Part 2 Bi Lo Chun

pexels-photo-230477Things to Know…

The name Bi Lo Chun is related to its main features: “Bi” — rich green color, “Lo” — the form of a curled tea leaf resembling a snail and “Chun” is early spring, the season of harvesting this tea.

Jiangsu Province in China is where the best Bi Luo Chun is harvested. There are five main fresh water lakes in China, the third largest being Tai Hu (Tai Lake) in Jiangsu Province, located just 100 kilometers from Shanghai.  It has some 90 islands and is an extremely popular tourist attraction. 

Dong Ting Mountain Range…

Within and around Tai Hu Lake, is the Dong Ting Mountain range, where Bi Luo Chun originates. Evaporating water from the lake keeps the mountains covered with clouds and mist – the ideal growing conditions for top quality Bi Lo Chun.  Peach, plum, and apricot trees are planted between the tea bushes.  The taller fruit trees protect the tea plants from the summer heat and the winter cold, but they also imbibe the tea leaves with a unique aroma – the white fur on the tea leaves absorb the bright scents of the blooming fruit trees. This aids in giving Bi Lo Chun its special aroma and flavor.

The mountain range is split into a west side and an east side, both of which produce high quality Bi Luo Chun.  Dong Shan, the Eastern Hill produces,  Dong Shan Bi Luo Chun which has dark, big leaves with a rich taste. The Western Hill, is known as – Xi Shan.  Xi Shan Bi Lo Chun, has small tender leaves with a more gentle taste.  Of course the taste and aroma varies between the two, but it is believed that Dong-Shan Bi Luo Chun is of the highest quality.

BIG Deal Tea…The Dong Ting Mountain is Granted the Status of National Designated Protected Zone!

 

Seasonality in Tea is Important

Many tea enthusiasts are beginning to understand that some teas are plucked in only one season of the year, while other teas may be plucked over the course of two or three seasons.  In general, some teas are best when plucked and manufactured in the spring, others in the summer, still others in the fall, and so on. Teas harvested in the spring are the best in many regions.

Bi Luo Chun is Harvested Only once a Year- It is a VERY Early Spring Harvest

Ideally it should be Pre – Qing Ming, which means clear bright; before the third or fourth of April. (Pre – Qing Ming is the festival when the Chinese remember the deceased. The name of this celebration, which can be translated as “purity of the air and light”, reflects the weather in the region during this time.)  Teas plucked before Qing Ming are highly sought after and command a premium. Grade is directly related to leaf age. The earlier the harvest, the smaller the tea buds, the higher the grade. The tea is hand-picked for just the leaf and its bud. It takes 60,000 to 80,000 leaf-bud sets to produce one pound of finished Bi Lo Chun tea. The leaves are usually plucked from 5 am until 9 am. It is often plucked while the weather is still cold, so the tea pickers dress warmly, wearing gloves with the fingertips removed so they can still effectively pick the leaves.  Picking any high-grade Chinese green tea is a tedious process, and especially so for Bi Lo Chun.  This type of plucking is extremely rare, and it explains the very high price of this tea. Due to the stringent selection process for high quality leaves, this tea is not widely available.

This is VERY Important …The Processing

Bi Luo Chun is a sublime tea, produced just once a year and processed entirely by hand. 

The processing of the leaves matters a lot and it can affect the end results significantly.  Bi Luo Chun does not undergo the fermentation process, and it has only three processing steps. The first step in processing Bi Lo Chun is the plucking, which is an incredibly intricate process. The tea is sorted by hand, one by one, to remove any sub – standard leaves. After meticulous sorting, the leaf profile is a flawless selection of tiny buds and leaves. Bi Luo Chun’s signature curled shape occurs right after the frying process (in a large wok), when a tea master will scoop hot leaves into his hands and roll them along his palm and fingers repeatedly until they achieve their curly, downy appearance. The tea is then dried to keep its shape and character.  One pound of finished Bi Luo Chun contains over 6,000 buds! Yes, now they may look like some dark, curly snails but pop them into a glass of hot water and they will spring into life – bright green tea shoots – one by one.

Next… Bi Luo Chun in the Cup!

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