Oolong Tea Seaonality - Spring versus Autumn

by Anonymous
(New York)

What is the difference between jade (spring harvested) and autumn harvested oolong tea?

Answer:

Tea is a complex agricultural product that is influenced by many factors. I can only attempt to answer this question in the spirit of traditional Chinese tea texts. In practice, especially when comparing teas produced from different tea gardens and makers, other factors are more likely to dominate.

Green Tea Chemistry

Unlike oolong tea, green tea quality relies more on its theanine content than aromatic oils.

During spring, tea plants contain higher nutritions, and produce leaves with higher theanine levels.

Hence green tea tastes more refreshing and pure.

Oolong Tea Chemistry

Oolong tea quality relies more on polyphenol levels and aromatic oils.

Hence it is more fragrant and mellow.

Scientific study has found that autumn tea has the highest levels of aromatic oils.

Hence the saying "spring for green and autumn for oolong".

Due to this difference, crop rotation is practiced in some parts of China, especially down south.

Some tea gardens in Fujian uses oolong tea plants (the like of mao xie, huang dan etc) to produce green tea in the earlier part of the year, then oolong tea in the later part of the year.

Which means...

Since tea chemistry differs with the season, teas harvested at different time will have different characteristics.

Therefore, jade oolong is said to be have more mouth-feeling (theanine), whereas autumn oolong more fragrant (aromatic oils).

On the other hard, it is hard to over-generalise.

Autumn Tieguanyin tea is more highly regarded than Spring's, although there probably is little price difference.

A superb Wuyi tea garden I know only harvested their supreme Dahongpao tea (the king of oolong) once a year late spring.

So the best oolong tea, all factors being equal, can be produced in either spring or autumn, depending on which tea you are talking about, but never in the summer!

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