Why tea people get so excited at this time of year

July 07, 2016

Why tea people get so excited at this time of year

Fashionistas are abuzz in the lead up to fashion week. Sporting fanatics start twitching a few weeks before season kick-off, wine lovers salivate in summer in anticipation of new vintages and snow bunnies start rugging up as temperatures drop up in expectation of the first snow fall.

Tea connoisseurs experience something similar as the tea harvest season rolls around each year.

 

The tea season

High quality tea has a specific time of the year when it is at its most desirable. Understanding tea seasonality helps you know what to expect in terms of flavour, appearance and also price. It will also help you understand why tea lovers starting getting noticeably enthusiastic from April to July.

At this time of year we are keeping in close touch with our network of tea masters to check in on what the weather is doing and how the harvest is shaping up. In the same way that weather plays a significant role in the quality of a wine vintage, the tea harvest season is nature dependant too.

CupAboveTea_2Some teas need to be plucked only on sunny days while other teas are plucked regardless of conditions during a set window, for example pre-Qing Ming Chinese teas are only ever picked in the week leading up to 5 April (it’s based on the lunar calendar and Chinese tradition).

You can expect to invest much more in teas that are harvested only once a year. Short plucking windows means there is only a very limited amount of tea for the farmer to produce, and once it’s plucked that’s it for the year.

These types of single harvest teas will generally have far superior flavour than tea picked during longer plucking windows or than tea that is in flush throughout the year and they are among some of the most extraordinary you will ever taste. Chinese green teas, Indian first flush Darjeelings and Japanese Shincha are all good examples.

Seasonal sourcing

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We source the teas for our collection seasonally. This means that each year, we review the regional conditions and in partnership with our tea masters, we sample and evaluate the choicest examples from the area as well as more unusual or innovative teas that the tea master may have developed to take advantage of seasonal peculiarities. Sometimes this experimentation works astonishingly well (and is the test of the true skill of a tea craftsman), while other times it can fall flat.

We are not tied to, contracted by or reliant one particular garden and that is the beauty of seasonal, small-batch selection. Instead, we pick the best of the best at the appropriate point during the year. For you, this means a trusted and interesting collection for you to explore year on year. We might have been overwhelming impressed with the teas from one tea master or garden last season, but because of harvest conditions and the weather patterns during the last 12 months, we might not include anything from that region or producer this year. We make note of which seasons had the best conditions in the lead up to harvest in different parts of the world, and zero in on these areas as we evaluate what will be included in the collection. 

From time to time we also hold teas back to age them and most seasons we’ll release something into the collection from a previous season which is drinking beautifully or expressing interesting characters after being rested. In the next few weeks, we will be announcing our line-up of 2016-released teas to our VIPs, and they will then be launched to the market after VIPs have had an opportunity to secure their picks

What happens when in the tea world

Every season harvests can run differently but here's a quick summary of what generally happens in different pockets of the tea world. Different retailers bring teas to market at different times. Some will introduce new season harvest teas as quickly as possible, others might wait to purchase from the broader season before releasing new teas to market (often to save passing on expensive multiple shipping costs to their customers). 

March 

Yunnan - bud-pluck green and black tea

Western China - premium green and yellow teas flush

Fujian – bud only white tea

April

Various regions - Pre-Qing Ming designation green teas

Fujian – Keemun, Lapsang Souchong, Jin Jin Mei and Anxi oolongs begin

May 

Large leaf tea production

Non-bud white tea production

Base tea for jasmine tea is made and stored until the jasmine harvest in summer

June

Most spring harvest teas have hit the international marketplace

 

March

Himalayas - 1st flush black tea

April

First flush blacks

May

Summer flush

June

Summer flush

July

Third flush

 

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April

Ichibancha

Shincha harvest may begin

May

Ichibancha

Sencha and Gyokruo begin

June

Nibancha – second flush

July

Nibancha – second flush

August

Nibancha – second flush

September/October

Yonbancha – fourth flush

 

March

Nuwara Eliya + Kandy - premium flushes

April

First flush

May

Second flush teas

June

Uva – premium flush

July

Monsoon flush

August

Monsoon flush 

September/October

Early Autumnal flush

 

March

Central Taiwan - early spring semiball oolongs

April

Low elevation gardens – spring pluck for leafy oolongs

May

Summer tea mid elevation plucking

June

Summer tea high elevation production

July

Various - standard grade oolong

August

Autumn tea

September/October

Autumn tea

 

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March

Darjeeling + Assam - 1st flush black teas

April

Nilgiris – spring tea

May

Darjeeling and Assam - second flush

June

Second flush

July

Monsoon Flush

August

Monsoon Flush

September/October

Autumnal Flush

 

April

Ujeon first pluck

May

Sejak second pluck

June

Joongjak third pluck

July

Daejak forth pluck

 

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Annual

Year round production

 

Annual

Year round production





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