Bi Luo Chun Green Tea – a “Spring Snail” among China’s green Teas
Bi Luo Chun is a green tea from Dongting island/mountain on Lake Tai (“Great Lake”/”Tai Hu”), Jiangsu. It’s most obvious characteristic is the distinctive shape and color of the processed tea leaf. That this, the visual reminiscence of a “green spring snail” corresponds to the literal translation of “Bi Luo Chun”. As with most famous Chinese teas, there is a legend about this one, too. And it’s all about how the tea got it’s name…
As the story goes, Chinese emperor Kanxi once visited the region in the 38th year of his reign (Qing dynasty, 1692). After tasting the local tea, he asked for its name. He was then told that since this green tea had such an amazing fragrance, it was called “Xia-Sha-Ren-Xiang” (吓 煞人 香), “Amazing Fragrance”. Now, the emperor found that this did not do justice to the tea, which deserved a more sublime name. And so he decreed that – based on the above-mentioned appearance reminiscent of a snail – this tea should henceforth be called 碧螺春 Bi Luo Chun – Green Spring Snail. Ever since, Bi Luo Chun has been a regular on the official Great Teas of China list….
Tai Hu Dongting Bi Luo Chun @ Siam Tea Shop
As with most types of tea, origin and terroir are defining characteristics of authentic Bi Luo Chun, too. Accordingly, our Bi Luo Chun comes from this tea’s proper place of origin on Lake Tai’s Dongting Island. There it grows at over 500 meters above sea level on the east and west slopes of the mountain with the same name. At this, the mix of tea bushes, loquat, Chinese waxberry, orange, peach and chestnut trees corresponds to the local tradition. However, the biodiversity of the resulting ecosystem also ensures natural control of pest populations. In addition, the fruit trees contribute to the characteristic taste of the green tea grown on the island.
Bi Luo Chun is typically picked between March 20 and the Chinese Qingming Festival. This makes it one of China’s annual spring picking’s earliest green teas. Therefore, the shoots are so delicate that it takes 14000-15000 (5kg’s) of them to produce one kilogram of tea.
The processing basically corresponds to that of other Chinese green teas. However, a local peculiarity is the manual sorting out of less high-quality tea leaves during withering. The subsequent heating of eligible tea leaves in the wok pan to stop the oxidation processes is also traditional hand work. During this step also commences the rolling of the tea leaves into the characteristic snail shape. This is followed by final drying, which also fixes the shape given to the tea leaves during rolling.
Taste and Preparation
First pour 200ml of water at a temperature around 75-80°C over 4-5g of tea leaves. Let infuse for 2 minutes for a first delicious infusion. In terms of taste, the lively freshness of the young spring carries a colorful roundelay of fruity-sweet and floral notes to the palate, there gathering them for an overwhelming overall impression. After that, a second infusion of shortened brewing (1 minute) produces a similarly exquisite taste result. While a third infusion, now at 90°C and again with 2 minutes, is still a must in terms of taste, even more infusions are possible with extended infusion periods.