Early spring in Laoshan this year came late, but stayed consistently cool and misty for a perfectly-aligned harvest.
In recent years, spring has fluctuated between freezing nights and warm days, forcing the He Family to leave their greenhouse covers on longer, but this year, the nights were temperate enough to remove the greenhouse covers early, letting the buds slowly form in the open ocean air. The results are spectacular, one of the first harvests in many years to line up with ideal conditions, letting the He Family focus more on picking and finishing craft and less on emergency field management.
What this means for the tea itself is smaller yields but extremely sweet, rich and aromatic brews packed with more minerality and textural nuance.
This is all great news for the He Family, who has had to deal with several years in a row of bitter cold winters and losing tea plants to the frost. This winter, Mr. He spent hundreds of hours working on triple-layered greenhouse protection to give the plants an advantage against teh cold, and combined with more mild temperatures, this paid off immensely- preserving teh old-growth rootstock for a perfect spring
These early harvests after the greenhouse covers came off are in stock now - the reserve Da Tian harvests:
When we talk about 1st pickings, these very early very delicate harvests don’t all happen at the same time. When farmers like Mr. He or Li Xiaoping are hand-picking tea leaves from their old-growth bushes, the first buds of the season don’t all come in on a single plant at one moment. Indeed, after the shaded greenhouse cover comes off in Laoshan, a single tea bush needs to be picked first at about 4am in the morning, then again in the cool evening, and again the next day as individual buds come in.
The goal is for each bud is picked right at the vry moment it reaches perfection on a case-by-case basis. This requires a lot of craft and experience, as well as a lot passes over the same plants. Because the flavors change after the delicate buds are exposed to sunlight for a day, it is critical for these reserve harvests to catch the buds, as they grow.
What does this mean for you?
This is a reminder of the seasonality of tea, and the way that harvests even spread out by a few days can have very different qualities.
This seasonality is what makes green tea so special. The He Family is equally excited about the classic harvests they have on the way to us now, so make sure you try as many pickings as you can to see how the flavor and aroma change over the course of the spring.
What’s next for Laoshan?
The He Family has spent late spring wild-foraging at the cooler higher elevations for herbals like Gan Zao Ye and Huai Hua. These teas are being finished now, and we hope to open pre-orders for these and Laoshan oolongs, as soon as we can confirm a flight for the precious harvests.
In the last week (last week of May), the weather has been shifting to rainy season, much later than usual. This gave the He Family a tremendous picking window for early slow growth buds, catching them just as they grow in, yielding a much more thorough first picking and classic picking of extremely high quality, especially given that much of the plant stock has been left unpicked to grow for several years until this spring.
A note on pre-orders
As China opens back up, demand for the He Family and Li Xiaoping’s tea is expected to skyrocket. Mr. He has been tapped as an expert on TV to talk about Laoshan, and his family’s work is being noticed. Pre-orders are especially critical in helping us and the He Family make sure enough tea is set aside.
Laoshan Huai Hua herbal tea
Mr. He interview for Qingdao's QTV-2
What else is coming?
Master Zhang’s early Tieguanyin grows at a high elevation and cold climate, meaning later picking dates. It is just finished now, and we hope to open pre-orders before the end of June. Expect more updates soon.
White teas from the Wu Family and pu’er from Qianjiazhai benefit from some resting time after finishing and are expected in mid to late summer. Wuyi teas and Dancongs require multiple rounds of firing and resting and will likely be available by autumn. Right now, 2020 roasted oolongs are at their peak for flavor and texture.