In our last post we focused on Anhui Province, its people, and some of its famous teas. In this post we shift next door to look at neighboring Hubei Province which has many similarities yet is home to distinct Chinese teas of its own.
Hubei Province – Land and People
At a macro level Hubei, like Anhui, has a large population especially by comparison to US States of similar size. Hubei has approximately 57 Million people in an area of 186,000 sq km (71,815 sq mi). This is roughly equivalent to the size of Washington State, which has a much smaller population at only 7 million people. Instead, consider that Hubei’s 57 million is the equivalent of the populations of California and New York combined, all within the land area of Washington State. The population is made up of a large number of minority ethnic groups in a province said to be the origin of the Chinese people.
From a geography perspective, Hubei is a land locked province located along about the same latitude as southern Texas, Louisiana, and Florida though its land features range from lowlands to highly mountainous. The province is also traversed by the well known Yangtze River, features the Enshi Grand Canyon (1/16th the size of ours but very lush), Three Gorges, Yellow Tower, and more.
Like its geography and its people Hubei province has a wide range industries and business activities ranging from agricultural to finance and high tech.
Hubei Province Tea
Home to the birthplace of Yu Lu, author of the Classic of Tea, Hubei boasts a number of great teas. Though its teas are perhaps overlooked due to teas like Dragon Well, Keemun, and many others from surrounding provinces, it is home to its own unique tea. The major tea producing region of Hubei is found in the southwest mountains of the province in the Enshi region. Its an extremely mountainous region with very rugged terrain,and not surprisingly is quite rural by comparison to other parts of the province. The land here is heavily forested and known for rich soils high in selenium. As a result of both history and the high selenium content of its soils, Hubei produces a number of unique teas. The most famous of its teas is actually Enshi Yu Lu, also known as Jade Dew. What makes this unique is its close similarity to another ‘Jade Dew’ tea, Gyokuro from Japan. The Enshi Yu Lu green tea, like that of its close relative from Japan, uses steaming to halt oxidation of the leaf, which is a production method generally not used in other parts of China. Like its Japanese counterpart, Enshi Yu Lu has long dark green leaves that look to be needle shaped and tends to have a very vegetal flavor.
Additional teas include Wujiatai Tribute Tea, Hefeng Tea, Mapo Tea, and increasingly teas focused on perceived health benefits of selenium like Enshi Selenium Enriched Tea. The high selenium content of the soils, in fact, has led a number of companies in the region to seek trademarks on many different health related names of teas (though selenium deficiency is considered rare in the United States). Given the rich history of tea production in the region, its unique processing methods, the role in culture, and its own particular terrior, this region like many others (starting with Champagne, France) is pursuing Geographic Identification status as a way to highlight and protect its tea products.
Geographical Indication Characteristics and Agricultural Intellectual Property Protection of the tea in Enshi Prefecture, Asian Agricultural Research 2015, http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/174939/2/24.PDF