Our first offering from the 2019 early spring harvest is Snow Buds. It comes to us from Yunnan, China, located in the southwest where the warm weather means that tea typically harvests a few weeks earlier than most of China, even at an elevation of 1400 masl. This year Snow Buds was harvested during the week of March 25.
Being able to taste a tea like Snow Buds within the first several months after harvest is a pretty special experience. Teas harvested in those first few days after a dormant winter slowly develop their flavors in the cool spring weather. Subsequent harvests won’t have the sweetness, nuance, and delicate mouthfeel. Nor will they have the attention to detail used in making the tea. Snow Buds is a handmade tea from harvest to rolling. The loosely rolled shape of the dry leaf reflects the care in crafting the tea by hand.
The Snow Bud flavor is somewhat unusual compared to the other China green teas in our lineup. One reason is that it was made from heirloom assamica cultivar tea bushes that are native to Yunnan. Most green tea is made from sinensis leaf, but these tea bushes have been harvested for centuries, and lend a very particular flavor to the tea that reminds me of green Sichuan peppercorn. Other flavors that I get from this tea are soft notes of blackberry with a faint hint of charcoal, which is residual from the baking process. Similar to the variety used to make the tea, baking green tea isn’t practiced very often and really more of a lost art form. The majority of tea in China is pan-fired, so it is rare to taste a tea made in a very traditional way that was grown in one of the oldest tea growing areas on earth, especially at its peak freshness.
I have been steeping this tea in 400ml Glass Teapot using 8 grams of tea and 180°F water. Steep for 4-5 minutes, and dial back the time if you find the flavor is being overshadowed by astringency. The finish should be slightly brisk with a refreshing floral aftertaste, but not too drying. Due to its brisk nature, I don’t believe that it is suited for cold steeping.