Sichuan (or Szechwan) Province is located in southwestern China. It’s one of the origins of tea. The tea culture in Sichuan goes back several centuries, and it’s one of the most essential tea export areas in China. In 2006, the tea industry contributed 15 billion RMB to the GDP of Sichuan.
Sichuan teas have a unique flavor because of the special climate conditions there. Sichuan is a moist basin with the most fertile soil in China. Therefore, it’s also called the Treasure Bowl. The soil is rich in mineral substances, which is ideal for tea planting.
Mengding tea is from Meng Shan – a mountain range which crosses two counties. Because of the special climate Mengding tea grows in, its quality stands out among other green teas. Meng Shan is famous for its unique views. The top of the mountains are always wreathed in mist, and the network of spectacular waterfalls makes it even more impressive and memorable. Many poets are lavish in their praises of Meng Shan.
Mengding tea is a type of green tea known for its fresh aroma. Because the tops of Meng Shan are surrounded by mist all year long, it’s also called “the Tea from Heaven.”
Mengding means the peak of Meng Shan in Chinese. There are five tops: Shangqing, Lingjiao, Pilou, Jingquan and Ganlu. It’s said that two thousand years ago, a monk planted the tea trees on the top of Meng Shan while traveling. Mengding tea was once a main tribute for the use of royal family only.
The processing of Mengding tea is similar to other green teas. According to historical records, it was sacred and religious ceremony. Every spring, a religious celebration would be held before the plucking. The local governors would dress up and host the entire activity. They would first worship the “tea fairy” and the whole picking process would be monitored by the governor. Only six hundred leaves would be plucked. These leaves would then be processed in a temple surrounded by chanting monks. In the end, the tea would be sealed in delicate silver containers and which was then escorted by the army to the royal palace.
Though Mengding tea is still precious, normal people have a chance to taste it. Mengding is a general name for tea produced in Meng Shan area. There are many different species.
What are some signs of a good Mengding tea? First, the tea leaves should be long strips with a strong grass scent, and the wet leaves should be complete without damage. When steeped, the tea should be a clear and bluish-yellow. The stronger the after-taste is, the better the tea is.
Emei Zhuyeqing Tea
Zhuyeqing Tea has a lot to do with Buddhism. Mount Emei, located in the north of Sichuan, is among the four mountains sacred by Buddhists in China. Sitting in meditation is a daily routine for monks. Tea helps relieve their fatigue from sitting for so long, and help them keep their focus. Therefore, planting tea trees outside of the temples is a tradition in China.
Around Mount Emei, tea trees are normally planted about 800 to 1,200 meters above sea level, because of their ideal climatic conditions.
Zhuyeqing tea was named for its shape. Zhuye means bamboo leaves in Chinese, and qing means green. Zhuyeqing leaves are long thin green strips, which are similar to the bamboo leaves. Because of this, the Ex-Vice Prime Minister Yi Chen named it Zhuyeqing.
Zhuyeqing tea is usually plucked two to three days before the Tomb Sweeping Festival. Its processing consists of three key steps: fixation, stirring and cooling. Fixation is a process accomplished by heating the fresh leaves; this helps determine the quality of the tea–factors such as the aroma and taste. The stirring and cooling will be repeated three times to shape the leaves, and develop the color. To produce high quality tea, some workshops bake the leaves after cooling to increase the scent.
Some people think the taste of Zhuyeqing is more willow. Compared to Mengding tea, it’s cheaper and more popular among tea fans.
Chuanhong has a shorter history compared to Zhuyeqing and Mengding tea. Chuanhong tea is a black tea invented in the 1950’s. After 30 years’ of development, Chuanhong tea became one of the most representative teas in the Sichuan Province.
Yibin is located in the southeastern part of Sichuan. Unlike Mengding tea growing in the moist areas, Chuanhong needs seasonal irrigating. Also, tea trees in Yibin sprout 30 to 40 days earlier than other places. Therefore, it has a longer plucking period, which starts from March to May.
Chuanhong tea looks like small black beans with a sweet scent. The tea water is crystal orange and has a light sweet after-taste. What made Chuanhong so popular in such a short time? Chuanhong was invented to be sold, and it aims to be the best of the best. Gaining a lot experience from both traditional workshops and modern factories, Chuanhong tea is processed using the most scientific techniques.
Chuanhong tea processing consists of many steps, including withering, cooling, rolling, fermentation, stir fixation and drying. It’s a set of methods; the former steps will influence the latter ones.
The leaves are first withered in greenrooms to activate enzymes. By adjusting the room temperature, the workers can control the withering process. Then they are spread over the floor to “cool down.” After being shaped by rolling, the semi-finished products will be stored in a sealed room for fermentation, which is a decisive procedure creating Chuanhong’s amazing aroma and flavor. Now that the leaves are ready to dry, they are packed into small wrinkled bean-shape for store delivery or carry-out.
Sichuan province is one of the most essential tea producing areas, whose products are exported to Europe, America, the Middle East and other countries in Asia. With high quality and appealing price, tea from Sichuan has won countless awards all over the world. If you are a tea fan, you absolutely shouldn’t miss it. It’s a good opportunity to learn about tea culture and Sichuan culture.