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Bi Luo Chun Tea

Bi Luochun is one of ten major well-known tea of China, originate in Dongting Suzhou Also known as Pi Lo Chun, Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun Tea was once considered the No 1 Chinese green tea. It is renowned for its delicate appearance, fruity taste and showy white hairs.

Bi Luo Chun (Bi Luo Chun, Bi Lu Chun), grows from Dongting lake in Suzhou Province. In Chinese it means "Spring Green Snail". Also it is well known as "Spiral of Spring Jade" or " Green Snail Spring". It is one of Chinese rare green teas of exceptional quality known all over the world. Since its shape likes snail and is collected in spring, it is then named as pring snail tea  The shapes of each buds of Bi Luo Chun tea should be even and curl as snail. Its fine silver feather can be seen all over the leaf. When steeping in a glass cup, the tea leaves extend like rolling, creating a wonder picture for its drinkers. The color of spring snail tea soup is crystal light green with refreshing smell. Its rich and mellow in taste is smooth and long-lasting. The leaf of Pi lo Chun is tiny and comes out spiral shaped; the brew is clear and golden and of exceeding delicacy. In the cup its skillfully hand-crafted, downy leaves unfold to produce a delicate, aromatic, light golden liquor which opens with a fresh, crisp astringency and develops into a well-rounded sweetness with a lingering, mellow, slightly buttery, finish.

Bi Luo Chun tea is also known as Pi Lo Chun tea. It means Green Snail Spring, because it is a GREEN tea that is rolled into a tight spiral resembling SNAIL meat, and is cropped early SPRING.

Its original name is Scary Fragrance!

According to the Qing Dynasty chronicle Ye Shi Da Guan, Emperor Kangxi visited the Great Lake (Tai Hu) in the 38th years of his rule. At that time, because of its rich aroma, people called it Xia Sha Ren Xiang or Scary Fragrance.

Kangxi decided to give it a more civilised name - Bi Luo Chun. He was right, Bi Luo Chun tea is far from scary.

Characteristics
The original Bi Luo Chun tea is grown in the Dong Ting Mountain of the Great Lake. Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun is smooth and fresh tasting with a sweet aftertaste. It has a floral aroma and fruity favour.

Chinese tea experts regard it very highly. Zhen Jun (1857 to 1918 A.D.), who wrote tea encyclopedia Cha Shuo, ranked it first among Chinese green tea. Longjing tea came second. Liu An Gua Pian tea came third.

It is so delicate and tender that one kilogram of Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun tea has 14,000 to 15,000 tea shoots.

In contrast, a poor quality Bi Luo Chun tea produced elsewhere has weak aroma and taste with bitter, astringent and grassy favour.

Dong Ting Mountain
The Dong Ting Mountain is located in the Great Lake, or Tai Hu, in the Jiangsu Province of China.


With an area of 2,200 square kilometres, the Great Lake is the third largest fresh water lake in China. It is located just 100 kilometres away from Shanghai.

It has some 90 islands and is an extremely popular tourist attraction.

There are in fact two mountains. The East Mountain is a peninsula. The West Mountain is an island in the Great Lake.

For those who have heard of the Four Beauties of China, well, the most beautiful of them all – Xi Shi – spent her summer vacationing in the West Mountain.

Apparently the fish was so dazzled by her beauty that they forgot how to swim and sank to the bottom of the river!

 

Growing
The moderate climate, damp air and slightly acidic soil make Dong Ting Mountain a paradise for growing tea - and fruit trees.

Dong Ting Mountain is renowned for producing fruits such as peach, pear, apricot, plum, persimmon, maidenhair and guava.

Fruit trees and tea bushes grow together, side by side, giving Bi Luo Chun tea a wonderful floral aroma and fruity favour.

Dong Ting tea bushes are smaller. The taller fruit trees shield them from summer heat and winter snow, giving Bi Luo Chun tea those tender and delicate leaves.

