Green Tea "Dong Ting - Bi Luo Chun" or "Biluochun" (from China Tea Book)

Dongting Biluochun is mainly produced in the eastern part of Taihu Lake in Wu Zhong District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province, and the nearby tea areas. It is a famous historical tea created during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties.

Dongting Mountain, located southwest of Wu Zhong District in Suzhou, encompasses Dongting East Mountain (Dongshan Town) and Dongting West Mountain (Xishan Town). Positioned at 31°04' north latitude and 120°26' east longitude, Dongting Mountain falls within the North Subtropical Moist Monsoon Climate Zone. Combined with the regulation of Taihu Lake's water, the area experiences warm and humid conditions with abundant rainfall. The soil of Dongting Mountain, formed under the influence of bioclimate and other soil-forming conditions, consists of weathered residual rocks from hills and is a typical natural yellow soil of the region. The soil in Dongting Mountain tea gardens is rich in organic matter and phosphorus, providing favorable conditions for tea tree growth.

The picking requirements for Biluochun tea are to pick early, pick tenderly, and pick cleanly. The tea is usually harvested around the spring equinox and ends around the Grain Rain period. The Mingqian tea, harvested from the spring equinox to Qingming, is the most precious in quality. Typically, one bud with one leaf, just beginning to unfold, is harvested, with the bud measuring 1.6-2.0 centimeters long. The leaves are curled like a sparrow's tongue, hence called "sparrow's tongue." About 6.8-7.4 thousand buds are needed to produce 500 grams of high-quality Biluochun. It is advocated against picking single buds, as it not only affects the yield but also results in Biluochun with a light flavor, irregular shape, and low aroma.

The harvested buds and leaves must be carefully sorted immediately, removing fishy leaves and those that do not meet the standards, to maintain uniformity. The sorting process also aids in the slight oxidation of internal components, contributing to the formation of quality. It is crucial to process the tea on the same day it is harvested, without allowing it to sit overnight.

The characteristic of Biluochun processing is continuous manual operation, with the hands constantly in contact with the tea and the tea never leaving the pan. The key steps include fixation, rolling, shaping, and drying.

Fixation involves quickly tossing the leaves in a flat or slanted pan at a temperature of 150°C-180°C for 3-5 minutes until they are evenly wilted and free of red stems or leaves. Rolling is done at a temperature of 65°C-75°C, using a combination of tossing, frying, and rolling techniques to gradually form the tea into shapes. Shaping involves further rolling and rubbing the tea leaves by hand at a temperature of 55°C-60°C until they are about 80% dry. Finally, drying is carried out at a low temperature to further evaporate moisture until the leaves are about 90% dry, which takes about 6-8 minutes.

The quality characteristics of Biluochun tea include slender and curly leaves covered in fine hairs, with a hidden greenish-silver color and visible white hairs. It has a long-lasting fragrance, refreshing taste, and smooth, lingering aftertaste, with a tender green and clear tea soup and uniform leaf base.

(Source: China Tea Book. Author:  Jiang Yongwen, Tang Suohai)

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published