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Pi Lo Chun Tea

What is Pi lo chun tea?

This Chinese green tea was originally called "Astounding Fragrance" for the aroma from the fresh leaves.

The tea bushes are interplanted with plum, peach, and apricot trees for shade.

The fruit trees are in full bloom when the tea leaves are plucked in the early spring and some of the floral aroma is absorbed by the tea.

What does it taste like?

This tea tastes like a fresh, crisp, spring day in the country.

The velvety sweetness is well-rounded and the hint of floral notes leave a desirable and distinctive aftertaste.

It is also famous for its unique shape as well as the heavenly taste.

Only the bud and a half-open leaf are selected. During hand processing, the bud-leaf set is carefully rolled into a tight silvery-green spiral that can hold in the freshness longer.

Some say the leaves resemble tiny green snails and it may be named Green Snail Spring.

Serving ideas

When you can't get away for the weekend, you can still escape with a pot of Pi Lo Chun Tea.

Imagine yourself at relaxing at the famous Lake Tai resorts near the misty Dong Ting mountains in China.

Hundreds of years ago, emperors would visit just for the exquisite pleasure of drinking a cup of freshly made Pi Lo Chun tea.

With each sip, you travel through time to a perfect spring of new beginnings.

    "Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage." Catherine Douzel

This tea is best served alone, without food.

Enjoy drinking it for your own special celebration or share it with very important people.

How do you make it?

Use a glass cup or glass teapot and add the hot water first.

Put two teaspoons of leaf per cup on top of the water so you can enjoy watching these leaves gently uncurl in the water and float to the bottom. People say it is mesmerizing, like watching falling snowflakes.

Water temperature should be no hotter than the first steam (160F) to bring out the astounding fragrance and avoid any bitterness.

Steep for two to three minutes.

You can infuse these leaves up to three times.

The first cup will have the strongest flavor, the second cup will have a more complex flavor with fruity, flowery, and nutty notes.

The liquor is a clear light yellow with a pale green tint.

History of Bi Lo Chun tea

One of China's 10 Famous teas, Pi Lo Chun tea was created in Ling Yuan Temple at Bi Lou Peak of the Dong Ting mountains at Lake Tai.

It was called Astounding Fragrance for centuries because of the scent from the blooms of nearby peach, plum, and apricot trees.

During the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu Emperor Kang Xi (1662-1722 A.D.) visited the resorts at Lake Tai. He changed the name to Bi Lou Chun after the Bi Lou Peak of the Dong Ting mountains and because the finished leaf resembled a tiny green snail.

He declared it an Imperial tea.

Today it is translated as Pi Lo Chun tea and is the second most prized gourmet tea in China after Dragon Well.

It is frequently offered as a gift, but be cautious--as with all rare teas, more is sold than is harvested.

Boat on West Lake, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China
Boat on West Lake, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China Photographic Print
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How is it made?

This rare Chinese green tea can only be made once a year in the spring.

For two weeks after the spring equinox and before the heavier rains, the most tender buds with one partly opened leaf ("sparrow's tongue") are plucked.

All drying, pan-firing, and rolling is done by hand.

A pound of the dry leaves will contain 60,000 to 70,000 bud-leaf sets.

What is the best grade?

Competition grades of Pi Lo Chun tea use smaller, more tender bud-leaf sets with white downy tips.

The highest grades come from the earliest pluckings in the two week season.

When dry, they remain tightly curled and do not unravel.

It originates around Bi Lou Peak, Dong Ting mountains, Jiangsu and Zhejiang Province, China.

While there are other Dong Ting mountains (named East and West), these Dong Ting mountains are part of the Lake Tai preserve, a freshwater lake covering 850 square miles (2200 square kilometers) in eastern China just west of Shanghai.

It is also called Green Snail Spring, Bi Lou Chun, Bilochun, Silver Spiral Green, Mount Dong Ting Spring Snail Shell, Astounding Fragrance, or Xia Si Ren Xiang, among other names.

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This page was last updated by Sharon Jones.

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