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New tea rituals for spring's first flush

It's the season for oolong, light green teas and a range of high-grown spring black teas

Spring is the season for green tea with a light touch.
Spring is the season for green tea with a light touch. (Istockphoto)

On social media, tea folks are busy posting photos of their spring teas, proudly announcing their arrival. Whether in China, Japan, Taiwan or India, this is the season for the “first flush”, as we call it in India; whereas the Japanese have the poetic name ichibancha. Spring sets the stage for how the year may be for tea. Because the world over, traditionally, the spring tea is a connoisseur’s pick and commands high prices. Darjeeling, for instance, has depended on the first and second flush for its top teas. Plucking begins in late February in Yunnan in China, starts as late as May in Shizuoka, Japan, and commences from mid to late March in India.

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There are spring-tea-centered festivals too. Shimada city in Japan’s Shizuoka province hosts the Kanaya Tea Festival to celebrate the first harvest every two years. It’s in China perhaps that the spring tea harvest is most celebrated. Every April, the Qing Ming Festival is organised to honour ancestors. Traditionally, the first spring tea needed to reach Beijing, the Imperial capital, before the festival, failing which was deemed bad feng shui. This gave rise to a category called Ming Qian tea, which stands for premium, early-harvest tea (with good feng shui hopefully). Online stores like Curious Tea and Tea Senz have begun advertising and taking pre-orders for Ming Qian teas. Tea friends in China tell me there is a rush to stock up on tea this season, for themselves and also as gifts.

As I await the first batch of spring teas, it is rather odd that I am bracing for summer here in Puducherry. So, taking a leaf out of iconic The Book Of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo, where he talks about how tea rooms change with the seasons, I have decided to upturn my tea time. I have banished my large mugs to the back of the cupboard. Those heavy, dark mugs filled to the brim with strong spicy chai or dark tea were good company for brooding mornings. I am replacing them with cups that are lighter and smaller. I am also leaning towards green tea. It’s a tea to drink throughout the day, works best with water that’s warm, making it a great way to hydrate.

This is also a season to harvest leaves to make oolong. These teas take longer to process and are not one to seek right away. In India, we can expect to see a range of high-grown spring black teas (Darjeeling, Sikkim, Kangra, Nilgiris), another great choice if you prefer a light black tea, quite unlike its summer or autumn counterparts.

Spring is a season for green tea, with fresh new leaves that need a light touch. They do say that a good green is best drunk soon, and not one to keep for months. Unoxidised, light, and when made well, with a welcome sweetness, these are often described as “spring in a cup”. This year, why not consider creating a new spring ritual by changing your tea, to one that embodies the spirit of the season.


Try green tea from Kangra (Wah, Himalayan Brew, Dharmsala Tea Company retail online); for new Darjeelings, Nathmulls (

Tea Nanny is a fortnightly series on the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry. She posts @AravindaAnanth1 on Twitter. 

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