Tea consumption in China has a millennia-long tradition, and it is believed that tea has been cultivated here for around 5,000 years. To date, the world's oldest tea leaves have been located in Jing Emperor Liu Qi's tomb in Xi'an (western China), which provides physical evidence that tea was imported to this non-tea-growing region at least 2,100 years ago. The famed Silk Routes—both over land and by sea—conveyed tea along with other luxury goods to the rest of Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Russia.
Today, China continues to supply the world with tea, producing black, oolong, green, white, yellow, and "scented" tea. The country's major tea-growing regions include Jiangbei, the northernmost area, which produces primarily green tea; Jiangnan, which produces the most tea in the country; southern China, known for producing mainly black, oolong, and white tea; and the southwest area of the country, considered the birthplace of tea.
Made only in southern China, yellow tea's precise production techniques—which are complicated and take time—are often kept secret, and many regional processes have been lost to us. Production begins similarly to that for green tea, with a preliminary frying, but then the leaves undergo a “smothering” step, which allows the moist, softened leaves to re-absorb their own aromatics, followed by slow roasting. This converts the simple polyphenols of the tea leaf into complex theaflavins, which results in a yellow leaf and a golden cup.
Historically, yellow tea was made for local consumption, but today, TeaHaus offers exquisite Yellow Dragon.
Although the Chinese drink primarily green tea, they do produce various kinds of black teas, mostly for export. Made with traditional techniques, these teas are unique and intriguing.
While Fujian Province's Black Gunpowder has a hint of smokiness, its Lapsang Souchong—traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires—is intensely smoky. Keemun Finest Chuen Cha from Anhui Province yields a velvety mouth feel and subtle smoky notes. And from Yunnan Province, Golden Yunnan and Yunnan Golden Downy Pekoe are intriguing and redolent of truffles, while Yunnan Pu-Erh is microbially fermented to develop its unique and complex flavor: spicy, earthy, and woody.
Early in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), Fujian tea producers in Wuyi began a new tea process, resulting in wulong—or oolong—teas. Rather than heating the tea leaves immediately after they were plucked, they were instead allowed to wilt, were partially oxidized, and then were heated. By the mid-1800s, the Anxi area of Fujian was devoted predominately to the oolongs.
TeaHaus offers Milky Jade, an incredible milk oolong (see Specialty Tea, below).
Although the Chinese have consumed green tea for millennia, the first unambiguous written citation was not until 59 BCE. In the eighth century, poet and tea master Lu Yü extensively researched tea—work that culminated in his comprehensive monograph Cha Jing (The Classic of Tea).
Dubbed "gunpowder" by sea captains, this green tea—appearing as "pellets"—is a classic, and Temple of Heaven is considered the finest of the gunpowders. Palace Needle has a mildly sweet flavor due to its rather moderate drying temperature (as opposed to hot steam). And Lung Ching (Dragon Well) is one of China's "Ten Famous Teas," a first-grade tea that perfectly balances bitter and sweet.
China's Fujian Province, overlooking the East China Sea, also produces exceptional white teas. Pai Mu Tan and Fancy Peony are "new style" white tea, which means that the bud and first leaf have been plucked; premium Silver Needle is a traditional white tea, consisting of only buds.
The tips of tea plants are more susceptible to air-borne pollutants than are the leaves lower on the plant. However, our German suppliers test all our teas, both in the garden and after production, ensuring purity for every tea we carry.
These specialty teas, made with time-honored traditions, are unique to China.
After tea leaves are oxidized, they remain pliable and moist. In this softened state, they can easily absorb the fragrance and flavor of flowers, fruit, and even milk. Tea masters skillfully regulate how much flavor the tea leaves pick up—by layering tea leaves with blossoms, or by steaming the leaves with blossoms, fruit juice, or even milk.
Lychee and China Rose tea are two such "scented teas." For the first, after the tea leaves are fully oxidized, they are steamed with freshly squeezed juice from ripe lychees, which imparts a fruity, sweet flavor to the tea. Rose tea results from the oxidized tea leaves undergoing a rose petal steam infusion.
For milk oolong, top-quality tea leaves are lightly oxidized and then placed over a gentle steam bath of milk and water. This process retains the bright green color of the leaves while giving milk oolong its unique and deliciously creamy aroma and flavor.
Another specialty of China—highly sought—are the jasmine teas. After top-quality tea leaves have been lightly processed, they are layered with jasmine blossoms, picking up the flowers' delicate aroma and flavor. TeaHaus offers Wuyuan Jasmine as well as the premium and exquisite Royal Jasmine Curls and Jasmine Phoenix Dragon Pearls.