文 By: 許玉蓮 Hooi Yoke Lien
Biluochun is described as embodying the aroma and flavour of spring. Tender buds and leaves are cropped and processed early spring. The delicate green shoots with dense white tips are rolled into tight spirals. The tealeaves give an emerald green infusion with intense aroma and a round palate. Immensely invigorating and refreshing, it has a pronounced floral bouquet that reminds one of the countryside in spring.
Biluochun is grown in the Dongting Shan (Dongting Mountain) region of Taihu (Lake Tai) in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. The mountain is divided into two parts: the east and west. The east mountain protrudes into the lake like a giant ark, while the west mountain stands along in the middle of the lake. Both mountains enjoy warm climate with plenty of sunlight and rainfall. Moist air rises off the lake surfaces, transforming the water vapour into a curtain of beautiful mist. It is in this environment that the fresh Biluochun leaves thrive.
The processing of Biluochun involves picking of fresh leaves, sorting, fixation, rolling, rubbing and tip showing, and drying. Only buds with slightly opened leaves are picked. Tea farmers will go up the mountain and start picking the tender leaves early in the morning; they will stay until noon when they have their lunch, after which they will return home. Freshly plucked leaves will be spread thinly in a shady and cool spot of the house. Tea farmers then begin sorting the leaves. Impurities such as twigs and substandard, old leaves are discarded; they will make sure only the best tender buds are kept. Panning will start in the evening.
Panning (fixation) involves the using of both hands to keep turning the fresh leaves. This is followed by rolling and twisting with the wok reaching a temperature of 70 - 75°C. The tea frying master pan-fries, rolls and jiggles the tealeaves at the same time. After this, the wok temperature will drop to 50 - 60°C, during which tealeaves will be rubbed and twisted into shape, with the tips gathered and becoming conspicuous. Lastly, using gentle movement, the tea frying master will ensure all moisture evaporates from the tealeaves. When the leaves are almost dried, they will be spread on milled mulberry paper to be slowly dried over very gentle heat.
How should we brew Biluochun to bring out its full flavour? First, fill 1/5 of your lidded porcelain cup with tealeaves. Pour hot water into the water pitcher to let some heat dissipates; when the temperature drops to 60 - 70°C, pour water into the lidded cup and let the tealeaves steep for 20 to 30 seconds. Pour infusion out and enjoy. Enjoying Biluochun would also mean appreciating the hint of bitterness in this lively and refined brew – the bitter-sweetness is part and parcel of the beauty of Biluochun.