Springing into Tea

The Vernal Equinox heralds the first day of Spring and gives us all a great reason to spring into enjoying some great tea!

Okay, a bit of a “time out” to remind ourselves what an equinox is. There are two of them each year: Autumnal (Fall) and Vernal (Spring). They are the days when the hours of sunlight and darkness are equal (thus, the name “equinox” — so clever). So, they have been designated as the first days of their respective seasons.

Ever seeking a new excuse to celebrate something, I’m springing into the Vernal Equinox thing. Teatime, here I come!

Teas are harvested in “seasons.” Some teas are labeled by when they are harvested. The seasons and their labels are:

  • Spring — “First Flush”: First harvest season of the year, and often the most delicate and tasty tea leaves, since the plant has awakened from its Winter slumber.
  • Summer — “Second Flush”: A bit tougher as the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) responds to the trauma of having its tender shoots plucked off by summoning more of its plant energy to grow new leaves and buds. All this effort on the part of the photosynthesis process can result in complex flavors and a relatively long shelf life.
  • Monsoon: Those heavy rains spur rapid growth. The tea leaves are more flavorful than the First Flush teas, but not quite as many flavors as the Second Flush teas. The plant doesn’t have time for these to develop.
  • Autumn: These are supposed to be the best. Frustrated tea plants keep trying to grow only to have their new growth taken away for our consumption. They give it one more shot by putting in a Herculean effort here that results in the best tea leaves that smell great, have a wonderful flavor, and last on the shelf the longest.

It has to be pretty frustrating to be a tea plant. Imagine: you grow and you grow, only to have the crew of tea harvesters come along and — pluck! — those newly grown tea leaves and buds are gone. Now, you have to start all over again. Frustrating!

All the more reason for us humans to take time to appreciate fully those flavors and those valiant and persevering tea plants!

Set up a Springtime tea table with a floral tablecloth, brightly colored teawares, and a big vase of fresh blooms. Select a wonderful “First Flush” tea — a nice Darjeeling springs to mind — and steep it up for your teatime guests. Add in some petit fours with pastel icing, deviled eggs, and finger sandwiches made with fresh ingredients. Don’t forget to invite your friends (yes, I knew someone who actually did forget and then wondered why no one showed up).

When you’re all gathered ’round the feast, raise your teacups in a toast to the tilt of the Earth’s axis that gives us the seasons, the two Solstices (Winter and Summer), the Autumnal Equinox, and most importantly the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. Isn’t astronomy and science useful in planning your tea parties? Salute!

The stars are aligning and spring has come over at A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

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