Tea culture is something which has held quite a dominating presence throughout the history of China, considering that the discovery of this piquant beverage itself took place here. Needless to say, it’s a tea enthusiast’s heaven and these are the best cities in China to satisfy all your tea cravings.
Longjing Tea, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province
The first sip reminds you somewhat of the very first batch of freshly plucked vegetables at the beginning of spring. The mellow and fruity flavour is nothing short of enchanting. And why wouldn’t it be? The tea is nurtured to maturity in the high mountains, surrounded by rain, fog and thick clouds. All of which come together to create one magnificent view. The view is almost as good as the tea. Almost. Yes, the tea with its signature yellow-green colour is something which can only be termed as simply out of this world.
The wonderful warm aroma the tea emanates is achieved by the rigorous hand-processing method unique to Longjing. Precision is what makes this tea and the attention to detail is imminent across all stages of its processing.
Longjing Tea, also known as Dragon Well Tea was granted Imperial status during the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911AD) by Emperor Qianlong (1735-1796AD). The tea was the preferred beverage of Emperors and today it is still served to the Heads of State.
Pu’er Tea, Pu’er County, Yunnan Province
Striking comparisons to wine in ways more than one, Pu’er tea is an aged and fermented black tea commonly called the pinnacle of all Chinese teas. Grown in a very picturesque setting, the plantation region features a native jungle which is now protected, a wild elephant reserve and obviously tea trees, many of which are more than a hundred years old. Forget the tea, you’d want to visit Yunnan just for the views and the elephants.
The tea acquires a black colour over time which is a drastic change from the natural green colour. This colour change is a direct result of the fermentation of the tea leaves. Perhaps what’s most striking is the fact that this tea cannot be consumed until the leaves have been stored for a minimum of 3 months after processing. The tea begins to develop its unique aged taste after 5 years. The tea ages such that no two brews of Pu’er will ever taste the same. You get a unique infusion every single time. The older the tea, the better. Startling parity to wine, isn’t it?
Huangshan Maofeng Tea, Huangshang City, Anhui Province
This tea is special in its own right since it’s a speciality of the tallest mountain range in Eastern China. The tea was a favourite of the Qing dynasty and it ended up making the discoverer the wealthiest man on Yellow Mountain. The tea has an explicit gorgeous green colour of which each sip is said it leave a distinct image in the mind of the drinker. The Huangshan Maofeng is the epitome of ancient Chinese royalty.
Like other high-grade teas, Huangshan Maofeng is harvested only once in a year. The orchid shaped tea is processed through a combination of roasting and ovening. The processing is done such that no oxidation or ‘reddening’ of the tea leaves is allowed to take place. The various stages are again carried out manually by hand to ensure extreme precision.
It’s very interesting to note that the highest grade Huangshang Maofeng which is extremely rare comes from a tea company owned by Mr Xi Yi Ping, a direct descendent of Mr Xie Zheng An, the discoverer of the Huangshan Maofeng!