In our last post, we shared 5 general tips for buying loose leaf black tea. These tips will allow you to quickly pick out quality loose leaf tea. However, if you want to delve deeper into the quality of loose leaf tea. Then inevitably you will need to know information about the grade of the tea, the season, and so on. This information is also integral to the criteria for assessing the quality of loose leaf tea.
When shopping for tea, when asked about the grade of tea, you will often hear the answer that this is a bud and two leaves, spring tea or rainy day tea, so what do these words really mean?
1."One Bud with X Leaves"
a.Fresh tea leaves are classified based on their configuration: a single bud, one bud with one leaf (which resembles a "sparrow's beak"), one bud with two leaves, one bud with three leaves, or one bud with four leaves. Depending on how much the first leaf is spread compared to the second, one bud with two leaves can be further classified as: fully open, slightly open (where the first leaf covers half the area of the second), medium open (where the first leaf covers two-thirds the area of the second), or fully open where both leaves are similar in size. One bud with three leaves typically denotes average-quality tea available in the market, while one bud with four leaves usually indicates a more coarse variety.
There are many people who will take one bud and a few leaves as the only criterion for tea grade, which is incorrect. This is not true. A bud of a few leaves is one of the criteria for judging the grade of tea. Tea grade also needs to be judged by its geographical location, altitude, tea varieties, tea picking technology, and tea making process.
For example, iTeaworld's Fenghuang Dancong Oolong Tea has one bud and two leaves. But it comes from the core production area of Phoenix Town, Chaozhou, and the tea plantation is at a high altitude. The tea plantation is at a high altitude and the tea trees are 100 years old. All these make the Fenghuang Dancong Oolong Tea have a very good taste. Everyone who drinks it thinks it is one of the best teas in iTeaworld.
2.Difference between Spring, Summer, and Autumn Teas
a.In China, except for a few areas in the South, the growth and harvest of tea are seasonal. Harvesting times can range from early May to late September in Northern regions, late March to mid-October in the South, and late January to early December in the Southwest.
i.Typically, teas are classified into Spring, Summer, and Autumn based on harvest time.
ii.Another classification divides the teas based on the solar terms: teas harvested from the Qingming festival to Xiaoman are called Spring teas; those from Xiaoman to Xiaoshu are Summer teas, and teas from Xiaoshu to Hanlu are Autumn teas.
iii.Yet another classification relies on specific months: teas harvested before the end of May are considered Spring teas; those harvested from early June to mid-July are Summer teas, while teas harvested after mid-July are Autumn teas.
The South, being tropical, experiences blurred seasons, allowing year-round tea harvest. Hence, apart from the traditional seasonal classification, the teas are divided based on rounds of new growth: first round, second round, and so on.
Different geographical latitudes imply different harvesting times. Even within the same region or tea garden, varying factors like climate can shift the harvest time by 5-20 days from year to year.
Due to varying seasons, the tea's growth conditions differ, leading to substantial differences in appearance and quality between teas harvested in different seasons.
3.How Do Different Season Teas Compare?
a.Spring Tea: Typically refers to the first sprout of tea leaves after winter. Thanks to a winter's worth of nutrient accumulation, Spring teas tend to have thicker leaves, are richer in aromatic compounds and vitamins, and present a fresh, strong aroma. This quality, along with their limited availability, often makes them pricier. For example, most teas in the iteaworld's green tea sampler are Spring teas.
b.Summer Tea: Harvested during the hot season, these leaves grow quickly but can also age rapidly. They generally have lower amino acid and vitamin content but higher levels of catechins, caffeine, and tannins, leading to a somewhat bitter taste.
c.Autumn Tea: Due to the drier and cooler conditions of Autumn, these teas tend to have a distinctive aroma. They strike a balance between Spring and Summer teas in terms of color, taste, and aroma, but nutritionally, they don't quite match the Spring variety. Autumn teas, especially for their aroma, are commonly used in oolong tea production. For instance, iteaworld's Oolong Tea Sampler predominantly uses Autumn teas from 2022 as a base.
4."Pre-Qingming" and "Pre-Rain" Teas
a.In the tea regions south of the Yangtze River, teas are classified by the lunar calendar. "Pre-Qingming" teas are harvested before the Qingming festival, while "Pre-Rain" teas are collected after Qingming but before the Grain Rain period. Pre-Qingming teas, tender and of high quality, are considered a luxury, often with a saying that equates their value to gold. Iteaworld's Green Tea Selection, for instance, includes Biluochun, which is a Pre-Qingming tea. While Pre-Rain teas aren't as tender as their Pre-Qingming counterparts, their more abundant content makes them flavorful and more enduring in successive brews.
These are tea-specific words that you will often see when shopping for tea. I hope this article will help you. It will help you to better choose the loose leaf tea you want.
Keep in mind that the price of good quality loose leaf tea in China is often not inexpensive. You need to be careful to find good quality teas at the right price. iTeaworld's teas are not cheap teas. The prices are not the lowest. But we can promise you that our quality exceeds our price. Welcome to visit our website to buy Chinese loose leaf tea. We believe that we will not let you down!