Mmmmm… First flush green tea – there’s nothing like it!
With a secret longing, tea drinkers can’t wait to get their first taste of spring teas. The first leaves breaking through the stems of tea plants hold nutrients and flavors tea drinkers miss the rest of the year.
As the cooler winter months subside and the sun begins to warm the earth, tea plants wake up from their slumber. The hillsides pop with bright green foliage from thousands of tea plants.
During cooler months, tea plants pull nutrients up through roots and into stems. Those nutrients bring a higher concentration of flavor compounds. These flavor compounds are what tea drinkers are waiting for each spring.
Just like with most vegetables or fruits, the first flush of leaves in the spring is not a high yield. The tea plants are waking up and not as many leaves appear. However, this doesn’t deter tea connoisseurs from seeking out just the right taste, the right flavor, the right cup of this delightful tea.
Due to the low yield, tea drinkers may need a large amount of money to get that just right cup of tasty tea as some spring teas can cost thousands of dollars per pound of tea.
About First Flush Green Teas
Spring teas are typically sold as green teas. The tea leaves are picked, rolled, and heated with light hands to retain the fresh green flavor. These first leaves won’t hold their flavor if fermented into black teas, but as tea drinkers are not seeking a dark rich brew, the brighter flavor remains untainted by longer fermentation methods.
For the best first flush teas, look for just picked
- Japanese Sencha from Kagoshima
- Vahdam Darjeeling
- Oolong Darjeeling
- and Chinese longjing (or dragonwell).
Brewing First Flush Green Tea
- Just as with most green teas, steeping times for spring teas should be limited to less than 1 minute.
- Boiling water will bring out bitter tannins in the tea. Use water just under boiling to make the best tea.
- Smaller teapots such as a Japanese kyusu or a Chinese yixing are typically used for brewing spring teas. Fill these small teapots one third to one half full of tea leaves, add hot water, steep to desired strength, pour and relax. The tea leaves can be re-steeped several times.
Ideas for a Spring Green Tea Party
First flush green tea is obviously quite tasty on its own, but having a spring tea party is a great way to share this wonderful tea with others.
For a Japanese themed spring tea party, serve namagashi (sweet treats). Many of these sweet treats are soft manju filled with a sweetened bean paste. Other options include custard or cream filled pastries shaped like fish (taiyaki) and wasanbon, candy pressed into flower and leaf shapes.
If you’re looking for delights to serve at a Chinese themed spring tea party, try bite-sized egg custards. These small tarts have a thin crust and a not-to-sweet eggy filling. If you want savory food, look to vegetable filled fried spring rolls. The crispy crust wrapped around warm vegetables pairs well with the fresh flavors of spring teas.
For a take on European tea parties, serve fresh strawberries with cream or whipped cream. The sour sweet flavor of strawberries brings out the natural citrus flavors of the spring teas. Scones filled with tangy currents or blue berries or shortbread biscuits are other great options for a spring European tea party.
And, if you just want to kick back and relax with your first cup of delicious spring tea, it will be great on its own or with your favorite peanut butter and jam-filled sandwich.
Just remember that as spring moves into summer, warmer weather and rain dilute the flavor compounds of the tea leaves. The intense flavors from the first flush of leaves becomes lackluster and tea drinkers look forward to next spring and the first cup of spring tea.
The good news for tea drinkers is that more and different tastes abound in the following seasons as summer gives way to autumn’s and winter’s roasted and fermented teas.
Ultimately, there’s never a bad season for tea!
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- How to Make Matcha Green Tea