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Filtering by Tag: Tea Trip 2015

Phoenix Spring Green Tea

Yufei Weng

Shunan has returned to the beautiful Huang Shan for Mao Feng.

Shunan loves Huang Shan for it’s natural beauty. Unforetunetly in recent years the tourism business has been supported by the local government more than the tea production. The tea production here is still strong and is producing lots of high quality tea.

Mao Feng has not been researched as much as other tea varieties, thus the cultivar has been left untouched. Unlike other teas like Long Jing or Bai Mu Dan that have new varieties, which while easier to grow does not taste as good, Mao Feng is still mostly its original variety


If you remember from pervious videos Mao Feng is baked dry. This preserves the natural shape of the tea and gives it a softer taste than most green teas. The original way to bake the tea is in a basket over coal. There is a more recent method in which the leaves are placed in a tall oven, allowing for more tea to be baked at one time. For More information on the tea production and for the beautiful Huang Shan scenery watch Shunan’s newest video.

Shunan has a great relationship with the family and loves to visit them. A city girl by birth, Shunan loves the country life. From baby chickens to wooden room warmers. Check out our second video to see daily life in the Huang Shan area.

You can watch more from Shunan's tea sourcing trips at our video page

The Huang Shan Mao Feng featured in this video is available for purchase at our online store


The Tea Formally Known as Scary Fragrance: Bi Luo Chun

Yufei Weng

A Qing Dynasty emperor once tasted a green tea known at the time as Scary Fragrance. When the emperor tasted the tea though, he did not think the name matched the beautiful taste. He renamed it Bi Luo Chun, which means green snail spring.

Today Bi Luo Chun is one of China’s most popular teas. It considered best when sourced from Dong Ting Mountain. This is a mountain located on an island in a lake. The process of making Bi Luo Chun is very tedious because the picking is very specific. For Bi Luo Chun they use only super tiny buds. If you have a tea with a lot of large leaves is it not desired.

Bi Luo Chun is a stir fried green tea, like Long Jing, which gives it a strong taste. The leaves are rolled in the wok to not only give them their shape, but to also break the cell membrane to release flavor. The rolling process takes about 45 minutes when done my hand. The careful work that goes into making a good Bi Luo Chun is part of what makes it so expensive.

A trick to telling if a Bi Luo Chun is made well is if it sinks to the bottom of your cup as soon as you put it in water. (Remember for Bi Luo Chun you put the water in first). A quick sink is the sign of good a making technique. While this doesn’t tell you everything about the tea, usually an excellently crafted tea starts from high quality leaves.

For more information check out our video page where Shunan breaks down Bi Luo Chun right from Dong Ting!

You can also purchase Bi Luo Chun here

Yunnan Red Tea

Yufei Weng

Yunnan is most known for Pu Er, but did you know they also make red tea? (Known as black by the rest of the world for reasons we don’t understand.)
Yunnan red tea, known as Dian Hong, has a relatively short history, but it does offer an unique opportunity to taste red tea from the Assamic family. Some of them are even made with old trees similar to Pu Er.

One large leaf

One large leaf

You can learn more about Dian Hong and watch how it’s made by visiting our video page.

Buy Yun Nan red tea, Dian Hong here

Yellow Leaves: What Should Not Be in Your Tea

Yufei Weng

On a single tea stem there is a tender leaf, the bud, and then there are the older parts. When we are stir frying tea, the tender parts curl up. This we then further roll to make a very tight string. When the leaves are too old though, they don’t curl up. These leaves are not desired. This is what is referred to as yellow leaves

Yellow leaves

Yellow leaves

The yellow leaf is a leaf that is too old and no longer good. This is why you can’t go strictly by one bud one leaf, or one bud two leaves, because every tea stem is different. One may only have one bud and one leaf, but this leaf is too old and no good. These leaves, or yellow leaves, should always be removed as part of the tea refining process.

If you are ever shown a batch of tea that is full of yellow leaves, this means that the people who made the tea did not care enough go through with the refining process and pick them out. This usually happens when the labor cost would exceed the cost of the actual tea. So a batch of tea full of yellow leaves is usually not made from good tea to begin with. While this is not a direct sign of a tea’s quality, it usually shows a tea’s quality. For all true origin teas, this is a necessary step.