 

Making Process
Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun tea is handpicked, handsorted and handfired on the same day. It consists of three stages:

picking (5 to 9 A.M.)
sorting (9 A.M. To 3 P.M.)
roasting (about 40 minutes)

Picking
Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun tea is only harvested once a year - in spring. Harvest can begin early March throughout Spring. The earlier the harvest, the smaller the tea shoots, the higher the grade.

Picking any high grade Chinese green tea is a tedious process, and especially so for Pi Lo Chun tea.

It is made from young tea shoots consisting of a terminal bud with an adjacent leaf. A standard pick measures 1.6 to 2.0 centimetres.

One kilogram of Pi Lo Chun tea can have 14,000 to 15,000 tea shoots. It was said that the highest record ever known was 18,000.

Sorting
Dong Ting Pi Lo Chun tea is sorted by hand, one by one. The sorting process removes any sub standard leaves. A high quality Pi Lo Chun should consist entirely of young tea shoots.
The leaves are also graded according to their size. The smaller the tea shoot, the higher the grade.


Roasting
Shaqing applies high heat to kill the enzymes and halt the oxidation, or fermentation process.

The process lasts 3 to 5 minutes. The wok temperature ranges from 190 to 200 degree Celsius.
Rounian  follows. Using 3 distinct hand movements, Pi Lo Chun tea is rolled into spirals.The process lasts 20 to 25 minutes. The wok temperature reduces to 70 - 75 degree Celsius. Moisture reduces to 30% to 40%.Cuotuan follows. The tea leaves continue to spiral up and start to lump together. As the colour turns from green to grey, white hairs start to gather and show up.


It might sound strange, but young tea shoots are naturally covered by baby white hairs. To many people, white hairs are a sign of quality.

For other tea like the Longjing tea, white hair is deliberately removed in the rolling process.The process lasts 15 minutes. The wok temperature reduces to  50 - 60 degree Celsius. Moisture reduces to 20%.Honggan applies to low heat to dry the tea to about 7% moisture.The process lasts 6 to 8 minutes. The wok temperature ranges from 30 to 40 degree Celsius.

Yes, it may look like some dark, curly snails but pop them into a glass of hot water and it springs into life – bright green tea shoots – one by one.

Varieties of Pi Lo Chun Tea
The original Pi Luo Chun tea is grown in the Dong Ting Mountain of the Jiangsu Province. The tea is famed for its delicate leaves and fruity favour.

The Dong Ting Mountain is now granted the status of National Designated Protected Zone. It produces about 550 tonnes of Pi Lo Chun tea each year.


Due to its popularity, Pi Lo Chun tea is now widely cultivated in other parts of Jiangsu Province such as Yi Xing, Li Yang, Li Shui and Gao Chun. These areas produce about 1,500 tonnes each year.

The tea making process is similar, but the Jiangsu Pi Lo Chun is larger, less delicate and less fruity than their Dong Ting cousin.

Pi Lo Chun tea is also grown in the Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces. These are often called the fake Bi Lo Chun because the tea variety is different. Their tea shoots are larger and may even contain some yellow leaves. They also taste more nutty than fruity and smooth.

However, some fake Pi Lo Chun tea can have very showy white hairs.Beautiful tiny, slightly curled tea leaves covered with white down.

How to Brew
Being the most delicate of Chinese green tea, Biluochun tea can be sensitive to high temperature.

The problem is exacerbated by its deceptive "lightweight" appearance. If you are not using a scale, chances are you are using more leaves than you are supposed to!

Don't get me wrong, they are not low quality. I have got away with using off-the-boiled water. But she is different from other green teas, and if you are used to brewing Dragon Well tea, you would need to adjust your expectation.

A good starting point is to use 2 grams of tea leaves with 8 ounces (225 milliliters) of water.

Pour hot water of 160 Fahrenheit (70 degree Celsius) into a glass. Slow drop your tea buds into the hot water.

Steep until most of the tea buds has sink to the bottom of the glass and the tea liquor turns yellow. This will take 5 to 10 minutes for the first infusion.

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