There are 24 solar terms in Chinese calendar starting with Start of Spring every year. Each term consisted of 15 days, is named based on the seasonal changes of climate. The fifth solar term is named Clear and Bright, or QingMing in Chinese, which is commonly known the Tomb Sweeping Day or the QingMing Festival’s Day. The word, “Ming” of MingQian is referred to QingMing Day while the “Qian” means “before” in Chinese, so that the MingQian Tea is basically meaning the tea leaf harvested before Clear and Bright Day. Very limited production can be reached the standard plucking level due to the generally low temperature condition and the slow growing rate of the new tea buds before QingMing Day. Tea culture experts said that in the southern China tea area, where the best quality tea is produced with its slowly growing rate in the low temperature condition in the early spring, when the nutrients in tea body are fully accumulated after a long winter period.
The MingQian tea has fragrant and mellow taste due to the content of tea amino acids are higher than the later tea which the bitter tasting tea polyphenols are found relatively lower. Moreover, the least pesticide used MingQian tea, especially from the early spring tea, is the best quality of green tea in the year. That is why the early produced high quality leaf tea is particularly favored by the tea fans. There are also being said that the MingQian tea is expensive as gold.
The “Yu” of YuQian is referred to Grain Rain(Guyu), 6th solar term next to Clear and Bright. As we know now, the “Qian” meaning “before”, so that YuQian tea is produced before Grain Rain and after Clear and Bright, which the tea quality is just behind the MingQian tea. Even the common grade of MingQian tea is more expensive than super grade of YuQian tea. Although the YuQian tea is not as delicate as MingQian, but due to the warmer climate in the Grain Rain, leaf buds are growing quicker with its accumulated mineral substances. The YuQian tea usually has the characteristic of strong and fresh tasting, and long lasting for brewing.
Many people generally think that MingQian tea is harvested and produced before QingMing Festival’s Day. In fact, MingQian tea is a name given for the different stages of the spring tea according to the real solar terms(climate of certain time). The main category of MingQian tea includes green teas and a few black teas, and MingQian tea of Tie Guan Yin, Da Hong Pao, Pu erh or others are not existed.