|China - the Birthplace of Green Tea
|Not only is China number one in overall tea production, but also produces the
largest amount of green tea in the world. (India runs a really close second, in
fact, it has edged China out of first place in overall tea production some years.
|Many of China's teas are grown
by small village tea farmers and
are still processed by hand, firing
a pound or two at a time, using traditional
processing methods handed down through the
generations. The variations and immense divers-
ity in styles exist today because of these continu-
Each day the freshly plucked tea is hand delivered
to the local village tea factory or cooperative to be
to large, modern pro-
cessing plants, China's
methods of tea produc-
tion may seem old fash-
ioned and antiquated,
|China's Growing Seasons
|China has a dormant season from December through February when the tea bushes are given
a rest. Each year Chinese citizens eagerly await the beginning of the early spring tea harvest
or spring flush.
The first dawning days of March brings forth newly formed buds
that burst into the first delectable new tea leaves. These sweet
fresh green teas are known as "before the rains" teas. Picking
for spring flush green teas begins in earnest in late March just
before the Qing Ming Festival celebrated April 5th. Tea picked
after April 5th, but before April 22 is called gu yu, and tea picked
from April 20th to May 6 is called li xia.
Picking continues through mid to late May when the rains come,
giving the tea bushes a chance to rejuvenate and prepare for the
summer plucking season. These early spring green teas are fresh, sweet, mild teas with a slight
hint of grassiness, vegetable aromas, and herbs. When brewed their color is a light gold-green.
|Where the Green Tea Grows
The Main Tea Growing Regions of China
|Located west of Shanghai, where steep
mountains lift the tea gardens into a cool
area of clouds and mist, lies China's main
green tea growing regions of Anhui Province,
Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu Provinces.
Known as "China's Golden Triangle of Tea,"
the modern world has yet to invade these
beautiful cloud and mist covered mountains,
with their thick forests, spectacular waterfalls,
and abundant groves of bamboo.
Historically close to the seat of the emperor,
China's Golden Triangle of Tea was the source
of many of the famous imperial tribute teas,
some of which can be found in the market-
place today still being proudly produced.
The Anhui Province is home to the Huang Shan Mountain range. With steep, rocky peaks,
natural cold mountain springs, and ancient pines, the moist environment of these mountains
produces a natural phenomenon of swirling mists known simply as "sea of clouds."
The cool, moist climate provides the ideal growing conditions for Huang
Shan Mao Feng green tea, which thrives in the unique microclimate the
mountain provides. Also grown here is Lu' an Guapian or Lu' an Melon
Seeds. Guapian translates to "melon seed," which is what the rehydrat-
ed leaf resembles. This is also where you'll find the rare Tai Ping Hou Kui.
Unlike most spring plucked green teas, these are made from a special
picking of one large leaf located in a specific spot on the branch. Also
called Taiping Best Monkey King, the dried leaves of this green tea are
remarkably long-about two to three inches, and are incredibly bright
shades of green.
Tai Ping Hou Kui tea pickers pluck from dawn to mid-morning to capture
the leaves before the hot sun changes the delicate balance of moisture.
The best Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea comes from an area outside the village
of Tai Ping called Monkey Ditch, located at the end of a river that runs into
the quiet, tranquil Taiping Lake. This tea is plucked in late April, giving the
leaves plenty of time to grow.
From Jiangsu Province comes Bi Lo Chun or Green Snail Spring, a delicately
curled green tea. It also goes by the name Dong Ting. From Jiangxi Pro-
vince comes their treasured specialty, Ming Mei, the slender "eyebrow tea,"
gathered from remote villages located on Da Zhang Mountain.
|And from Zhejiang Province comes one of the most famous and popular of green teas, Longjing, or Lung Ching, which
translates to Dragon's Well, referring to an old well, halfway up a hill outside Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province. It's also
known as Dragonwell tea of Hangzhou, named after the village where the original tea was grown.
Also look for the next grade of Longjing - Queshe Longjing (or Sparrow's Tongue), made from
a bud and two new leaves which open during brewing to resemble a bird's beak and tongue.
These three green teas - Bi Lo Chun (Green Snail Spring), Ming Mei (eyebrow tea), and Long-
jing (Dragonwell or Lung Ching), all differ from one another in two specific ways; first is the
drying and shaping techniques unique to each style, and secondly, each tea requires the fresh
leaf be of a certain size and configuration, such as two leafs and a bud, one leaf and a bud, or
a pair of leaves and no bud.
Also from Zhejiang Province comes Tianmu Shan Clouds and Mist (also called
Yunwu Clouds and Mist) tea, and Zu Cha (Pearl gun- powder), which ranges in size from very small
"Pinhead," to larger, more loosely rolled varieties. Pearl Gunpowder was originally marketed as
Green Pearl in Europe. Also look for Gunpowder Tribute, a tribute tea during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). The
top grade of this green tea is made from very young, tender leaves that are loosely rolled. Gunpowder is one of the
few green teas that's not a "Qing Ming" or spring tea. It is made from less
tender, later season leaves that are nearly twice as long as the early
spring plucked green teas.
Another green tea from Zhejiang Province is the pan-fired Pan Long Ying
Hao (also called Curled Dragon Silver Tips or Dragon Silver Hair). Called the "whitest" of teas, the loosely shaped,
lightly rolled leaves bring out the down in the buds, making them look like soft little
Other early spring flush "before the rains" green teas are Mao Jian or Hair Point teas,
produced among the cloud and mist covered mountains of Anhui, Zhejiang, and Henan
Provinces. Mao Jian literally translates to "hairy tip" or "fur tip," and refers to the un-
opened leaf bud that's covered with fine, downy hairs, and usually plucked with a single
leaf. Young Hyson (also known as Flourishing Spring or Lucky Dragon is another "before
the rains" early spring flush green tea.
And lastly, there is Jin Shan or Jin Mountain green tea. Jin Shan is named after the an-
cient tea growing region where it's grown, in the cool mountains separating Zhejiang and Anhui Provinces. Jin Shan
lies just outside of a Buddhist monastery, the tea developed by the monks for their own use and also to sell to help
support the monastery.
This is, of course, just a small representation of China's green teas. Many may be found in the U.S., online, by mail
order, or check your local specialty tea shop. Enjoy.
|For more information or to learn more about tea, visit our other pages:
Which teas are grown in China?
Learn about China's black teas - a
labor of love.
Which oolong teas are grown in China and
why are they considered to be so healthy?
China's white teas - traditional Fujian
budset white tea and new style white tea.
Which yellow teas are grown in China?
How is white tea made?
How does tea boost the immune system
and help keep us healthy?
What do wine and tea harvests have
Have questions? Visit our questions and comments page!
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|but it's a system that has worked for thousands of years, turning out
some of the highest quality green tea on the planet. So, what's that
old saying? "If it's not broke, why fix it?" So true.