China has a rich and ancient tradition of producing high quality teas of all varieties, and black tea is no exception. This is where tea culture and industry, as we know it, began nearly 2,000 years ago.
Known as ‘Red Tea’ in China, the tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis sinensis plant are smaller and finer than their Indian counterparts, the Camellia sinensis assamica, and prefer cooler mountainous regions. Usually plucked by hand and gently processed, the end result are exquisitely fragrant teas with lesser levels of astringency and a soft body.
Several Chinese provinces are famous for their regional tea selections: Fujian Province is home to the well-known, pine-smoked Lapsang Souchong, while Keemun tea, the official choice of the British Queen, is produced in Anhui Province. Yunnan province produces the ever-popular varieties of Yunnan black tea and is also the region where China started its tea cultivation.
The mountains of Fujian province in China are the origin of the exquisite Oolong tea. Known as wulong or black dragon tea, it is distinguished by its long and twisted, almost serpentine rolled leaves. Oolong is the most complex and intricate tea to produce and it is believed to promote good digestion and longevity. Due to its popularity, Oolong is no longer exclusively manufactured in China or Taiwan - India also produces a wide range of Oolong teas from their terroirs, resulting in a variety of flavour within the processing tradition.
One of the most internationally recognized Oolongs manufactured in China is named Ti Kwan Yin, for Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Legend has it that emperor Kangxi prayed to Kwan Yin for her to help restore his health. The goddess answered his prayers and later appeared before him in a dream, where she brought him to a mountainous area and showed him the tea slopes and the poor living conditions of the farmers there. She asked that the emperor help the farmers gain prosperity by officially establishing the region as a tea-growing one. Thus, emperor Kangxi declared the tea from these slopes to be famed, and the area’s tea industry, along with Ti Kwan Yin’s flavour, blossomed.
Pu-erh is a fermented tea produced in Yunnan Province. It is the only tea that uses microbial fermentation to process and oxidize the leaves. If done in the traditional manner, the tea is pressed into brick forms after the first stage of fermentation, where it would continue to ferment and deepen with flavour as it aged. These bricks are sometimes stored within the rinds of fruits to ferment, like mandarin oranges or lemons, to take on some of the flavour and sweetness of the fruit.
For many years these tea bricks were used as currency, and it is still common for people to invest in the tea today. Pu-erh exist in two forms – ‘Raw’ Pu-erh, which comes in brick or cake form, and ‘Cooked’ Pu-erh, which is processed as loose leaf. This age-old fermented tea has great health benefits and is highly valued in parts of Asia, and its unique flavour is starting to gain more traction outside China.
The organic teas we import are artisanally farmed and crafted. They may change with each harvest season. The same tea harvested at a different time of year and processed by a different tea maker will vary slightly in flavour and finish.
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