Green Tea

Principle Chinese provinces producing green tea are Anhwei, Chekiang and Kiangsi and to a smaller extent, Fukien, Kwangtung and Hunan. China greens grow from June to December - the early teas are generally the best but many very expensive greens are plucked in November and December.


Gunpowders are known by their districts: e.g., Tienkai Gunpowders, Moyune Gunpowders, Hunan Gunpowders, Fukien Gunpowders, etc.

Gunpowder is made from young to medium leaf and is subdivided into Extra First Pinhead, Pinhead, Pea leaf, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Common. The smaller the balls, the more expensive the tea. The Chinese name for Gunpowder is Siaou Chu (Small Leaf) because it opens into a full leaf during infusion.


Young Hyson is made from young to medium leaves in a long, twisted style. It is thinly rolled and looks very much like twisted thread. It is subdivided into Chun Mee, Foong Mee, Saw Mee and Siftings, and sometimes into First, Second, and Third Young Hyson.

Chun Mee Young Hyson has a small, hard, twisted leaf. Foong Mee has a large long leaf of curly roll. Saw Mee has a small, twisted leaf, not hard. The Chinese name for Young Hyson is Yu Chin Ch'a and is graded into the following: Mi Yu, O Yu, I Yu, Ya Yu and Si Yu.


Imperial Tea is made from older leaf left after Gunpowder is sorted out. It is made in the Gunpowder style, but looser. It is sub-divided into First, Second and Third Imperial. First Imperial is a closely rolled, regular leaf. Second is a more loosely-rolled leaf and third is very large and very loose.

In Chinese, Imperial is known as Ta Chu -- "Large Leaf." The three grades are Tsang Chu, Tan Chu and Hsi Chu.


Hyson is made from older leaves in a coarse, Young Hyson - Imperial style. It is called in Chinese, Si Chuen Ch'a, meaning "Flowery Spring Tea." It is graded into Mi Si, Cheng Si and Fu Si.


Twankey is an old, ragged, open leaf of inferior quality. Hyson skin is even worse.


Dust is Dust.


Gunpowders: - - Chu (Subdivision and Style)
Young Hyson: - - Mee (Subdivision) Yu (Style)
Imperial: - - Chu (Subdivision and Style)
Hyson: - - Si (Subdivision and Style)



China green teas may be roughly divided into Country greens, Hoochows and Pingsueys. Country greens comprise all those except what comes from districts adjoining the towns of Hoochow and Pingsuey.


Moyunes, made in Anhwei province, are not only among the best of the country greens, but also of ALL CHINA greens. Their distinct characteristic is softness of leaf, which rarely takes on the shotty appearance of Gunpowder that other greens do, because of its tender, oily quality. They are also marked by clearness in the cup and a richness lacking in other greens.

Moyunes are divided into three classes: Nanking, Packeong and True Moyunes. The top chop (crop) of Nanking and Packeong Moyunes are superb drinking teas, possessing attractive flavor and full, rich, toasty body. Because of the delicate texture of the leaf, it will not stand manipulation. True Moyunes are distinguished by their pale complexion and peculiar "cowslip" scent and flavor. Ouchaines are small, granulated Moyunes tea -- not Pinhead Gunpowder.

There are generally three Packs, or chesting, of Moyunes at Shanghai -- first about July 1st, second about September 1st and third about October 30th. Moyunes generally carry the names of the grower; e.g., Cha Eu Sung: "The tea of Eu Sung."

Sometimes, the names of teas from China will give the buyer a general idea of what that tea is. Dragon's Well is a good example. So is Ti Kuan Yin or Ch'i-men (also spelled Key-Mum, Quimen, Qi-Mun and now Keemun). However, with teas from China this is rare, and generally only with those teas China actively sells or attempts to sell to the west. Again, there are over 12,500 green teas produced in China and they are named many times for no apparent reason or purpose and then, for no apparent reason or purpose, they are re-named and re-named and re-named and re-named, etc.

Occasionally, the tea is preceded by perhaps one or two (or more) words which indicate the exact location where it was picked, the general location where it was picked, a fictitious place (has never existed) where it was picked, a place where someone would have liked it to have been picked, a season when it was picked (i.e. Clear Light Festival in late March), a season when it SHOULD have been picked, a season when someone would have liked it to have been picked -- OR for whom it was picked, when, where AND by whom it was picked and I could go on and on with all possible combinations of hundreds of different things.

Two very important categories of picking are where it was picked and when. If a China green tea is declared to be "Dragon's Well" before the "Festival of the Lights" it would take only one small sip by a China green tea aficionado to prove or disprove the label. Dragon's Well picked "after the rains" is harsh, almost producing a gagging reflex compared to the former, and yet it is "Dragon's Well."

