Bi Luo Chun (literally “Green Snail Spring”) is one of the teas, alongside Long Jing (“Dragon Well,”) that appears almost universally on “Top Ten Chinese Teas” lists. Grown in Jiang Su Province, it is quite a wonderful tea. Teas Etc’s Bi Lo Chun Reserve is an excellent offering of this very famous tea.
From Teas Etc’s website:
“The brew is barely golden and the aroma unassuming. The taste is that of a very light, flaky pastry that just melts on your tongue, leaving behind a delicate icing to envelope your taste buds in a warm embrace. After a few sips, your whole body feels lighter, wrapped in a cocoon of ultimate relaxation.”
Bi Luo Chun is certainly a distinctive tea, very unlike any other Chinese green teas I have had. The pre-brewed leaf is unusual in appearance: small, thin, curly leaves, dark greyish-green with dusty white hairs on the surface. Teas Etc’s description of its taste as pastry-like seems fitting, and I would add that it exhibits notes of pure roasted cacao beans, which are very unlike the chocolate the bean is generally transformed into.
I remember the first time I ever tasted Bi Luo Chun, at one of my favorite Chinese tea shops, quite some time ago. The tea was radically unlike any tea I’d ever tasted. I found it irresistible and bought some. At home, days later, displaying a somewhat embarrassing lack of attention to detail, I brewed some of it with water that was too hot and it tasted horrible, even though I had used only a very short infusion of 10-20 seconds. Once I remembered how the tea seller had prepared it during the tasting – brewing it in a gaiwan after cooling the water for a couple of minutes in a glass pitcher – I was able to duplicate her results and produced a very delicious tasting brew from the tea. I have found that Bi Luo Chun lends itself very nicely to brewing in a Chinese glass thermos also, and can yield 4-6 very pleasant infusions using this method.
An interesting side note is that Bi Luo Chun Red – the same leaves, but fully oxidized into a black tea – is sometimes available. Naturally it has a very different character, but it is also quite delicious.
Chinese Teas 101 has a thorough description of Bi Luo Chun, from the plant to the finished product, and it’s an entertaining read. The article includes lots of interesting photographs of the process.
There’s also additional good information on Bi Luo Chun on Amazing Green Tea.