sipping them somehow seems to conjure inner tranquility while at the same time stimulating complex and engaging thought. They are treats.

At Ku Cha House of Tea, we work closely with farms and brokers across Asia that grow Camellia sinensis, to ensure that we always receive enough spring-harvested tea to satisfy our customers, as well as our own thirst for the teas! 

To celebrate 2023’s pivot from winter to spring (it’s about time here in Colorado, where winter landed early and never let up), let’s experiment with the grand teas that farmers harvest first every year.

Spring Teas: Darjeeling 1st Flush Black Tea (Organic)

Darjeeling 1st Flush teas broaden conceptions of black tea.

Black tea is the most popular style of tea around the world, outside of China and Japan, and their styles lean into robustness and bold flavors. Most of us are familiar with the flavor of a hot mug of black tea, perhaps spiked with a sweetener and softened with cream in the English manner. But not all black teas present such rugged flavors. 

Consider our Darjeeling 1st Flush Black Tea, which we source from organic farms in India. When farmers harvest these teas, picked between late February and early April in India’s high-altitude Darjeeling state, they pluck young silver tea beds, which are rolled and elongated. After tea artisans oxidize the silver buds into black tea, they package them and ship the teas to eager importers, like Ku Cha. This style of Darjeeling black tea is full-bodied and honey-toned, with notes of muscatel grapes and ripe fruit, rather than flavors more commonly associated with black tea, such as malty, earthy and smoky.

Spring Teas: Bi Luo Chun Green Tea

Bi Luo Chun grows alongside plum and bayberry trees, which flower in spring while farmers harvest tea leaves.

Springtime is about more than harvesting tea; it’s also the season when many trees blossom, perfuming entire landscapes with intoxicating aromatics and arresting visuals. In Japan, spring means cherry blossoms, which serve as the national symbol for the island nation. Japan’s abundance of cherry trees burst into shades of pink every spring, drawing crowds, tourists and lots of Instagram activity. 

Our Bi Luo Chun tea, which means “Jade Curly Spring Tea,” grows on Xishan Island in Dongting Lake, a gorgeous spot in China’s Jiangsu Province. During harvest in early spring, plum and bayberry trees that grow alongside the tea shrubs flower, creating a gorgeous spectacle for the eyes and nose. The alignment of harvest with flowering fruit trees could contribute toward this tea’s floral aroma, and intricate, youthful flavors. This is an early-spring tea not to be missed. 

Spring Teas: Silver Needle White Tea

spring teas
Silver Needle leaves are beautiful.

China’s coastal province of Fujian produces more tea than any other Chinese tea-growing region: 380,000 tons of tea a year. That volume of tea could brew 86 billion cups of tea. It’s a tea powerhouse! Naturally, the region supports a wide range of tea farms; some are vast, while others are more like small family farms. 

Fujian is famous for its white tea production, and that includes Silver Needle, or Bai Hao Yin Zhen, one of the best white teas in the world. To craft Silver Needle, tea farmers hand-pick tea buds from stems, only in early spring, and then fan them out and dry them in the sun. Following their time catching some rays, tea farmers then lightly fire them over charcoal at a low heat. The last step finishes drying the tea, while simultaneously preserving the buds’ enchanting silver color. 

Each sip of Silver Needle will coat your mouth with a clean, smooth sweetness; many rank Silver Needle as the sweetest of all white teas. We savor Silver Needle year-round, including hot summer days, when it seems to magically lower body heat. Since production is limited, this is a rare treat!

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