Buds emerging for the early spring Mingqian harvest in XuanāEn county, Hubei province.
Spring vibes in Hubei
Harvesting Mingquian tea in the rocky gardens of Xuan’En county in Hubei.
- Mingqian SeasonĀ [ęåč¶] ā Teas harvested before the Qingming Festival [ęø ęč āTomb-Sweeping Festivalā] on April 4th or 5th are given the āMingqianā designation. Mingqian literally means āprior to Qingming.ā
- Qingming SeasonĀ [ęø ęč¶] ā Teas harvested in the two weeks after the Qingming Festival (April 4/5 ā April 18/19) are designated as āQingmingā teas.
- Yuqian SeasonĀ [éØåč¶] ā Ā Teas picked in the two weeks after the Qingming season (April 18/19 ā May 2/3) are designated as āYuqianā teas. Yuqian literally means ābefore the rains.ā
In the 2018 spring harvest from China, we sourced first-picked teas from the celebrated Mingqian harvesting season from Fujian, Yunnan, and Hubei provinces. We sourced teas from a range of cultivars and produced according to a variety of processing methods. These variables offer us a few ways to taste in thematic flights that highlight the taste of region, cultivar, or process.
Hubei Province: Mingqian Harvest Green Teas
XuanāEn county in the remote hinterlands of Hubei is the source of many of Rishiās organic direct trade Chinese green teas. During the Mingqian season, we taste and select unique micro-lots of the early harvest. Some lots are only 10 to 20kgs in volume. We buy each in full and import by airfreight to enjoy within the spring season. We recommend trying several of the Hubei teas from our 2018 selections to taste a range of cultivars and artisanal production techniques.
Dragon Well Flight
This flight offers us a chance to taste three teas produced in theĀ same region, during theĀ same time, according to theĀ same process. Each is made from aĀ different single cultivar, allowing us to taste their unique cultivar characteristics.
- Dragon Well, Single Cultivar Long Jing #43: the classic Dragon Well cultivar offers a balance of pleasant grassiness and savory Maillard toasted chestnut aroma
- Dragon Well, Single Cultivar E-Cha #1: this cultivar offers a unique flowery fragrance and a tighter structure than the Long Jing #43 or Bai Ye #1
- Dragon Well, Single Cultivar Bai Ye #1: this cultivar, which is used to produce the famous tea Anji Bai Cha, has a unique amino acid profile that gives it a glistening umami character with a smooth
From left: Long Jing #43, E-Cha #1, Bai Ye #1
Long Jing #43 Cultivar
E-Cha #1 Cultivar
Processing our organic Mingqian Dragon Well micro-lots in Hubei by paddle roasting, just 50g at a time.
Long Jing #43 Single Cultivar Flight
This flight allows us to taste theĀ same cultivarĀ (Long Jing #43) produced usingĀ three distinct processing techniques.
- Dragon Well, Single Cultivar Long Jing #43: Dragon Well is pan-roasted, a process that initiates the Maillard reaction which gives us a toasty flavor and aroma.
- Green Needles, Single Cultivar Long Jing #43:Ā Green Needles is drum-roasted and then needle-shaped, producing a deeply sweet, savory and almost brothy flavor.
- Yulu Jade Dew, Single Cultivar Long Jing #43: this green tea is fired by steaming and then needle-shaped using a specialized heated apparatus. The steaming produces a unique density of dewy green flavor that is more concentrated than in Green Needles or Dragon Well.
From left: Dragon Well Long Jing #43, Green Needles Long Jing #43, Yulu Jade Dew Long Jing #43
Fujian & Yunnan Provinces: Mingqian Harvest White Teas
Mingqian Silver Needles Flight
We sourced Silver Needles from both Fujian and Yunnan this year.Ā Fujian is the original birthplace of white teaĀ and offers us a classic taste of white teaās heritage. Yunnan, chiseled with mountains and valleys extending down from the Tibetan plateau, offers a strikingly different environment from maritime Fujian on Chinaās southeastern coast. The differences in these teas is apparent as a result. Each of the teas in this flight has its own merits and offers aĀ sublime tasteĀ experience with distinct aromatics and balance of umami and sweetness. Known as theĀ Scholarās Tea, each of the white teas in this flight are at the top of their class.
- Fuding Silver Needles, Single Cultivar Fuding Da Hao: the traditional Silver Needles is made from a cultivar that is bred to have high amino acid contents for a savory umami flavor and heady L-theanine buzz. The coastal climate of Fuding is said to add depth to the oceanic qualities of this tea. This highly sought-after tea fetched extraordinarily high prices in China in 2018 due to soaring domestic demand from tea enthusiasts there.
- Yunnan Silver Needles, Single Cultivar Da Huang Ya: our partners have adapted the white tea process from Fujian and have applied it to unique cultivars growing in Yunnan. This lot, from a cultivar known as Da Huang Ya or āBig Yellow Budsā features a very delicate sweetness and an almost cooling sensation on the palate in the finish. It is remarkably patient and yields plenty of brilliant infusions.
- Yunnan Silver Needles, Cultivar Blend: this original white tea is produced from four cultivars known to yield densely sweet and aromatic buds, including Da Huang Ya, which are grafted onto 30-40 year old tea plant rootstock in Jinggu county in Yunnan. The established rootstock supports a rich nutrient concentration and gives a boost to the specialized tippy cultivars.
- Wild Silver Needles: this amazing tea was harvested from a 1,300+ year old wild tea tea grove in Qianjiazhai village in southern Yunnan. Only 9kgs of this spectacular tea were collected. It exhibits an original forest aroma and hints of melon water and damask rose. In recent tastings we have done with coffee and wine professionals, this tea has stood out as a cherished favorite of many tasters.
From left: Fuding Silver Needles, Yunnan Silver Needles Da Huang Ya, Yunnan Silver Needles Cultivar Blend, Wild Silver Needles
Rishi Tea founder and tea buyer Joshua Kaiser checking the early morning tea plucking in Jinggu county, Yunnan province. This garden is home to specialty grafted cultivars such as Da Huang Ya, Chang Ye Bai Hao, Jinggu Da Bai, and Que Ya #100. These tippy cultivars offer densely sweet and fragrant buds that create a rich tase in our Yunnan Silver Needles white teas and are the abase teas for our Moonlight Jasmine green tea a little later in spring.
Da Hung Ya cultivar in Jinggu county, Yunnan province.
After withering, Da Huang Ya buds are amassed and reasted to cure and mature into a rich taste.
Ming Cha Teapot, $30