When I said 12,500 China green teas, that is merely an educated guess. No one knows for sure, absolutely no one. The Chinese simply say 10,000, which, in or to Chinese, is nothing more than a large number of unspecified value. Three zeros might just as well be four zeros, or five.

The grades, sub-divisions, styles etc. that I've discussed are true Chinese terms but put into western context. For simplicity’s sake, China produces Green, Semi-oxidized, Red, White, Pu-er, and Brick or Cake tea. They are then subdivided into: Small leaf (mostly excellent), Broken leaf (Mostly excellent but also bad), Large leaf (sometimes good but mostly bad), Fannings (always bad), and Dust (Yuck!).

Dragon's Well (Lung-Ching) is probably the most famous of the China greens, and that is a place. In 250 AD, there was a drought at the Dragon's Well Monastery. A monk prayed, imploring the Dragon for rain. It rained instantly, and the tea produced there received that name. It is located in Chekiang province, near Hangchow's West Lake, and grows on the peaks of Tieh Mu (T-yeh Mu) mountain range.

No visitor has ever set foot in the very best China gardens. These remain shrouded in mystery and are quite secret. Few Chinese even know that these gardens exist, for they are familiar with the state cooperative farms only, and these produce "Standard" blacks and greens identified by number only. They are skillfully blended to guarantee stable quality whatever the climate conditions. Certain standard teas are nonetheless high quality products designed for export only: e.g., Imperial Yunnan or Imperial Keemun.

China's secret gardens, however, are kept distinct from these cooperatives and are called "Sacred Gardens" by the privileged few. Their exact number is unknown, possibly thirteen to fifteen. They are said to be patrolled day and night by guards and dogs. Why such secrecy? These gardens produce TINY quantities of superlative green tea that is kept off the market and is reserved exclusively for high government officials.

Halfway between the state and the secret/Sacred gardens, China also has gardens producing tea that can be purchased, assuming one has managed to establish a special relationship with certain authorities. These gardens are in remote mountainous regions; the teas are rare and very expensive. Pi-Lo, "Spiral of Spring Jade," is one of them.

Yet, even these teas seem somewhat ordinary when compared to tea which is worth its weight in gold. It is a tea not steamed but merely dried -- a veritable miracle produced in Fujian Province -- known as Yin Zhen ("Silver Needles") and formerly reserved for the Emperor and a few court dignitaries. Called "Imperial Plucking," it is picked only two days per year strictly according to Chinese botanical observations. Should unanticipated wind or rain occur or be anticipated during the harvest, it is simply canceled! It was picked using only gold scissors, and all who came in contact with the tea wore gloves; nothing touched the tea except gold and the Emperor's lips.

