April is the month that almost all tea-lovers in China anticipate with excitement. The year's best green and white teas come out in the next few weeks.
"The expectation has been a nagging thought in my mind," my friend in China told me. He needed to have the best teas to work on certain Guanxi (relationships), to strengthen some of the most important relationships for his career. This has been part of Chinese tea culture.
Like him, many people have been looking forward to this season since last year's tea crop ran out in October. They cannot wait for the arrival of a new harvest of China's finest beverage.
The reason for the excitement is that the best green or white tea leaves are those harvested from the earliest spring growth. They yield the most fragrant and freshest tea known to man.
To ensure the quality, tea leaves must be picked by hand when they are only a day old, and then processed immediately the same day.
Besides the essential time factor, each tea plant will only give about five pickings of these most delicate leaves.
"The demand for the first tea is extremely intense for both its quality and social reasons. The markets won't have this new tea until late May, or even not at all, because they either are continuing selling the last year's leftovers, which are less fragrant, or they don't have the supplies. The best teas have been ordered by people with connections," my friend explained.
"In other words, people who really love tea but don't have the right connections can do little about it?" I asked.
"No. Many people have big pockets that are full of buying power nowadays. But still, money cannot buy everything. Actually, after the fifth picking, tea leaves are still often sold as 'new tea' and with much fanfare. If you don't understand the tea business, you'll pay for their lies.
Don't be surprised if the teas you buy from expensive shops don't taste as good as that sipped in some important offices and by old men in a humble back room of the local Cultural Center,” my friend warned me.
It is said that "You are what you eat or drink.” It is about health, but I saw some truth in it in terms of character.
The Chinese love the unadorned leaf of camellia sinesis with much reverence. They let the simple fragrance hold them with the same kind of undeniable attraction as the grip drugs have on addicts in the West.
Yet tea has only positive effects, detoxifying the body, killing cancers, and providing a refreshingly mild caffeine stimulant. I can't help but being amazed how wise Chinese people are, at least in drinking.
The delight that the tea-lovers have is in the simple pleasures of life: holding a warm piece of ceramic, blowing away the sweet froth of the first pour, drinking in the fragrant steam of the 'budding spring,' chatting with friends...
Have a good cup of Chinese tea.
New York Pass With More than 50 Sttractions
Southern California CityPASS saves you 32% for Disneyland, Universal Studios and 3 other attractions