Polyphenols: The Magic Behind Spring-Harvested Teas
Tea is a plant-based beverage, of course. It is harvested from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, one of the few woody evergreen plants to go dormant in winter. Winter dormancy, which happens in Camellia sinensis when days are shorter than 11 h 15 minutes, lasts for at least six weeks every year. It’s an important biological feature for Camellia sinensis to survive cold winters, and also affects the economic output of the tea plant.
The new growth, tender shoots and buds of the plant, are what’s harvested and processed as tea. Tea is picked during specific growing seasons - early and late Spring and then in Summer/Fall - which produces very distinctly recognizable styles of leaves from the same plants.
The leaves from the early Spring harvest are intense - you can almost feel that this flavor comes from a plant which has been dormant all winter and just couldn’t wait to show its complex power. This antioxidant burst is particularly noticeable in green and white teas, because of their minimal processing after the leaves are plucked.
This beloved beverage is consumed all around the world as a wholesome and healthy drink. Studies have shown that the earliest Spring tea leaves, those which come from the first harvest after winter dormancy ends, contain higher levels of polyphenols than tea leaves picked from the same plant in later seasons. These polyphenol-rich Spring leaves result in powerful, fresh flavors - ones which tea connoisseurs have come to recognize and applaud. Some high-end buyers won’t even pursue green teas which are harvested after the first rains come in later Spring. Also, growers pay extra special attention to their first harvest of the year, because it’s the one on which buyers will evaluate that year’s crop. Finely handcrafted teas can be produced from any harvest, of course, but the early Spring one shows the promise of what’s to come.
At The Tea Spot, we take measures to source our finest green teas, white teas, and oolongs exclusively from Spring harvests. Next time you steep up a fresh batch, take a moment to breathe in the fresh hope of Spring. The benefit of the beverage is not only in its antioxidant punch, but in the sensory pleasure you’ll enjoy when sipping a fine, fresh tea.