The most popular myth about the origin of tea is that it was discovered nearly five thousand years ago by a Chinese emperor who had a kettle of water on the boil at the time. As the unlikely story goes, some tea leaves happened to be caught on a breeze and blew into the kettle. Said emperor took a taste of the resulting brew and the rest was history.
The truth of the matter may be a bit more complicated and probably doesn’t make for such a tidy legend, but it is likely that the first tea drinkers resided in China and that from China tea production spread to the rest of the world. China still produces some of the finest specialty teas to this day.
According to some accounts, a few decades ago an organization known as the Chinese Tea Culture Research Centre issued a list of the ten best Chinese teas. The list is referred to as China’s Famous Teas, The Ten Great Chinese Teas and China’s Ten Famous Teas, among other things.
It can be tricky to track down a definitive version of this fabled list, but most incarnations seem to be similar. Along with some of the most popular Chinese varieties, such as Yunnan, Keemun, Puerh Dragonwell and Pi Lo Chun, are some noteworthy Chinese green teas. These include Huang Shan Mao Feng (Fur Peak), Tai Ping (Monkey King), and Lu An Gua Pia (Melon Seed), all of which are produced mainly in Anhui Province.
Some of the better-known oolong teas that come from China include Da Hong Pao, which is produced in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province. Da Hong Pao is sometimes referred to as Big Red Robe. Tie Guan Yin or Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) is another type of oolong tea grown in Fujian Province.
A useful resource for information on Chinese tea is the aptly named book
All the Tea in China, by Kit Chow and Ione Kramer. In addition to providing a wealth of material on tea and China, it expands the list of famous Chinese teas to 50 and takes a quick look at each one.
Check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks, for more great information!