Suzhou's Biluochun Tea is one of the ten most famous teas in China. It is locally known as "Fearful Incense" due to the strong aroma of the brew!
During the Qing dynasty, Emperor Kangxi visited Suzhou and praised the flavor of this aromatic tea. The tea leaves are picked from the Biluo Mountain near Tai Lake , and are collected traditionally in early spring between what is known as "Tomb-sweeping Day" and "Grain Rain Day"!
The technique for collecting tea leaves is very complex. Only the tender tip of the leaf is used for the tea making process. This part of the leaf should be no longer than one inch long and shaped like the tip of a spear. One tin of tea uses 60 thousand spears! It's no surprise then, that some of the finest Chinese teas are very expensive. The next step in the process is to repeatedly knead, rub and roll the leaves by hand. The Biluochun tea involves a particularly labor intensive process but the end result are leaves that are compact, tender and wonderfully fresh and aromatic.
If you have never sampled Chinese green tea, the Biluochun is a good one to start with. Chinese tea not only smells and tastes great but is reportedly very good for you! Take a few tea leaves and sprinkle them at the bottom of your cup. Next, cover them with boiling water until the tea leaves sink. Leave it to rest for a minute and then fill the cup to the top. The tea will then change color, to a light green shade and should taste delicious! It is an acquired taste but certainly one that grows on you, and is much healthier and more refreshing than black tea. The tea is quite expensive and can cost between RMB 200 and RMB 5000 for a kilogram. There are numerous tea houses around the city selling the leaves, particularly try some of the shops near Renmin Lu.