The Perversion of Season

Posted by Arthur Tong on 6th Feb 2017

It’s a confusing time for tea. We’re not quite sure what to do with ourselves. Not only are we experiencing sweltering heat on this side of the world, over yonder in tea-country, not too much tends to happen this time of year.

Usually though, Sri Lankan tea’s prime time is February but because of a monsoon that never truly arrived at the last quarter of 2016, crop levels are low and therefore pricey (though perversely good tasting).

Seasonality is always relative. What’s in season in one part of the world won’t be in others. And what’s normally in season is not guaranteed every year.

What do we do when nature toys with us so? Life must go on, right? Right?

Let’s first address this disgusting heat over here. ‘Round about now, no one’s in the mood to wrap their hands around a hot cup of malty red (yet perversely once again, a lot of decent Yunnan Reds get produced from winter crops now!). In hot weather white teas are the go-to but white teas don’t come till at least another month. Even then, it’s the super premium stuff that gets made first, so unless you have deep pockets, you’re more likely to wait till end of April before a solid standard hits Aussie shores.

But thank goodness for aged white teas! White teas often peak at the 2-3 year mark, so our summer is a good excuse to ask your friendly purveyor for a vintage. Request a 2015 white peony or 2014 Golden Peony. And of course you can serve these cold or have them cold brewed.

Speaking of cold teas, light style oolongs are always a good choice. Fortunately, winter Taiwanese oolongs have just been produced, in time for our summer enjoyment.

Then there are the perennials. Step outside of the camellia sinensis and throw back some cooling herbals. Anything with peppermint or hibiscus especially iced, will chill you out.

Cross-over Appeal

There’s a small window where southern hemisphere consumption and northern hemisphere production does a brief yet beautiful tango.

April and May is when many tea regions are in prime spring pick, whites from China, greens from China and Japan. Now, even though this is our autumn and light style teas are normally suited for the summer, who wouldn’t enjoy a spring-pick brew on a cool, rainy dreary Sydney morning? Feeling down in the dumps – no worries, Assam and Darjeeling first flushes would’ve only just arrived on our shores so you can get a stronger caffeine hit and pick-me-up in Autumn too.

Study up
If you’re keen on chasing the seasons, we’ve developed a tea harvesting table for your reference. Look for your tea of interest and get an idea of when they’re produced.

Bear in mind tea, however is a dried good that in some cases even get better with age. With the right storage, getting what’s in season from the northern hemisphere won’t always be necessary nor even the preferred option.