The Yellow Mountains, located in the Anhui Province, is one of the most popular attractions in China. It has been listed as a World Cultural Heritage by the United Nations in 1992. It’s an enjoyable fairyland, a poetic sentiment bonsai and a Chinese scenery name card. The Yellow Mountains have also been listed as a world geography park in 2004.
The Yellow Mountain area is also famous for their teas. Thanks to the warm climate and abundant water, tea trees there have bigger leaves, and high productivity. Since 1949, Yellow Mountain teas have won several international awards. The Qimen tea is often selected as diplomatic gifts, and Maofeng tea has been listed as the most luxurious teas in China. The She County, where most of the Yellow Mountains’ teas are processed, produces over ten thousand tons of tea annually.
Maofeng tea was named as one of the top ten most famous teas at the National Tea Appraisal Meeting in1958. It was invented in the1950’s by the Xieyu Workshop. To achieve the best quality all Maofeng tea is processed by hand, which requires a lot of labor and time.
Every year around March, the tea workers will pick the softest and juiciest leaves from the trees. Based on the pickers’ strict principals, the leaves must be processed within five hours to preserve the best aroma. First, the leaves are stirred in a huge wok to remove the odor and water. The stirring is the most essential step in determining the quality of tea. Therefore, only the most experienced workers are involved. Then the dame leaves are rolled into small strips and ready for baking. During the baking process, non-stop stirring is essential to ensure they are evenly heated.
Maofeng leaves are soft loose strips with fuzz on the surface, some people compare their look that of a peacock tongue. The tea water is clear bluish-yellow and smells like Chinese Orchid.
Qimen Black Tea
If you ask, “what’s the best black tea ever?” the Qimen Black Tea would no doubt be the answer; so much so that it won the love of the British royal family.
Qimen is a small town, whose tea history goes back to the Tang Dynasty. In 1975, by creatively using the experience he learned from other provinces, Yuanlong Hu, a local tea merchant, invented Qimen Black Tea. He achieved huge success in the market and established a black tea factory. By 1876, Qimen black tea became nationally famous and exports to Japan and Britain attest to this.
Qimen is plucked in the early spring. Only the healthiest leaves are chosen. Then they are spread in a sheltered room for withering, which normally lasts for a day. After rough rolling, the leaves are spread out again for deep fermentation. Their color turns into a dark purple or black. The entire process must be done below 30 degrees Celsius to avoid over fermenting. The best Qimen Black Tea has a mellow flavor with the water being pure red. When served with sugar or milk, the aroma will get stronger.
Houkui was named after its inventor – the tea worker Kuicheng Wang- who lived in Hou Gang area, Taiping County. Around 1900, the Taiping County was one of the biggest tea collecting and distributing centers. Teas from the areas surrounding Taiping were transported here for further selecting and selling. Inspired by the tea business, Kuicheng believed if the selecting was conducted before processing, he could create better teas. He gained great success in the end and became one of the most important tea merchants later. To memorize his contributions, people named the tea after him.
First, leaves are plucked on sunny days, which helps cut down the time on withering. Then leaves are stirred in pans for two to three minutes. The workers need to be very cautious not to damage the leaves because broken leaves will lose their value. The baking process alternates between the cooling and dehydrating to enhance the aroma.
Without the rolling process, Houkui tea has large, complete leaves, which differs it from other green teas. When steeped in water, the leaves will slowly stretch out like a flower and turn the water into a crystal green. The leaves are covered with a little bit of fuzz; this causes it to shine with a light metallic luster.
Jinhao is the oldest tea in the Yellow Mountain area. It was popular during the Ming Dynasty, but its processing methods have since been lost upon the fall of the Ming Dynasty.
In the 1990’s, Weihai Zhang of the Ming Villege decided to resurrect Jinhao tea. After years of traveling and research, he found the missing link from an offspring whose ancestors were responsible for providing the tea to the royal family during the Ming Dynasty.
Now, Jinhua tea is the most famous products in Ming County. Nearly all local residents are tea producers or workers. They produce tea, appreciate tea and also dedicate themselves to the conveyance of tea culture.
Jinhao is a type of black tea, but its processing method is simpler than other kinds. Similar to other red teas, the leaves will experience withering, rolling, fermenting and baking. However, the fermentation period of Jinhao is longer than that of other teas—this helps enhance the aroma and enrich the flavor.
The best Jinhao tea is dark purple strips with a light golden luster. When soaked in water, the leaves are similar to leaves in the autumn. Rich in aroma and flavor, Jinhao is extremely popular among the older population.
Jinhao tea helps reduce stress and improve digestion. It’s also well-fermented and rich in protein and sugar. A cup of black tea on a winter’s afternoon can prove to be extremely therapeutic. Moreover, a cup of pure tea after a meal can help cleanse the digestive system.
The Yellow Mountains aren’t just a tourist hotspot, but it’s also a large culture capital for tea. People here are proud of their products and their culture.