Definition of Qingming and Guyu
Qingming and Guyu both belong to the 24 China’s solar terms
Qīngmíng, is the name of the 5th solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, which divides a year into 24 solar terms . It more often refers in particular to the day when the sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 15°, usually on April 5.
Gǔyǔ, The traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar divide a year into 24 solar terms. Gǔyǔ is the 6th solar term after Qingming. It more often refers in particular to the day when the Sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 30°. In the Gregorian calendar, it usually begins around April 20 and ends around May 5.
So Pre-Qingming tea literally means tea produced before Qingming Solar term, while Pre-Guyu tea means tea produced before Guyu Solar term.
Characteristics of Pre-Qingming tea and Pre-Guyu Tea
We know that Camellia sinensis is a perennial woody plant. Every spring, after winter hibernation, the tea tree starts to grow again when the weather warms up.
The weather is still relatively cold when the tea is picked before Qingming, and after a whole winter of breeding, the tea leaves are rich in nutrients and aromatic substances at this time, and the taste of tea produced before Qingming is mellow with the least bitterness. Therefore, there is a saying”Pre-Qingming tea, as expensive as gold”. The form of Pre-Qingming tea leaves is mostly bud tea or one bud and one/two leaves, with elegant appearance. Generally 75 ℃ ~ 80 ℃ water temperature is enough to brew Pre-Qingming tea.
There are many Chinese loose leaves teas picked before Qingming like: West Lake Longjing(Lung Ching/Dragon well), Anji Bai Cha, Huangshan Mao Feng and Biluochun etc.
With the increase in temperature and sunlight, the growth of tea leaves accelerates after Qingming, the phenol to ammonia ratio of Pre-Guyu tea increases, the taste of Pre-Guyu tea will appear bitter compared to Pre-Qingming tea, while the shape of the Pre-Guyu tea leaves also appears larger and the color will be darker green than Pre-Qingming tea.
Difference Between Pre-Qingming tea and Pre-Guyu tea when it comes to West Lake Longjing tea?
Longjing tea can be divided into Pre-Qingming Longjing tea and Pre-Guyu Longjing tea in terms of production time, these two kinds of tea have their own characteristics and qualities. Let’s take a look at the differences.
First, the production time
The production time of Pre-Qingming West Lake Long jing is of course days before Qingming, and due to global warming, in most years the West Lake Long Jing tea starts its harvest at mid-March around March 15-20th. While Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing tea is harvested between Qingming and Guyu.
Second, the appearance
Pre-Qingming West Lake Longjing tea leaves are slim, short, tender and with a color between light yellow and tender green, and is normally one bud with 1 or 2 leaves. While the tea leaves of Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing are robust, longer and old, with a color of green or dark green, and is normally one bud with 2-3 leaves.
Third, the taste
As the two types of tea are picked at different times, so the nutrient content of these two types of tea is also different.
We know that tea polyphenols are the main component of bitterness in tea, and amino acids are the main component of fresh taste in tea, so the phenol to ammonia ratio is an important parameter to reflect the taste of a tea. The higher the phenol to ammonia ratio, the higher the bitterness of the tea, and the lower the phenol to ammonia ratio, the higher the freshness of the tea.
As Pre-Qingming West Lake Long jing tea leaves are fresh and tender, the phenol-ammonia ratio is relatively low, while the Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing tea leaves are relatively less tender, and the phenol-ammonia ratio is higher, so it results in that the taste of Pre-Qingming West Lake Longjing tea is sweeter and lighter, while the Pre-Guyu ones are with stronger bitterness yet has more tea flavor.
Fourth, the price
The price of West Lake Longjing fluctuates with production, so generally speaking the later the tea season, the cheaper the price of West Lake Longjing tea. Pre-Qingming Long jing tea is generally much more expensive than Pre-Guyu ones because of the lower tea production. Best quality Pre-Qingming West Lake Longjing tea can be 10 times more expensive than Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing tea.
Is Pre-Qingming West lake Longjing tea better than Pre-Guyu ones?
Both Pre-Qingming and Pre-Guyu West Lake Longjing tea are good as long as they are properly produced. Although the Pre-Guyu Longjing is not as tender as the Pre-Qingming Longjing, but the accumulated inclusions are richer, so the Pre-Guyu Longjing always has a stronger tea taste and can be brewed more times than Pre-Qingming ones.
So actually it depends one your preference on the taste, for most longjing lovers, they would prefer Pre-Qingming longjing, but if you don’t mind a bit of bitterness, Pre-Guyu is also a good choice, let alone the lower cost of it.