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)
PRINCIPLE GREEN TEAS FROM CHINA
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 simplicitys 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|
|Chun Mei||Chun Mee|
|Chunmee Spring Mountain||Chun Mee|
|Ding Gu Da Fang|
|Dong Yang Dong Bai|
|Dong Yang Dong Bei||Dong Yang Dong Bai|
|Do-yun Maujian||Douyun Maojiang|
|E Ruizi||Emei Ruizi|
|Fuchow Snow Buds|
|Gou Gu Nao|
|Green Curled Dragon Silver Tip|
|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|
|Gunpowder||Imperial Balled||Pingshui Gunpowder|
|Gunpowder||Pinhead Special Grade||Pingshui Gunpowder|
|Gunpowder||Pinhead Temple of Heaven||Pingshui Gunpowder|
|Guzu Violet shoots||ev. Zisun|
|Hou Mountain Yellow Sprouting|
|Hou Shan Huang Ya|
|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|
|Hubei Pearl Mountain|
|Hubei Silvery Strawberry Tea|
|Hubei Winter Sweet|
|Hyson||also Jiukeng||Flourishing Spring|
|Jade Dew for Japan||Yulu|
|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|
|Kong Ming, Mountain|
|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|
|Long Jing||Lung Ching||Dragon Well|
|Long Zhong Cui Lu|
|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|
|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|
|Mao Jiang||Hair Point|
|Mengding Sweet Dew||Mengding Tea|
|Meng-Ting||ev. Mengding Tea|
|Min Mei||Famous Plum|
|Ming Mei||Min Mei|
|Moon Palace||Pingshui Gunpowder|
|Nan-nou white Pekoe|
|Nanshan Baimao||White Down and Xishan|
|Pai Mu Tan?|
|Pan Long Ying Hao|
|Pea Leaf||Pingshui Gunpowder|
|Pi Lo Chun||Green Snail Spring, Spring Jade Spiral?|
|Pi Lo Chun||Emarald Phoeninx|
|Pingsuey Gunpowder||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|
|Shou Mei Silver Needle|
|Son Yang Ying Hao|
|Song Yang Ying Hou|
|Sowmee||även Chun Mee|
|Special Chummee||Chun Mee|
|Spring Blossom Pekoe|
|Spring Mountain Green||Extra-Choicest|
|Tai Mu Lhong Zu|
|Taihu Pi-lo-chun||ev Pi Lo Chun|