This week marks the beginning of Qingming, an ancient Chinese celebration which is an important marker for agricultural endeavors. Qingming, April 5 this year, is a turning point, when the temperature starts to warm and more rain begins to fall. It is a time to note the changing of the seasons, but also to remember and honor ancestors. It is sometimes called “tomb sweeping day,” as people burn fake money for their ancestors’ spirits to use in the afterlife and picnic at family graves.
For tea enthusiasts, the arrival of Qingming is important because it means that “pre-Qingming teas” will soon be available. These young leaves are in high demand.
In general only a few Chinese teas are made between the end of March and April 5 (pre-Qing Ming). Most teas are made around mid-April (Yu Qian) and some teas are made between the end of April and End of May (Gu Yu and Li Xia teas) which closes the spring season.
Austin Hodge, founder of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea in Tucson, Ariz., said his sources are reporting that the tea quality and weather have been good this year. Tea growth in the northeast of China has been slow to start due to changing weather patterns. Snow was falling during this year’s Qingming festival in Heilongjiang Province in north China. Tea harvest has started in the Mengding Mountain area, near Chengdu in central China.
The Chinese government has drawn attention to the festival this year by publishing an online commemoration dedicated to the Communist revolution’s martyrs on Sina Weibo (a Twitter-like social media platform). The site has drawn 200 million visits in the past few weeks with 657,000 comments and 5.6 million virtual wreaths in memoriam, according to China Daily.