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All the Tea in China – or, perhaps, what little tea is in China …

May 25, 2008

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Even though I’m a tea lover, I hadn’t really thought about the implication of weather and natural disasters on my favorite beverage. A month or so back, I got a lovely letter from Silk Road Teas about this year’s trip to buy teas in China, and it expressed some concern about the effect of the hard winter on the tea crop. This was, of course, all before the earthquake. Worrying about the effect of the snow on the tea bushes now seems like such a small thing! Here’s the letter, which I still find quite interesting as I’d been previously unaware of a seasonal harvest aspect to Chinese teas.

“With the earliest hints of spring, tea lovers and commercial tea buyers alike begin to inquire as to when our new harvest teas will be available. Classic spring teas — Green Snail Spring (Bi Luo Chen), Silver Needle (Yinzhen), Dragon Well (Lung Ching), Bai Mu Dan (White Peony) and Mei Zhan (Drum Mountain Clouds and Mists) come to mind.

“Like so many places in the world, China is experiencing its share of changing and often severe weather patterns. In February, as China celebrated the Lunar New Year (Year of the Rat), snow blanketed much of southeastern China. These provinces, of course, are the most productive of the country’s tea growing regions. With the tea bushes blanketed in white, tea buyers feared the worst – the harvest of competition grade teas was delayed; or worse, have the bushes been damaged?

“We made inquiries to our friends and suppliers in China. Could they inform us a to the condition and timing of the harvest? Word came back quickly that while it had been quite cold, our sources believed that winter’s cold weather, now followed by a consistent spring warming trend, would serve to create a rich-tasting leaf. The contrasting temperatures would impart nuance and character to the leaf. Now, as you receive this letter, we are on our way to China to see exactly what has transpired and bring home new teas. More information will be forthcoming about our travels and new teas in the coming months.”

I do look forward to trying the new teas! With that, a pot of nice green seems to wait for me on this Sunday afternoon.

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