Fujian Province of China

On the southeast cost of China lies Fujian Province.

Fujian Province China

The Fujian Province of China is an ecologically diverse region of China that makes the perfect home for tea to grow. Located on the southeastern coast of China, Fujian is approximately 46,000 square miles, about the same size as Mississippi. It currently has a population of 38 million, 1 million higher than the state of California (the most populated state in the US). Fujian is home to many Chinese ethnic minorities including the Hui, Miao and Manchu to name just a few. The Silk Road turned Fujian into one of the most culturally diverse regions of China and the mountainous topography allowed the different cultures to settle and remain distinct over the centuries of migration through this area. This amazing mix of diversity in both people and land forms has created a region with diverse tea production and culture.

Terroir of Fujian Province

Fujian has a humid and mild climate, even up in its mountains. The average low temperature is 41°F and the high will get to around 85°F and averages around 40 inches of rain a year. Most of the tea in the Fujian province is grown in the mountains. Mount Wuyi is the most famous mountain in Fujian province and is part of a jagged mountain range that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of the tea are planted on the eastern and northern slopes of this range to get the right mix of fog and sun.

The mild climate also makes this province home to a wide variety of fruits and flowers like bananas, lychee, olives, and jasmine.

History & Culture of Fujian Province

There is a saying in China that says if you travel 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) in Fujian, the culture changes, and if you travel 10 kilometers (6.21 miles) the language changes. This cultural diversity is attributed to the Silk Road, that travels through the entire province. Fujian is one of the oldest provinces, established during the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (220BCE-206BCE) that has survived many dynasties intact. Its large coast lines created even larger trading ports along the coast and the Silk Road created large trading cities inland and brought in many different cultures.

To give you just a glimpse into the cultural diversity, the Hui are decedents of Arabic and Persian merchants and are one of the largest Muslim communities in China. Their dialect is a mix of Chinese and Persian. The Manchus are descendants of the Jurchen people, who were farming tribes in northern China and Siberia that came south bringing their farming and animal husbandry skills to the rest of China, including goat and cow milk production. While the traditions and dialects are different, generally all the cuisines focus on the the abundant seafood found on the coast along with the wide varieties of fruit and vegetable that grow in the region. The spicing on the dishes reflect the culture and heritage of the chef that produces them.

Famous Teas of Fujian Province

Jasmine Tea - Scented Green Tea and Liquor

Jasmine Dragon Tears – Scented Green Tea

Fujian Province is considered the birthplace of Jasmine Dragon Tears Tea, with its creation beginning during the Song dynasty (960 CE-1127CE). It is from Fujian that we get the pine smoked Lapsang Souchong, and where we can find great oolongs like Ti Kuan Yin as well assubtle black teas like Da Hong Pao.

The tea culture has been here since its beginning and has been influenced by the Silk Road. The oolong technique started here traveled the short distance across the Taiwan straight to Taiwan. The techniques for Jasmine tea traveled to other provinces like Huebi. For tea drinkers, Fujian is an important part of tea history and still plays a key role in the industry today.

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Hojicha: Japan’s Roasted Tea

Loose Leaf Hojicha

Hojicha Organic

Hojicha (also spelled Houjicha) is a truly unique tea from Japan. This roasted green tea was supposedly created by a tea merchant in Kyoto,sometime in the 1920’s, who decided to roast bancha tea outside of his tea store to attract customers in to look at his tea wares. This rather humble beginning hides a tea that is actually a staple in Japanese tea culture today. The roasting lowers caffeine in the tea when compared to its fellow green teas, so the Japanese frequently use hojicha as an evening tea or tea that is given to anyone who may be sensitive to caffeine, like children or the elderly.

How Hojicha is Made

Hojicha is made from bancha tea, or later harvest tea. The leaves are typically on the plant longer, making them bigger and imparting a more dry grass flavor. Bancha is processed just like Sencha, so it is steamed to stop oxidation. Hoijcha comes from adding an additional step to the bancha process of roasting the leaves at around 200°F for just a few minutes. This roasting process imparts a roasted chestnut or hazelnut aroma and flavor. If it is roasted for too long, just like nuts, the leaves will quickly burn.