Green Tea From China
Name Quality Identical with: English Name Evaluation
Baihao   Lin Yun White Down    
Bi Lou Chun   Pi Lo Chun    
Chang-Jen   Ching-Cheng Wife's Father  
Ching-Cha     Country Green  
Ching-Cheng     Green City  
Chun Mee   Jiukeng    
Chun Mei   Chun Mee    
Chunmee   Chun Mee    
Chunmee Spring Mountain   Chun Mee    
Dafang Tea        
Dewy Green   Yulu    
Ding Gu Da Fang        
Dong Yang Dong Bai        
Dong Yang Dong Bei   Dong Yang Dong Bai    
Douyun Maojiang        
Do-yun Maujian   Douyun Maojiang    
Dragon Whiskers        
E Ruizi   Emei Ruizi    
Emei Ruizi        
Eshan Pekoe        
Feng Mei        
Fengmee   Feng Mei    
Foongnee   Chun Mee    
Fuchow Snow Buds        
Ganlu     Sweet Dew  
Gou Gu Nao        
Gozhang Maojian        
Green Curled Dragon Silver Tip        
Green Jade   Yulu    
Gu Jiang Mao Juan 1st Grade Special China Green      
Gu Yu Jian        
Gu Zhang Mao Jian        
Gua Pian   ev. Lu'an Guapian    
Guang Xi Osmanthus        
Gui Hua        
Guiping Xishan   Xishan    
Gulao   Kooloo    
Gunpowder Imperial Balled Pingshui Gunpowder    
Gunpowder Pinhead Special Grade Pingshui Gunpowder    
Gunpowder Pinhead Temple of Heaven Pingshui Gunpowder    
Guzhu Zisun   Zisun    
Guzu Violet shoots   ev. Zisun    
Hou Mountain Yellow Sprouting        
Hou Quing        
Hou Shan Huang Ya        
Hou-Erh     Monkey Tea  
Hozhou Zisun   Zisun    
Hsieh-Tou     Snow Gorge  
Hsien-Yai     Fairy Cliff  
Hu Bei        
Huading   Huading Yunwu    
Huading Yunwu        
Huamaojian     Flower Maojian  
Huan Shang Green Mu Dan   Huang Shan Green Mu Dan    
Huang Hua Yun Wu        
Huang Shan Green Mu Dan        
Huang Shan Mao Feng     Huangshan Hairpoint  
Huanya     Yellow Sprout  
Huayuqian     Flower Pre-rain  
Hubei Pearl Mountain        
Hubei Silvery Strawberry Tea        
Hubei Winter Sweet        
Hyson   also Jiukeng Flourishing Spring  
I-Yeh     One Leaf  
Jade Dew for Japan   Yulu    
Jade Fire        
Jiang Xi Mountain      
Jin-Chu     Sun-Poured or Sun-Fused  
Jingting Luxue     Jingting Green Snow  
Jiu Hua Feng China Green 1st Grade      
Jiu Hua Mao Feng        
Jui Hua Mao Feng        
Junshan Silver Needle   Junshan Yinzhen    
Junshan Yinzhen        
Kong Ming, Mountain        
Lan-Hsueh   Jin-Chu Orchid Snow  
Lanxi Mao Feng     Lanxi Haipoint  
Lin Yun   Lingyun White Down    
Lin Yun White Down        
Lin Yun White Downy   Lin Yun White Down    
Lingyun Baimao   White Down and Xishan    
Liuan Gupian   Lu'an Guapian    
Liupao   Liupao and Xishan    
Liuxi Tea        
Long Jing   Lung Ching Dragon Well  
Long Zhong Cui Lu        
Longchin Lung Ching?      
Longjing   Lung Ching    
Lu An Gua Pian   Lu'an Guapian Angels Tears?  
Lu Mu Dan        
Lu Shan Yun Wu        
Lu'an Guapian     Lu'an Melon Seeds  
Lu-an Kuapien   Lu'an Guapian    
Lu'an Meipian        
Lu'an Tipian        
Lu'an Yinzhen        
Lung Ching Dragon's Well #3 China Green Lung Ching Dragon Well  
Lung Ching Fancy Lung Ching Dragon Well  
Lung Ching Imperial Lung Ching Dragon Well  
Lung Ching Superior Lung Ching Dragon Well  
Lung Ching     Dragon Well  
Lushan Yunwu     Lushan Cloud and Mist  
Lu-Yen     Backbone Cliff  
Mao Jiang   Hair Point    
Mengding Sweet Dew   Mengding Tea    
Mengding Tea        
Meng-Ting   ev. Mengding Tea    
Min Mei     Famous Plum  
Ming Mei   Min Mei    
Miya     Rice Sprout  
Moon Palace   Pingshui Gunpowder    
Nan-nou white Pekoe        
Nanshan Baimao   White Down and Xishan    
Niao-Yu     Left-by-the-Birds  
Pai Mu Tan?        
Pai-Yun     White Cloud  
Pan Long Ying Hao        
Panfried Green        
Pau-Yun     Jewelled Cloud  
Pea Leaf     Pingshui Gunpowder  
Pei Hou        
Pi Lo Chun     Green Snail Spring, Spring Jade Spiral?  
Pi Lo Chun Emarald Phoeninx      
Pine Needles        
Pingshui Gunpowder        
Pingsuey Gunpowder   Pingshui Gunpowder    
Pinhead   Pingshui Gunpowder    
Pu Erh Tou Cha Mini Green        
Putuo Fo Cha     Ptuo Buddhist Tea  
Qiangang Hubai     Qiangang Brilliant White  
Qimen Xi Zhen        
Qiu Yue Cha     Autumn Moon Tea  
San Xia Mao Jian        
Sencha Zhejiang        
Shih-Feng     Lions Peak  
Shiya     Stoneflower  
Shou Mei Silver Needle        
Silver Dragon        
Snow Dragon        
Son Yang Ying Hao        
Song Luo        
Song Yang Ying Hou        
Sowmee   även Chun Mee    
Special Chummee   Chun Mee    
Special Needle        
Spring Blossom Pekoe        
Spring Mountain Green Extra-Choicest      
Steamed Green   Yulu    
Sui Green   Suilu    
Tai Mu Lhong Zu        
Taihu Pi-lo-chun   ev Pi Lo Chun