We had briefly discussed the winter harvested tea here, which discussed the unique character of winter tea. Now being the very end of Taiwan's spring tea season, it's time to discuss the spring harvest tea.
As we already knew, winter tea is "with winter tea you craft water" (冬茶作水), so the character of spring tea will be the reverse of winter - "with spring tea you craft aroma" (春茶作香). In the spring due to the fog and mists that shroud the tea mountains the overall exposure to sunlight and high temperatures are often lower than the sunny winter days.
To make matters complicated, the spring weather in the mountains of Taiwan is rather unstable with temperatures and precipitation fluctuating to day to day and week to week. One year can be cold drought, the next year warm and rainy. These challenging climatic conditions make the processing (especially the withering process) of spring tea more difficult. An experienced tea processors' job is to create the proper aroma from the raw tea leaves, while maintaining the sweetness and the body of the tea at a balanced state, but without the bitterness.
Fog will block the sunshine, which impacts the withering process. This photo was taken at Shan Lin Xi tea region. (photo below)
With Sacrifice Comes Reward
The weather of spring with it's varying precipitation, sunlight and temperature does help increase amino acids and carbohydrate levels in the tea tree, which results in a sweeter body and aftertaste in the final product. In most cases this gives spring tea a sweeter taste than winter tea, but sometimes with the right processing and weather conditions winter tea can be very sweet too.
Withering is the very first key to a successful tea, and bright sunshine will make it a whole lot easier. (photo below)
Tea processing is not easy, and it requires an experienced team to produce the best result. (Photo below taken at Lalashan)
So what makes this year's (2015) Spring High Mountain Jade Oolongs teas so good?
First thing of all, as a lot of tea lovers already knew, there was a drought this year that seriously decreased the production quantity. This drought was so serious that it forced some counties to limit their water usage just like California did. However, this serious limitation of production and the lack of humidity in air enhanced the overall quality of tea because the tea leaves didn't suffer from excessive water content. Excessive water content in the tea leaves makes the tea harder to process and often results in a watery taste that puts a damper on taste and aroma.
Some tea plantations with an elevation above 1200 meters suffered from frostbite this April. If you have no idea what a frostbitten tea bush looks like, please click here.
As we can see, teas that suffered from frostbite will turn dark. This kind of ingredient is not qualified for tea production. Normally the frostbite will mostly happen in winter. It is extremely rare to see it happen in April. This natural disaster affected many growers whom were unable to produce any teas at all this spring. Combine frostbitten tea bushes with the drought conditions later in the season, and you've got a spring tea harvest with historically low harvest quantities. The good part is that the tea bushes that survived both the frost and the drought have produced incredibly aromatic and complex teas!
Although weeds and bamboo will contend with tee trees for nutrition from the soil, it's a good sign that herbicides have not been used. (photo below)
In short, this is a crazy season for Taiwanese tea, it's like a roller coaster ride, but it creates a satisfying result for most of the tea lovers (not tea farmers). We are fortunate enough to obtain some of the best teas of the year from Wu She, Alishan, Lalashan, and especially the Special Tie Guan Yin from Lishan. The 2015 Spring tea collection is beyond awesome, and we couldn't be more proud to offer it to tea lovers around the world.
Tree will absorb the nutrition that tee tree need, but it helps conserving the soil especially at steep hill. Plus, it looks nice in the picture. (photo below)