China is the world’s producer of over 70 000 tons of tea annually. There are eight major tea regions in China, which are: Sichuan, Guangdon, Hunan, Guangxi, Anhui, Fugian, Zhejiang and Yunnan. China is the oldest exporter of tea in the world, and the second in the world for quantity. These tea regions produce green, white, black and Oolong teas. The Chinese say that it would take a lifetime to taste each type of tea. The tea plantations are bigger than over half the total area of the tea plantations in Asia. The Chinese drink at least 80 percent of their green teas and their black tea is exported. Each region takes care of its own tea activities, but is controlled by a state monopoly. The harvest of tea has to be produced at a scheduled time and the quality must be consistent. The plantations reside at a high altitude with surrounding mist and regular rainfall. These conditions are ideal for the manufacturing and processing of the tea.
There are many green teas, however; the following are just a few of the delectable teas produced in the regions:
Mao Feng, which is the most famous of the China green teas, is picked from the mountain of Jiu Hua. The liquor or tea is mellow and sweet with overtones of a burnt taste.
Chun Mee (Old Man’s Eyebrow), is a whole leaf green tea that is rolled length wise and is delicate, with a pure but strong aroma. Taiping Houkui green tea is grown at a high altitude and has an orchid like taste.
Ding Gu Da Fang green tea tastes like chestnuts and has an aroma of flowers.
Gunpowder is a popular green tea that is rolled into balls and produces a strong robust flavour, and is nice with a sprig of mint. Lung Ching is another well known tea, rich in vitamins with a strong vibrant flavour, and flat green leaves the color of Jade.
Huang Shan Mao Feng is a famous green tea which is “sculpted.” The leaves are joined by hand and attached to each other to create a sculpture of top leaves and buds. When they are infused (brewed) in a Chinese tea cup they unfurl, and look like exquisite flowers. The sculpted teas can be infused several times, they do however, lose some of their flavour, but the delicate taste still remains.
Huo Qiang is a tea that is rolled into balls or pearls and produces a smooth infusion. This tea is very expensive and valued among connoisseurs.
Other exceptional green teas include: Mao Jian, which is grown at high altitudes with down covered leaves that are long and thin. This is a delicate tea that has notes of fruit and produces and aromatic flavour.
The region of Hubei is well known for its tea bricks, which consists of loose tea that is compressed together and sold in the shape of a brick. Green teas should be infused for three minutes in water at 158-203 F.
The White teas produced include: three main varieties which are unfermented (un-oxidized), and simply just dried in the sun, and include: Yu Cha (Tea of Clouds), Pai Mu Tan (White Peony) and Yin Zhen (Silver Needle).
Yu Cha is from the tea region of Yunnan, and creates a luscious and and classic infusion.
Pai Mu Tan consists of silver tip buds, whose leaves are covered with a white downy substance, and are very delicate with a smooth aroma.
The Yin Zhen silver needle tea was drunk by the Chinese during the Qing, Tang and Song dynasties. The silvery coloured leaves are covered in a white down, and is a highly valued tea. This tea is rich in vitamin C and has a sweet and flowery flavour. Infusion time is 15 minutes, in water at 158-185 F.
China black teas are mainly exported and make up for about 20% of China’s tea production. The three primary groups of black teas include: classic, smoked and flavoured.
The tea region of Yunnan is beautiful at a high altitude that produces classic black teas with golden tips. Yunnan teas have a mellow and pleasing aroma with a unique and distinctive taste and can be drunk anytime of the day. These teas are popular in France and have the names of Yunnan, Grand Yunan, and Yunnan Imperial.
Pu erh teas are produced in Yunnan and are compressed into tea nests (resembling the shape of a bird’s nest). This tea is also sold as a loose-leaf tea. The liquor is a dark color of red, has a special earthy taste, and is low in caffeine making it ideal for drinking throughout the day.
Keemun tea has short leaves and an elegant taste, which is also low in caffeine.
Smoked teas are produced in the region of Fujian since the seventeenth century, and include Lapsang Souchong, and Tarry Souchong. These teas were created when a tea maker centuries ago in China, lit a fire made of pine wood to hasten the drying process.
Flavoured teas are black teas scented with orchids, chrysanthemums, lotus flowers and jasmine. Black teas should be infused for five minutes in water at 203 F.
Oolong teas are semi-fermented teas which are also called blue-green teas, and come from the region of Fujian. Some teas include: Shui Hsein (Water Fairies), which has spice tones and a smooth flavour, Ti Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) with a flowery taste and dark leaves.
Feng Huang Dan Gong is a tea with twisted long leaves and comes from the region of Guangdon. These Oolong teas are used for the Chinese Tea ceremony, the Gong Fu Cha. Oolongs should be infused for seven minutes in water at 203 F.
As the second largest tea producer in the world, China provides exquisite and invaluable teas which include green, white, black, and Oolong. The abundant plantations and ideal climatic conditions for the manufacturing and processing of tea ensure a continual provision for many centuries to come.
copyright Deidre R. Bissonette
Dattner, Christine. 2003. The Book of Green Tea, Universe Publishing