Famous Teas of China and the tea growing regions.
Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) is one of the famous tea culture areas in China. The mythical Yellow Emperor (Huang Di), an immortal, who it is said, once lived in Huangshan (who gave his name to the enchantingly-scenic Yellow Mountains), was traditionally a friend of Emperor Shennong (the ‘Divine Farmer’), who was also an immortal. Fu Xi, Shennong and Huang Di are refered to as the Three Sovereigns of China. Shennong was attributed as teaching the Chinese people about agricultural practices and medicine. Folk Law stories explain that Shennong discovered tea when some tea leaves fell into a pot of water his servant was boiling for drinking, but considering Shennong was teaching people about agriculture, astronomy and the use of medicine it could be presumed that Shennong actually taught the benefits of green tea and already had this knowledge. The Five Emperors who lived and reigned during the Xia and Shang (2070BC – 1046BC) Dynasties are descendants of the Three sovereigns. Interestingly, the green tea growing areas of China are central to the ancestral geographical regions the Gods and Emperors resided – the states of Jin, Zhuo, Qin, Chu, Wei, Zheng, Qao, Lu, Qi, Yan, Song, Cao, Cai and Chen. Being a later innovations, most of the Black, Oolong and Pu Erh teas are produced in surrounding provinces.
Location: Zhejiang Province, East China
Famous tea: Dragon Well
Tea type: green tea
Many sources agree that China’s top-rated tea is West Lake Dragon Well Tea (Xi Hu Longjing, 西湖龙井), grown on the hills around West Lake, southwest of Hangzhou City. With its history as an imperial capital and also as a place of vacation for Beijing’s emperors, China’s best tea has been enjoyed in style in Hangzhou for well over 1,000 years.
Location: Jiangsu Province, East China
Famous tea: Green Spiral
Tea type: green tea
A popular choice for China’s second favorite imperial tea is Suzhou’s Green Spiral Tea (Dong ting Bi Luo Chun, 洞庭碧螺春). Like Hangzhou, Suzhou was an imperial retreat for Beijing’s elite. Suzhou’s ornate gardens were doubtless the setting for many a classy “cuppa” over the centuries.
Location: Anhui Province, Central East China
Famous teas: Yellow Mountain Furry Tip (Huang Shan Mao Feng tea), Keemun Black, Yellow Mountain Tribute, Huoshan Huangya,
Tea types: green, black tea, flower tea
One of China’s top five teas is Huangshan Furry Tip (Huangshan Maofeng, 黄山毛峰), so named for its furry leaves.
Also in the top five teas is Taiping houkui (太平猴魁) literally: “peaceful monkey leader” tea is grown at the foot of Huangshan (黄山) in the former Taiping Prefecture, Anhui. The tea has been produced since the beginning of the 20th century and is produced around the small village of Hou Keng (猴坑). It won the “King of Tea” award in China Tea Exhibition 2004 and is sometimes listed as China’s most famous tea.
The best Tai Ping Hou Kui is grown in the villages of Houkeng, Hougang and Yanjiachun. Teas produced in the surrounding areas are called by the same name, but cost much less.
It’s renowned for its “two knives and one pole”: two straight leaves clasping the enormous bud with white hairs. The oven-made leaves are deep green in color with red veins underneath. The tea shoots can be as long as 15 centimeters. They are plucked from the Shi Da Cha, a large-leaf variety found only in Anhui province.
Another top ten tea is Keemun Black (Qimen Hongcha, 祁门红茶), a black tea also grown in Huangshan Prefecture. T
The best chrysanthemum tea is also from Huangshan, and is called Yellow Mountain Tribute Chrysanthemum (Huangshan Gongju, 黄山贡菊).
Huoshan Huangya tea (霍山黄芽) is a yellow tea from Anhui Province in China. It is the imperial tribute tea and it dates back to the Ming Dynasty. The dry tea leaves have a shiny appearance and are very similar to Huang Shan Mao Feng tea. When steeped, the tea has a very peppery and fresh taste as well as an unusual green-yellow color. As with most bud teas, the color and fragrance are slight.
Location: Sichuan Province, Central China
Famous tea: Ya’an pressed dark tea
Tea type: reprocessed tea
Chengdu is also a popular place for drinking tea. The particularly relaxed atmosphere of this city is demonstrated by residents who spend large periods of time in the tea gardens of parks, sipping tea while playing chess, mahjong or cards, reading the paper, or just chatting with friends.
Ya’an, on the Sichuan end of the Ancient Tea Horse Road, is only 120 kilometers southwest of Chengdu. It has a history of tea production dating back 2,000 years. From Ya’an, bricks of dark tea were carried by horseback to Tibet and further afield.
Location: south Yunnan Province, South China
Famous tea: Pu’er tea (Yunnan Pu’er, 云南普洱)
Tea type: post-fermented/dark tea/pressed tea
Xi shuang ban na is one of the Yunnan endpoints of the Ancient Tea Horse Road and is still a major tea-growing area. From there, pressed tea was carried by horseback to Tibet, India, and Nepal. The tropical forested hills of Xishuangbanna are where the Dai people produce some of the best Pu’er tea, which is pressed into a variety of wheels, bricks, etc.
Pu’er, the next major stop after Xishuangbanna, was where tea was traded and it gave its name to this famous type of dark pressed tea, although most prefectures in Yunnan, including Xishuangbanna, produce Pu’er tea. Pu’er tea should be tried as it is different to the generally delicate flavors of Chinese tea. It has a rustic woody taste, and is soothing and reminiscent of a minority culture.
Location: Hubei Province, Central China
Famous tea: Silver Needle (nearby in Hunan Province)
Tea type: yellow tea
Wuhan is a city with an ancient history. It occupies a uniquely central position for transport with the Yangtzeflowing west–east and land transport bridging the Yangtze River from north–south. See our Wuhan tours, some of which include a Yangtze cruise.
Wuhan is famous more as a place for drinking tea, with its many tea houses, than for growing tea, although there is a famous tea-growing area 200 kilometers (130 miles) southwest in Junshan, Hunan Province. Junshan Silver Needle (Junshan Yin Zhen 君山银针) has been ranked among China’s top ten teas in some versions of the imperial list. Yellow was the imperial color and Silver Needle is a yellow tea.