As we go about our daily lives, the teas we anticipate are being grown, plucked, and processed. I have reached out to my connections across the tea world to collect their reports of how the 2014 Spring Harvest is progressing.
An ji bai cha:
Firsd Tea reports the harvest is about 30% smaller due to last year’s drought. Another result- the appearance of tea may not be as good as last year’s but the taste should be the same. Prices may have inched slightly upward.
Firsd Tea expects export-grade longjing to be similar to last year’s harvest.
Yezi‘s Meiqin Weng spoke with her longjing farmer (Zheng Xiao Tu) who notes a longer, drier, and colder winter than last year. The resulting stress on his Mei Jia Wu #43 Longjing is expected to produce thinner, more delicate leaves which will mean improved tea for her superior-grade. Look for these new teas to arrive late April to early May.
It is important to note that different cultivars can begin to flush at different times. Gingko Seto notes that longjing #43 began to flush around March 18, where traditional (jiukeng) cultivars began about a week later. She notes that a cooler spring and longer growth stage are making harvests from both cultivars look promising. Life In Teacup’s longjing offerings are available as of posting.
Teavivre sources an organic longjing from some of the further reaches of Hangzhou, which means last year’s average temps were lower than other areas – a potential benefit for this year’s production. Teavivre is also one of the few online stores offering She Qian longjing. She Ri is a date on traditional Chinese calendars that fell on/around March 26 of 2014. There is indication that teas can fall into one of several categories depending on when it was harvested before the Qing Ming Festival (April 5).
Other Chinese teas:
Lu Shan Yun Wu – Life In Teacup predicts a normal, healthy crop of this Jiangxi tea.
A slightly cooler spring has also been favorable for Jing Xian Ti Kui, a specialty tea from Anhui province. Coming soon to Life In Teacup.
Yezi Tea‘s producer of black tea and tie guan yin reports good weather for both black tea and tie guan yin. Black tea harvest ran from 20 March to about 15 April. An exception to the good weather was a hailstorm that delayed tie guan yin harvest by about a month. Tie guan yin harvest is expected to begin around 27 April. New black teas should be available early June, and tie guan yin available late June.
Bai Mu Dan and Bai Hao Yin Zhen – Yezi’s farmer expected harvests to be about 10 days earlier, and better than last year’s. Prices may also rise. These teas should be available at Yezi Tea in June.
Happy Earth Tea‘s sources calculate a reduced first flush harvest. A combination of dryer-than-usual January and extended cooler temps in March may have cut 30% – 50% off the usual harvest total, but quality was not expected to suffer in many cases.
Pockets of Darjeeling fared better. Estates like Risheehat and Dootheria received more rain than other sections, and Dootheria may actually have been ahead of last year’s production levels. Arya’s teas were believed to be an improvement over last year’s. One of the hardest hit areas was the Mirik Valley – home to Singbulli, Thurbo, and Okayti. Kurseong South (including Castleton, Jungpana, and Makaibari) also received less rain than desired. See this map from Camellia Sinensis to learn more about Darjeeling estate locations. Happy Earth currently has 2014 first flush of Arya Ruby available.
Paul Kotta of Mellow Monk brings news from Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. Harvests of Yabukita senchas vary slightly. Outside of Aso City, total winter snowfall was higher, but this has moved off to allow for a slightly earlier harvest. Harvest should commence mid-May, and a flavorful leaf with good color is anticipated. These plants may get shade-covered a little longer than usual.
A little further south near Sagara Village, a larger and slightly later harvest than last year is expected. This particular estate recently installed sprinkler systems that should improve nutrient absorption and provide protection against and late-season frosts.
As with many small farms, these growers are fully engaged with harvest and processing tea on-location. The demands of tea-crafting mean they do not ship tea until the entire crop has been processed. Watch for these artisanal teas to be available around mid-July from Mellow Monk.
South of Kumamoto, larger-scale harvests in Kagoshima Prefecture went to market around 8 April. Auctions in Kagoshima began, but Harney‘s sources recommend waiting for more sun and warmth to create better aroma.
Speaking with Stephané Erler, Thomas Shu, and the Eco-Cha team, the consensus is that northern Taiwan and some lower elevation crops may come in a little slower and/or diminished due to extended, cooler temps.
Impressions about higher elevation teas seems positive overall. Eco-Cha tasted Jin Xuan from 1000 meters in Jiayi (Chiayi) County “above average in its balance of fragrance and substantial flavor.”
Qing xin (Ching shin) oolong generally flushes later than Jin Xuan, which may be an advantage in quantity of qing xin as weather warms in time with arrival of its buds.
Erratic and low temperatures have meant that lower elevations generally are expecting lower yields as tea plants have flushed inconsistently.
Expect to see Taiwan teas available at Eco-Cha in mid/late May. Higher mountains, like Dayuling and Lishan will arrive in June.
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