From mid March to early May is the time of the spring harvest for many of China’s and Taiwan’s top green, white, and oolong teas. Some of the best, most famous teas are harvested during this period. These include premium green teas such as Longjing, Bi Lo Chun, and Mao Feng; the high-grade white teas – Bai Mu Dan, Bai Hao Yin Zen – and the best of Taiwan’s specialty Goashan cha (high-mountain) oolong teas.
Last year was an exceptionally cold season in China and, as a result, the tea leaves grew more slowly and most harvests didn’t start until April. Some teas were also affected by frostbite, which damaged some of the leaves. This meant that the spring harvest of some teas, especially Bai Mu Dan and Bai Hao Yin Zen, was severely affected, resulting in higher-priced, lower yields. So far this year, the weather has been more stable and everything looks set for a good harvest, starting on schedule.
The exact date of the beginning of the harvest varies each year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The official start of spring time this year was February 4. The lunar calendar’s Yu shui (time of rain water) starts on February 19. The Qing Ming festival (Tomb Sweeping day) is on April 5. Some teas are famous for their expensive “pre Qing Ming” harvests, such as pre Qing Ming Longjing. Usually, however, most of the lower- and middle-elevation teas are ready to harvest around the time of the Qing Ming festival.
Not all Chinese teas are harvested at this time. Some famous teas that are not harvested during spring include Tieguanyin, Oriental Beauty, and Yunnan Gold Tip. The best Tieguanyin and Yunnan Gold Tip teas are harvested in autumn. Oriental Beauty and some other more heavily oxidized oolongs are harvested during summer. A chart showing the harvest times of the various Chinese teas is shown below.
Some of the lower- and medium-elevation oolong teas in Taiwan can be harvested four times a year. The highest-elevation high-mountain teas are harvested only once or twice – usually in late spring and early winter. The spring and winter harvests of the lower- and medium-elevation oolongs generally produce the best quality tea.