Spring Celebrations: Teas being made and festivals around the world

While it may not feel like Spring, luckily we have small subtle clues to give us hope for the warmer weather. Perhaps you saw crocuses peeking out of a garden (or lawn) or just counting your blessings for no more snow. Noticing these small things can make a HUGE difference in your day by just noticing them however small. It is time to start thinking about what teas you will drink this season and which ones to stock up on.  Fresh Spring crops are on the way, let’s take a look at some main tea growing areas and what is going on over the next few months for Spring.

Spring Celebrations: Teas being made and festivals around the world | Every tea growing region is beginning to process their specialties. Japan and China are making green teas, Taiwan is making Oolongs and India is making Darjeeling. Different teas are processed throughout the seasons. Learn what ones are coming so you can get your favorite tea this Spring.

Japan

    In all the various tea growing regions are gearing up for the first harvest of the year as their plants slowly wake up form their winter hibernation. From now to May we can expect all the first flushes to begin to become available, while others there is a little wait on. 
Currently, the Japanese Cherry Blossoms are beginning to bloom. Many are waiting eagerly as we wait for the best time to view the blossoms  in Japan (and across the world).  In Japanese this  time is called Hanami. The word means Flower viewing, “hana” meaning flower and “mi” meaning to watch or see.  Of course this is exactly what brings people together to admire the blossoms at all times of the day with a packed meal (bento) and sake, or tea.  

China

Leading up to  the Qingming Festival (Typically April 4 or 5) is when all those extra fresh young leaves are plucked for teas ranging from white to green. During this time, before the festival, the most sought after teas are processed.

   The festival is a time for families to clean out their family tombs and grave sites. Together as a family the cleaning is done which ends with a family tea and , of course, some tea. 

Taiwan

 The big difference between the mainland and Taiwan is that delicious Oolongs are being processed (#yumm)! Most of the greener Oolongs are on their way, such as Four Springs, Ali shan and Bao Zhong.  The first flushes are all processed from March to April, with time for family in between. Being so close to China it is no surprise that Taiwan also observed “Tomb Sweeping Day” which is known as Qingming Festival.  

India

The Holi Festival is long over and first flushes are almost finished. These teas were picked from around mid-March until about the second week of May. These leaves are typically used for Darjeeling, which is known for its light body that is often compared to champagne and Taiwanese Oolongs. 

With so many teas to choose from pick out an old favorite from your stash to celebrate the spring season (and fresh teas to come).  In the comments below share which Spring harvested tea your are eager for.

Teavana Neighborhood store: Hit or Miss?

    Since Teavana acquired Teaopia there was talk about this Great Neighborhood store. I learned some ideas at head office in April, but kept quiet till now for legal reasons.
 Now I can talk! It opens tomorrow in the East end of Manhattan. Crested with gold and it combines the ideas of not only Teavana and Starbucks, but the concept of the Tazo tea shop.
   I learned a few weeks ago that the Tazo stores were closing down to become this. Originally I had thought that all the Teavana stores were to become Tazo, I was wrong. In the end they came up with this beautiful concept which melds them all together. It is a great work of art.
   The store combines the Teavana Mall concept with the cafe or bistro like concept. The foods are beyond what I expected, the colours and ingredients are fantastic.  It also looks like Starbucks changed the colour of the cups for Teavana. Design wise it works better for their whole family, the white with the logo. Classic Starbucks design.

    In time I can see this fusion of Tea store and cafe popping up more in the tea world. While the smaller stores are possibly in panic, I feel that this addition to the tea world will do everyone some good.  The concept is fantastic, I have pointed out how in awe I am of the shop. My question is can Teavana still give provide the essence of tea? For myself the essence is the history, culture and the almost religions aspect that comes with it. What am I getting at?
   The staff are given a condensed version of information on tea, in the form of a thick almost two inch handbook, but only on the first few centimeters.. or millimeters of that. Tea is more than just a leisure drink. There is a connection between history, arts and culture that stems from tea itself.

   The book written by Kakuzo Okakura, even points out this connection throughout his book. One main line that sticks is ” When will the West understand, or try to understand, the East?”. If we continue to try to find a Western way to enjoy tea, can we really understand it in the end?
    One part of this new store that was on the idea list was to have a High End Cast Iron pot. It would be for purchase but would it be enamel lined? The original use for cast iron pots was to use it as a kettle, this can be seen in Japanese Tea Ceremony today.
  I feel that the one thing that Teavana and Starbucks can do right now, is offer special classes or even properly educate their staff on tea this would get them on the right track. As, Gyokuro is NOT used to make Matcha (Here is a post on how it IS made).

All images from http://news.starbucks.com/news/teavana-fine-teas-tea-bar-debuts-in-new-york-citys-upper-east-side

Interview for Tea Muse

        A while back I was interviewed by Tiffany Picard for her article on Canada’s Tea Culture. This all happened after Brett from Black Dragon Tea Bar, referred me to her.  I had a wonderful time answering Tiffany’s questions as well as asking my own of Victoria, B.C.  The article represents Canada and its diverse tea culture beautifully. Again, I must thank both Tiffany and Brett for this opportunity to inform others on the happenings in the north.
      If you have not yet read the article you may read it here. It is late here for me, I am going to finish my cup of Phoenix Dan Cong and settle into bed. Good night all. This weeks tasting will be tomorrow night if things go as planed. Till then~