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What are winter teas?

Winter or snow teas (雪茶) are, as the name suggests, seasonal, and also rare due to the fact that most teas are harvested in either spring or autumn, tea picking usually end by late autumn. Late harvest teas picked around late October are referred to as winter tea (雪茶) when the weather starts getting colder on the mountains.

Tea farmers would select suitable winter varieties based on each tea’s individual qualities. The same variety of tea but picked in different seasons affect its fragrance and flavour. As tea trees become dormant in preparation for winter, the trees conserve their nutrients to survive the cold. As such, their inherent flavours and aromas are concentrated within their leaves, resulting in enhanced profiles.

Winter teas are also rare for this reason: tea farmers moderate the picking or winter tea so that it would not damage the tree by premature aging or reduce its yield the following year due to a lack of nutrients.

While many teas can become winter teas, Dancong Oolong teas are generally favoured as thanks to its inherent fragrance which is further accentuated by its natural preservation for winter. Within Oolong, ya shi xiang (鸭屎香, or “Duck Poop Oolong”) is often the more popular variety selected as a winter tea (雪鸭屎香)“Snow Duck Poop Oolong”.

 

What are the characteristics of winter tea?

  • Accentuated Flavour and Fragrance

The aroma of tea leaves are being accumulated as fresh tea leaves become dormant into winter. The fragrance in Snow Ya Shi Xiang “Duck Poop Oolong” becomes even stronger, lasting and full in the winter variety. This variety builds upon its inherent sweet floral orchid and a unique milk fragrance that builds on its bouquet of flavours.

duck poop oolong vs snow duck poop oolong

On left: Spring harvest "Duck Poop" Oolong / ya shi xiang. On right: Winter harvest Snow "Duck Poop" Oolong / xue ya shi xiang

 

The winter variety is darker in colour and stronger in flavour and aroma.

Snow Ya Shi Xiang and Spring Ya Shi Xiang Leaves 

On left: Spring harvest "Duck Poop" Oolong / ya shi xiang. On right: Winter harvest Snow "Duck Poop" Oolong / xue ya shi xiang

 

Leaves of the winter variety are also generally darker and larger. 

 

  • Rare

Quality winter teas are slightly frosted before being picked. The frost works similar to a pressure cooker that packs the leaves inherent flavours. Tea trees are entering hibernation by late autumn, and there aren’t much tea leaves by this time. Winter teas are also a result of sacrificing tea leaves that lay dormant in preparation for spring. As a result, farmers are very selective will moderate the picking of winter leaves