Hojicha can have tea stems in it, but this often dictated on whether the stems are kept in or removed as part of making bancha. Having stems in your hojicha is not a bad thing, it can actually intensify the nutty flavor from roasting.

How to Brew Hojicha

Hojicha is brewed in Japan just like other green teas. The water temperature should be in the range of 175-185°F. You will want around 3 grams of tea to 8 ounces of water. Generally hojicha leaves are larger and quite lightweight, so reach for tablespoon to measure out this tea if not using a kitchen scale. It can be steeped for up to 3 minutes. While it might be tempting to treat this green tea like a black tea because of its color, boiling water will eliminate some of the nuances found when the lower water temperature is used. It can also be brewed by doubling or tripling the amount of tea to water and dropping the steep time to 30 seconds-1 minute. This often results in a very intense nutty flavor.

This beautiful tea is worth exploring whenever you are in the mood for something nutty in your tea.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Tea and its History

Yellow Mountains with clouds below.

Yellow Mountains of Anhui Province, China – by Flickr User Chi King – CC BY 2.0

Huang Shan Mao Feng tea is rich in both flavor and history.  This amazing green tea is considered one of the most famous Chinese teas, being prized for its complex vegetal flavor and the shape of the finished tea leaves.

History of Huang Shan Mao Feng

Huang Shan Mao Feng comes from the Huang Shan mountains in the Anhui province of China. Huang Shan means yellow mountains, which they happen to be. These are the famous mountains often depicted in Chinese pictures with the pointy jagged rocks at the tip with trees jutting out from deep crevasses. This region provides the perfect terroir for tea, making it home to several famous Chinese teas. Huang Shan Mao Feng may be the youngest of these teas, becoming popular in the late 1800s CE, during the reign of the last Chinese imperial dynasty.

Most Chinese teas have a myth around their creation that reflect the ancient life of China, and this tea is no different. The story goes that a young maiden on a tea plantation fell in love with a local scholar. The plantation owner wanted her as his wife and forced her parents to give the young maiden to him. The night before the wedding the young maiden escaped and fled into the mountains to find the scholar, only to discover he was killed by the plantation owner. When she went to his grave deep in the mountains she cried over his body, turning it into a tea bush and herself into the rain and mist that covers the mountains almost daily.

Huang Shan Mao Feng Production

Huang Shan Mao Feng is made from the young growth of the bud and first leaf, and often have the noticeable silver hairs made famous by Bai Hao Silver Needle tea. It is shaped by hand into a mountain peak. The term Mao Feng mean furry peak. These needles will range in color from light to dark green and have a slight curve in their shape. This tea, like Dragon Well, is picked before the Qing Ming holiday and baked to stop the oxidation.

Steeping Huang Shan Mao Feng

Yellow Tea Huang Shan Mao Feng Leaf and Liquor

Yellow Tea – Huang Shan Mao Feng

You are going to use 3 grams per 8 ounces of water. If you do not have kitchen scale, use 2 tablespoons to get the 3 grams as this tea is very light and airy. The water should be between 175°-185° Fahrenheit. Allow the leaves to steep for 2 minutes for the first cup. Your second cup should be steeped for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Your third cup should be steeped for 3 minutes. Notice how the flavor changes with the cups, going from a light grassy to a strong vegetal flavor.

If you have not had this tea before, stop into the shop for a tasting or order a sample online.  This tea reflects the skill of Chinese tea masters and the beauty of Chinese green tea.

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First Flush Tea – A Presentation of Spring

Beautiful pink blossoms of a tree at Lake Reston.

Its Spring in the mid-Atlantic but also in prime picking regions around the world.

Spring has sprung in the mid-Atlantic and in addition to flowers in our area this past week saw the first of what will be several first pluckings (first flushes) of the 2016 season. Whether in China, Japan or India, the first flush tea is always considered the most special and typically sells for more money at the tea auctions.

First Flush – Why is it so special?

As we have talked about in the past, terroir effects the tea plant, and the first flush arrives after the plant has been dormant for some time, usually over winter, or during the peak time of year for the plant’s growth leading up to flowering. Of course it is not to the farmer’s benefit to allow the tea plant to blossom as all the growing energy will go into the flower and not into the leaves. Due to that energy, these first pluckings have the most nuanced flavors and usually demand the highest prices, like Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell or Bai Hao Silver Needle. Both teas carry a taste of light spring grass or flowers.

