A Ming Dynasty Tribute Tea
Name and Origin
Bi Luo Chun began sometime around the end of the Ming dynasty about four to five hundred years ago. It is believed that it become a tribute tea closer to the beginning of the Qing dynasty. The earliest spring buds are chosen for this tea. These buds are shorter and more tender. In fact, approximately 60,000 fresh tea buds are required to make a kilo of dried Bi Luo Chun leaves. Bi Luo Chun loosely translates to Green Spring Snail or Spiral. It is characteristic of this tea for it to bear a deep green color (Bi), have a tightly spiraled shape that is similar to a snail after processing (Luo), and harvested in early spring (Chun). It is a specific skill of the tea master for this particular tea that they retain the distinctive feathery appearance of Bi Luo Chun tea leaves.
Comparing Bi Luo Chun to Meng Ding Gan Lu (Sweet Dew)
The tea’s shape is often compared to that of Sweet Dew. There are quite a few key differences between these two teas. Sweet Dew, for example, is not only produced in Sichuan province but it has a stronger and much more robust taste than Bi Luo Chun. In addition, Bi Luo Chun is produced in Jiangsu province. Bi Luo Chun will also have a fruitier and slightly more floral aroma and taste. This is mainly attributed to its point of origin. The tea grows on Dong Ting Mountain alongside fruit trees. The fruit trees provide shade to the bushes, and it is believed that the tea bushes also absorb some of the sweetness from these trees.
Grade Differences of Bi Luo Chun
Tea can usually be divided by grades according to the time in which it is picked. Zhuping discusses Imperial Bi Luo Chun and Premium Bi Luo Chun in this video. Imperial Bi Luo Chun is picked earlier than the Premium Bi Luo Chun so its buds are shorter and more tender. Although the harvest for the premium grade is later, the leaves have been given more time to grow and their buds are consequently longer and less tender.