Teas of the World: Chinese Fujian Teas

Teas are grown in an ever-increasing number of countries in the world, with China still being one of the leaders. Your first stop on our world tea tour is the Fujian Province where a good portion of these teas come from.

Dragon Pearls before steeping. (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
Dragon Pearls before steeping. (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

About the Province

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Fujian Province served as the heartland of China’s tea production. The name is spelled alternately as “Fukien” due to the trickiness of translating from one type of character set to another. (It’s often done based on the sound, and that leads to all sorts of interpretations.) The province is on the southeast coast of China on the Taiwan Straight, and has a subtropical climate and mountainous terrain, both ideal for growing tea. Various historical documents show that tea has been grown and produced here for over 1,600 years. This province is also home to the famous Wuyi mountain region, where a number of wonderful oolongs come from.

Some of the Better-Known Fujian Teas

There are actually around 336 varieties of Camellia Sinensis (the tea plant) grown in this province. That’s more than in any other tea growing area in China. Teas from this province include oolongs, black teas, green teas, and the greatest selection of white teas available.

  • Gunpowder (also called Pearl Tea and Zhu Cha) — A green tea whose dry leaves are rolled into the shape of little pellets resembling gunpowder, which some say accounts for its name. The flavor is thick and strong with a slightly smoky aftertaste. It was one of the first teas that China exported in high volume and remains popular today.
  • Dragon Pearls — The dry leaves of this green tea are rolled into little balls the size of standard pearls. They steep up a liquid that is nutty yet sweet and feels smooth on the palate. Steep in a glass teapot or teacup to add a visual element to your experience. Watch the pearls unfold in the water.
  • Shi Ru Xiang — A green tea with a clean, pure fragrance. The white down leaves are twisted. They steep up a bright yellow-green liquid, can be steeped multiple times, and have a long lasting fragrance.
  • Ti Kuan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong — Some say the name “Iron Goddess” comes from Iron Goddess of Mercy who supposedly appeared in a dream to a local farmer, telling him to look in the cave behind her temple where he found a single tea shoot that he then planted and cultivated. This is one of China’s most sought-after teas, with stout, crinkly leaves that unfurl in boiling water, revealing greeny-brown lace-edged leaves and producing a brownish-green liquid.
  • Wu-Yi 0olong — Made from the leaves of tea plants grown in the lush and beautiful Wu-Yi Mountain region located between Wuyishan City and Wuyishan Town, in the Jiangxi province. It’s a sought-after tea with a fruity, medium-bodied taste and about half the caffeine that’s in a cup of coffee. It’s also loaded with polyphenols, which some say have strong antioxidant properties that ward off a variety of health-related issues and disease and to improve metabolism to facilitate weight loss.
  • Jasmine Pearls — This tea is primarily produced near Fuzhou City in Fujian Province, China. The best young leaf-and-bud sets are harvested in April, rolled into pearls, then stored until late June, when jasmine trees blossom. The tea pearls are spread out on mesh trays and placed in a heated dryer, with trays of jasmine blossoms in-between each of the tea leaf trays. In the morning, the pearls have absorbed the jasmine scent. Freshness is key here. The best jasmines are gotten to market quickly.
  • Lapsang Souchong China black tea — Very popular, with demand exceeding supply, and often imitated. The true version originates in the Wu-Yi Mountain region. The leaves are withered in the smoke from pine or cypress wood fires, giving the tea a strong and distinctive smoked flavor often described as an acquired taste.
  • Four Chinese white teas: Bai Hao Yinzhen (Silver needle), the best with the highest grades commanding rather high prices. Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), ranked second in quality. Gong Mei (Tribute Eyebrow), ranked third. Shou Mei (Noble, Long Life Eyebrow), last but still a great tea with a stronger flavor than other white teas since it’s harvested later in the growing season.

Our next stop on this world tour will be a jaunt to Japan, where tea is an important part of life!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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