China First Flush

In China, the first flush comes during the period before Qing-Ming, a big national holiday that is dedicated to the cleaning of the family tomb, to show respect for past relatives and the importance of family, as well as other spring activities like flying a kite. This holiday also falls right around the start of the spring rains. While the rains bring much needed water for the tea plant, they will cause the leaves to loose flavor.

Loose leaf 1st flush Darjeeling from Goomtee Estate

1st Flush Darjeeling from Goomtee Estate in India.

Darjeeling First Flush

In Darjeeling, India, the first pluck will come in late March to early April. A first flush Darjeeling, is practically a green tea with a very light and floral smell, even though it is manufactured as a black. It is truly a reflection of the freshness of spring. While most people are familiar with Second Flush Darjeelings, as that is the Darjeeling that has traveled the globe and has introduced the world to the champagne of teas, it is very different from a First Flush Darjeeling and typically picked in June before the summer monsoons.

Japan First Flush

The first flush in Japan comes in late April to early May. These first flushes go into Ceremonial Grade Matcha, Shincha (not be confused with Sencha), and very top grade Gyokuro. These teas are again lighter and more nuanced flavor adding a sweetness that is not typically found in Japanese greens.

Enjoy a first flush tea next time you get a chance and enjoy a cup of spring.

 

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5 US Presidential Facts Involving Tea

First Lady Hoover Loved Tea

First Lady Lou Hoover

In honor of President’s Day, we went digging around in history to figure out if any of the U.S. Presidents or their wives did something fun, historically significant or just routinely drank tea. As much as America is seen as a coffee drinking country now, the White House has seen its fair share of tea parties that have helped to shape the history of the country. So here are five US Presidential Facts involving tea.

  1.  Thomas Jefferson drank a lot of tea according to his financial records. Based on the names, he drank an interesting variety from a tea named Imperial, to Chu-chong, congo and bohea teas. (Monticello, 2016)
  2. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy is known for having redefined the role of the First Lady in both the entertaining that occurred at the White House as well as spear heading other issues that were outside of the President’s focus. Mrs. Kennedy did her first entertaining at the White House using afternoon teas, within days of moving in. She started with inviting in her step father and mother and then the next day hosted George Balanchine, the choreographer of the New York City Ballet. (JFK Library, 2016)
  3. First Lady Lou Hoover faced political backlash in 1929 when she originally intended to invite Mrs. De Priest to the congressional wives tea at the White House. Mrs. De Priest was the wife of Oscar De Priest, the first African-American Congressman, elected in 1928 to represent Illinois. Eventually, Mrs. Hoover arranged a second tea for Mrs. De Priest at the White House, with a select group of guests. She was still criticized by many of the Southern Congressman for promoting equality. (White House Historical Society, 2016)
  4. Teddy Roosevelt was known for his love of American food and had little use for exotic treats, except for Hu Kwa Tea, which is another name for Lapsang Suchong. During President Roosevelt’s time, the name Hu Kwa or Howqua was attached to many goods coming from China as it was the name of a famous Chinese merchant who had died almost almost 60 years earlier that many Americans associated with fairness and honesty. Howqua was also one of the wealthiest men of his time having made his fortune during the Opium Wars. (Landau, 2007)
  5. A daily cup of tea was not just for our founding fathers, both Gerald Ford and Lyndon Johnson had a cup of tea with their typical breakfast. Where the two men differed is that President Ford had an English muffin with jam while President Johnson preferred chipped beef and cream with his cup of tea. (Haller, 1987)

Works Cited

Haller, H. (1987). The White House Family Cookbook. New York: Random House.

JFK Library. (2016, February 9). JFK Library. Retrieved from John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum: http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/JFK-Fast-Facts/Entertaining-in-the-White-House.aspx

Landau, B. (2007). The President’s Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Dipolmacy. New York: Harper Collins.

Monticello. (2016, February 9). Monticello. Retrieved from Monticello Website: https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/tea

White House Historical Society. (2016, February 9). The White House Historical Society. Retrieved from White House Historical Society Website: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/hoover-depriest-tea-party-creates-a-stir

 

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