When spring comes, my family is thinking about flip-flops, patio furniture, fresh produce, and walks around the lake. I am thinking of Laoshan, of Mr. and Mrs. He and the wafting aroma of piles of fresh spring buds drying and being curled. I am thinking of the cool morning mist that requires you to wear a jacket in the village, and of the crystal clear spring where the kids play on the weekends.
I asked Weiwei, who maintains our relationship with the farmers while I am away, to bring gifts to the He family and see how the new harvest was going. The news I got was a bit nerve-wracking. This year was an extremely cold spring, which delayed the harvest significantly. I was told that very little tea was being picked early on. Weiwei suggested that we offer the He family far more than usual for the crop since they got so little in the first weeks of spring. Of course, we were happy to do so.
The drawback of the cold spring meant a pricier green, along with a tiny shipment of only eight pounds of this precious leaf until later in the month. However, the benefit became clear as soon as I cut open the first vacuum-sealed bag. The fragrance was thick, heady and overwhelmingly fresh. It truly smelled like being on the farm in Laoshan village.
Steeped up, this Laoshan early spring harvest is unlike ones I have tasted before. I expected an exquisitely sweet flavor, but I couldn’t have anticipated the thick creamy body, or the nuance of the sugar snap pea flavor. It actually makes perfect sense when you think about it. Colder spring and slower harvest means smaller leaf that has spent less energy growing. Less energy to put out big leaves early on means more sugar and nutrients stored in the leaf contributing to the rich flavor.
I am so honored that the He family is willing to part with this crop and trusts us to represent it well. Mr. and Mrs. He pass on their thanks for all the support and kind words that I translate from comments left here on Steepster. Indeed, the enthusiasm here is one part of what drives their commitment to innovating, improving their Laoshan green and Laoshan Black every season.
May everyone enjoy this tea. I hope the fresh smell, the tender leaf, and rich flavor evoke for others even a small part of this village that I miss so dearly.