Four Imperial Teas

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In a prior blog, we talked about the working-class origins of the British “builder’s tea”, favored by laborers to push through long hours of physical toil. This time, we thought we would take a look at how the other half lived and highlight a few of our favorite teas with royal reputations.

 

Bai Hao Silver Needle (白毫銀針)

Also Called: Baihao Yinzhen, White Hair Silver Needle

Bai Hao Silver Needle Tea Leaves

Bai Hao Silver Needle

This highly prized Chinese white tea is traditionally sourced from either Zhenghe or Fuding, northeast in the Fujian province. It is very lightly oxidized and features only the unopened buds of shoots plucked early in April during the plant’s first flush. These buds are covered in fine silver hairs, giving it its characteristic color. The flavor of this tea is smooth, lightly sweet, and delicately floral. This exquisite tea is said to have been first cultivated during the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE), and for centuries was reserved exclusively for the Emperor.

 

Da Hong Pao (大红袍)

Also Called: Big Red Robe

Da Hong Pao Mother Trees in Wuyi

Da Hong Pao Mother Trees in Wuyi

This oolong is grown on the steep slopes of Mt. Wuyi in Fujian. The rocky cliffsides and unique mineral compounds making up the mountain’s slopes give this tea its rich, full, mineral flavor. Due to its rarity, expense, and reputation, Da Hong Pao remains a traditional “gift tea” in China reserved for honored guests or special occasions. According to legend, the mother of a Ming Dynasty emperor was cured of a deadly illness by drinking this tea; in gratitude, the emperor sent his own royal red robes to cover the four bushes that produced it. These bushes are still be producing tea to this day.

 

Dragon Well (龍井茶)

Also Called: Longjing

Dragon Well 1st Grade Pre Qing Ming

Dragon Well 1st Grade Pre Qing Ming

Dragon Well is one of the most famous teas to come out of China, and is certainly the most renowned of its green teas. Its long leaves are flattened by hand and pan-fried to stop oxidation, and boast a sweet and grassy flavor with light astringency. The highest-prized Dragon Well teas are sourced from Longjing Village in Zhejiang, and must be plucked from the first shoots that appear before the Qingming Festival in early April. Dragon Well tea was granted the status of Gong Cha, imperial tea, during the Qing Dynasty by the Kangxi Emperor (1661-1722).

 

Huo Shan Huang Ya (霍山黃芽)

Also Called: Huoshan Yellow

Yellow tea floating in gaiwan

Belonging to the rare category of yellow tea, this tea was produced in Anhui as an imperial tribute during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE). It is thought to have been developed specifically to have a yellow color, in honor of the imperial family, to both its dried leaf and its steeped liquor. The flavor is delicate and subtle, with both floral and buttery notes. Due to its intensive production process and niche position in the market, this tea can be difficult to find. But like all royal teas, its complex and unique flavors make it worth a try for any tea enthusiast.

By: Jen Coate

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