The varieties of Chinese Tea are extensive with many different types grown during each Chinese dynasties.
When picking tea, there is no need to pick too fine leaves, too fine tea leaves are nascent and lack flavor. Also avoid leaves which are too green, as they are too old and have lost tenderness and flavor. It is best to pick the leaves which are greenish, roundish and thick. Do not dry them in the sun, rather bake them in a charcoal fire, cool down with a fan then stored in container lined with ruo leaves and keep in a high place, because tea relishes warmth and dryness and abhors cold and dampness.
The Tang Dynasty
A list of the differing grades of tea grown in the Tang Dynasty:
- Premier Grade Tea: Xiazhou, Guangzhou, Huzhou, Yuezhou, Pengzhou.
- Second Grade Tea: Jingzhou, Ranzhou, Changzhou, Mingzhou.
- Third Grade Tea: Shouzhou, Hangzhou, Muzhou, Hengzhou, Taizhou, Xuanzhou, Yiazhou, Luzhou.
- Fourth Grade Tea: Jinzhou, Lianzhou, Huangzhou, Sozhou, Yunzhou, Hanzhou, Meizhou.
Tea dates back to the West Zhou Period in ancient China, when the Chinese used tea as offerings. Since then, tealeaves were eaten as vegetables, used as medicine, and finally, in the Han dynasty, people boiled the leaves in water, and this new drink became a major commodity. There are almost an infinite number of different kinds of tea, but the three most basic categories are green tea (non-fermented), oolong tea (semi-fermented) and black tea (fully fermented). These teas are usually all made from the same type of plant, the “Camellia Sinensis”, although some teas are flavored with other plants and flowers.
Tea is made through a very long and delicate procedure where young tea leaves are picked, steamed or pan fried, then dried and sifted, and finally distributed to wherever they need to go. The flavor of tea varies depending on how it is prepared.
Many people drink tea because of its health advantages. Tea promotes digestion, is rich in vitamins, brings a feeling of relaxation when you drink it, and may prove to sober you up a little after you’ve had a bit much to drink.
Overall, tea is consumed more than any other drink besides water worldwide.
The Song Dynasty
Large dragon tea cake.
Tea was an important crop during the Song dynasty.
In the History of the Song Dynasty, tea farms covered 242 counties. This included expensive 'tribute tea'.
Tea from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces were exported to Southeast Asian and the Arab countries via the Silk Road.
It was during this period that tea was first pressed into tea cakes.
Embossed with patterns of the Dragon and the Phoenix, they were given very exotic names:
- Large Dragon tea cake
- Small Dragon tea cake
- Surpass Snow Dragon ball cake
- Fine Silver Sprout
- Cloud Leaf
- Gold Money
- Jade Flower
- Inch of Gold
- Longevity Sprout
- Eternal Spring Jade Leave
- Dragon in the Clouds
- Longevity Dragon Sprout
- Dragon Phoenix and Flower
- Eternal Spring Silver Sprout
The Ming Dynasty
Ming dynasty scholar 文震亨 Wen Zhenheng's book 长物志 Zhang Wu Zhi (On Superfluous Things) chapter 12 contains description of several famous Ming dynasty tea:
Tiger Hill Tea and Heaven Pool Tea
During this time Tiger Hill Tea was purportedly developed as (still) the finest tea in the world, however, the production quantity was rather small, and growing is regulated by the Chinese government. Some, however, consider its taste to be second to Heaven Pool tea. Zhen Heng.
Jie Tea from Chang Xing of Zhejiang is superb and highly regarded, though rather expensive.
Those from Jing Qi find it is slightly inferior.
"Jie" is the short name for "Luo Jie". Luo Jie was the name of a mountain bordering Zhejiang and Jing Qi (in the Ming dynasty), where "jie"-- meant boundary. Chang Xin was south of Luo Jie mountain, Jing Qi was north of Luo Jie. Chang Xin retains its name till today.
Luo Jie tea from Gu Chu mountain in Chang Xing county in Zhejiang was also known as Gu Chu Voilet Shoot. Gu Chu Voilet Shoot had been imperial tribute tea since the Tang dynasty for nearly nine hundred years until the middle of the Qin dynasty. Gu Chu Voilet Shoot was revived again in the seventies as a top grade tea in China.
Jin Qi is now called Yi Xin township. Jin Qi tea was also known as Yang Xian tea. Ruo Leaves are leaves from Indocalamus tessellatus bamboo. The leaf is about 45 cm long.
Liu An Tea
"Liu An" tea is used for Chinese medicine, although if it is not baked right, it cannot let out its aroma and has a bitter taste. The inherent quality of this tea is actually quite good. Wen Zhenheng
Note: Liu An is the name of a county in Anhui. Liu An tea is still produced from Liu An county in Anhui province in China. The Liu An tea from the Bat Cave of Jin Zai county is of superior quality, as thousand of bats in the cave can provide an ideal fertilizer for the tea plants.
Song Luo Tea
Song Luo tea is manufactured at Song Luo mountain located north of Xiu Ning township in Anhui province in China. The tea farms are scattered between a height of six to seven hundred meters on the mountain.
There is no real Song Luo tea outside an area of a dozen mu (one mu = 667 square meter) and only one or two families possess the refined skill to prepare Song Luo tea. Recently the tea hand baked by mountain monks is even better.
Genuine Song Luo tea is produced at the foot of the Dong Shan (Cave Hill) and on top of the Tian Chi (Heaven Pool), highly treasured by people in Xin An county. It is also a favorite for the people of Nan Du and Qu Zong counties, due to its ease in brewing and intense aroma.
Dragon Fountain Tea and Eyes on Heaven Tea
Long Jin and Tian Mu may match Heaven Pool tea due to the weather in their growing regions. Because the cold season comes earlier to the mountains, there is abundant snow in the winter, hence the tea plants germinate later. [Wen Zhenheng]
Long Jin tea is manufactured in the West Lake district in Hangzhou city, China. There is a Long Jin (Dragon Fountain) fountain on the Feng Huang mountain. Tian Mu mountain is located in Lin An county in the north west of Zhejiang province. There are two peaks of fifteen hundred meter height, each with a pond on top filled with crystal clear water, look like a pair of eyes, hence the name of Eyes on Heaven.
- Wen Zhen Heng: On Superfluous Things, Zhang Wu Zhi
Food & Drink :: Tea
History | Introduction | Tea Cultures | Hong Kong Style Milk Tea | Literature- "Tea Classics" | Varieties of Tea