China’s Beaujolais Nouveau

Posted By | Posted On Mar 20, 2014

Each year, in early April, Chinese throughout the world celebrate Qing Ming, a day devoted to the ancestors. For the Chinese, the best way to assure future good fortune is to make sure that the ancestors are happy-and well fed! Qing Ming is an unusual day among Chinese festivals in that it corresponds to the Gregorian calendar rather than the Lunar one, so it always falls on the 104th day after the winter Solstice, between April 4th and 6th. This year it falls smack dab in the middle, on Saturday, April 5th. For Qing Ming, people visit the graves of the ancestors, sweeping and tidying up the grave site before offering the spirits gifts of food and drink.

Qing Ming has significance in the world of Chinese tea culture as well, since this specific day divides the fresh green teas into those picked prior to Qing Ming, and those picked after. Green teas picked before this date are given the prestigious “pre Qing Ming” designation, and these teas command a much higher price tag. Pre Qing Ming teas are prized for having lighter subtler aromas, and the best of them can sell for more than $60,000 per kilo, more than the price of gold!

China’s famous Long Jing green tea harvested before Qing Ming is produced from the very tender first spring shoots of the tea plant, and requires skilled workers to pick each of these shoots by hand. Harvesting of the tea begins in mid-march.

The Spring tea-plucking season in China is divided into four periods, and the dates are based on a season with typical weather;

Pre Qing Ming (harvested before April 5th)

Before the Rains (harvested before April 20th)

Spring Tea (harvested before May 6th)

Late Spring (harvested before May 21st), an online premium tea source based in Northhampton, Massachusetts carries Pre Qing Ming Long Jing green tea. You can check with them to see when the 2014 harvest will be available for sale.

written by Jim Becker/Chinatown guide

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