Also referred to as Pi Lo Chun, this green tea is best known for its sweet, floral aroma and fruity and floral taste. Translated from Chinese, its name means “green snail spring.”
Bi Luo Chun is a highly-regarded loose leaf tea that, unless shopping online, can be difficult to come by outside of China. With several grades or qualities available, this tea is remotely harvested in a small part of the world and considered a delicacy by many. In fact, it is on China’s Top Ten List of Teas.
Originally named Xia Sha Ren Xiang, which translated to “scary fragrance” due to its strong and powerful aroma, these tea leaves were later renamed Bi Luo Chun by the Kangxi Emperor in the late 1600s. While the specific date of when this these tea leaves were first discovered is unknown, there is also a legend that surrounds its existence.
Chinese Green Tea Legend
Long ago in the Dongting mountain region in Jiangsu Province, China, there were two youngsters who fell in love- a girl named Bi Luo and a boy named A Xiang. After the arrival of a greedy dragon, A Xiang killed the beast to save both his love and the townspeople.
Despite his heroic deed, A Xiang had been injured and needed care. With no other medicines to heal him, Bi Luo took to the mountains in the early spring weather in search of a cure. Along the way, she found one small tea tree. Using her breath, she warmed the small buds, picked them, and raced back to A Xiang.
She made the tea for her love, and while he started to feel better, he was not fully healed. Again, Bi Luo raced up the mountain and gathered more buds. She held them close to her chest to help them dry along her journey home. After rolling the leaves, she made him the special tea once again and he was finally feeling better.
Legend says that Bi Luo used up all her vitality in getting those leaves and, as a result, died shortly after. With every year since, it is said that the small tea tree grew exponentially and produced many buds. It was this reason, in her honor, that Bi Luo Chun tea was named.
Making the Tea
Traditionally, Chinese tea is brewed in a gaiwan. This porcelain three-piece vessel includes a bowl, lid, and saucer. Although Bi Luo Chun tea can be bought pre-packed into tea bags, it is more often available as loose-leaf tea.
In order to make a cup of Bi Luo Chun tea, there are four steps that need to be followed. Again, while it is traditionally made in a gaiwan, it can also be made right in a regular glass.
- Pre-heat an 8 oz glass (that will be used to drink out of) and gaiwan by filling it up with warm water. Make sure each is touched and warmed by the water before emptying them back out.
- Refill the gaiwan with water that is not quite boiling. The temperature of the water should be around 176°F (80° C). When you are done adding water to the vessel, it should be about 4/5 of the way full.
- Place 1 tsp of Bi Luo Chun tea leaves into the gaiwan and watch as they slowly sink to the bottom. (If you are brewing it in an 8 oz glass, add 2 tsp of Bi Luo Chun leaves.)
- Place the lid on top of the vessel allowing the leaves to steep for a couple minutes. Before drinking the tea, strain out the tea into the warmed glass. (Don’t discard the leaves, however, as they can be used a few more times to make more tea.)
Bi Luo Chun is described as having a gentle, fruity-floral flavor. This is attributed to where they are grown and how close the tea bushes are to other blossoming fruit trees. When compared to other green teas, this particular tea is said to have a gentler, fresher taste. It has also been described as being savory with hints of a nutty, smokey flavor.
If the taste of the freshly brewed tea is unpleasant or not to your liking, play with the temperature of the water that the tea leaves steep in. Water that is too hot can alter the taste of even the best tea, making it bitter, burnt, and underwhelming.
Tea buds, which are picked during a small window in the early spring, look just as the name describes. The leaves are silverish-green and tightly curled, almost like small snail shells, and have delicate white wispy hairs on them. After the tea is brewed, the beverage is a bright green color.
The Three Cs
One serving of this famous green tea, about 1 g, is five calories. There is zero grams of carbs, fats, and proteins. Overall, the nutritional value of Bi Luo Chun tea is relatively low, and the same can also be said for the caffeine content.
This tea is classified as “low caffeine.” To put this into perspective, this type of tea has less than 10% of the amount of caffeine as found in a cup of coffee.
The Complexity of Bi Luo Chun
Bi Luo Chun is a very delicate and beautiful tea leaf. Produced in a small geographic area and harvested within a short time frame each year, this tea is both legendary and a delicacy that is hard to access. Though it can be purchased online through select vendors, it is still not easy to get ahold of unless you live in China.
The tightly curled leaves, which have little white hairs on them, produce a fruity and floral tasting tea. Its sweet aroma complements the fresh taste and subtle nutty and savory flavors. The brewing process is also quite simple and straightforward, so if you are able to get your hands on some, it is definitely a brew worth experiencing.