Selling yellow leaves is not always a bad thing though. While the yellow leaves have less flavor and complexity, they are usually sweeter; though they tend to only last a few brews. It is not uncommon for people to make cakes of the yellow leaves , especially if they are from more pristine locations, and sell it for a lower cost. As long as the seller provides the correct information about what he is selling, and sells it for a reasonable price, this is a fair practice.

For more tea education and to see more videos from the tea producing regions visit our video page

All leaf and no bud? That’s an opposite leaf.

Yufei Weng

A sign of a bad Pu Er is opposite leaves. Opposite leaves is when the leaves are bigger than the bud. 

Healthy leaf on the right, opposite leaves on the right. 

Healthy leaf on the right, opposite leaves on the right. 

Normally leaves have a fat bud coming out. The bud gives the tea the additional flavor and body. This usually makes the tea smoother too.

Any trees that have a little bit of this is ok, but some trees have a lot of the opposite leaves. Some years are particularly bad years. Basically these are malnourished tea trees. It is very telling in the brewed tea leaves as well. So if you see a tea with a lot of the opposite leaves, it is not desired.

Watch Shunan's travel videos for more tea knowledge and to see how your favorite tea is made. 

A Tea Only a Master Can Make

Yufei Weng

Not all teas are treated equal. When a farmer picks a tea from a standard bush, he will treat it normally. If he picks a tea he knows is low quality he may be rough with the making, putting very little care into it. But when a farmer picks a tea from a bush that is a grade above the rest, he treats it with the full attention is deserves. It is with this care and devotion true dan congs are made.

Dan cong has become a generic term for any Phoenix Mountain oolong, but it use to be that this term referred to only a specific type of wu long; ones made from a single tree. As with pu ers, Phoenix oolong trees can grow to be quite sizable, big enough that it takes a ladder to pick them. When trees are this big and this old, whole batches of tea can be made from one tree. The age of the tree along with the single source of the leaves creates some of the highest quality tea.

When dealing with leaves of such high quality, special attention must be given to make sure the complex natural flavors are brought out. Much of the process is done by hand to put the tea maker in as much control as possible. When machines need to be used they are fresh, and have been saved only for that tea. This prevents any transfer of flavor from previous batches. The whole process can only be trusted to a tea master with years of experience. One small mistake at any point could ruin everything

See the careful and precise work that is put into true dan congs in Shunan’s tea trip videos

You can also buy Feng Huang Phoenix Wu Long here

The Only Red Tea to Make the List

Yufei Weng

Qi Men’s history is short and sweet.
Created in the 1800’s, Qi Men is relatively new so all of its history has been fully recorded. A very unique tea, Qi Men is the only red tea on the list of China’s top ten most famous teas.

Chu Ye, the cultivar used for Qi Men, is an example of of a cultivar fit for one type of tea. Since The different categories of tea are based on making technique, there is no rule that dictates which cultivar must be made into which tea. You can take a Shui Xian leaf, which is usually used for oolong, and make white or green tea out of it. The problem is it does not always taste good. Chu Ye makes fantastic red tea, but as a green tea it taste weird.

Tea that is processed with the traditional methods always have the best taste. This is why Shunan always tries to make her tea traditional as possible. Making tea in the traditional way is a very delicate process. Shunan wanted to wither some Qi Men in the sun, as opposed to automated channels. When doing this you have to take into account not only the heat of the sun, but also the heat off the ground that will effect the withering process. A careful eye and a skillful hand must be kept on this tea to prevent them from being ruined

After the tea is withered, it is rolled. For the test batch Shunan used an old school rolling machine made completely out of wood. As the cell wall of the leaf breaks, Shunan begins to smell the wonderful aroma of the tea. The leaves are then placed into a temperature controlled room to ferment. This is what sets red teas apart from the rest. Unlike most teas which are fermented and then heated to stop the fermentation, red teas are allowed to ferment all the way. All the enzymes in the leaf are left to live out their life which, if done right, leaves you with a smooth sweet tea.

See more from Shunan's travel from our video page

You can also purchase Chinese red tea at our online store


The Most Tedious Tea

Yufei Weng

In a truck full of tea pickers, Shunan can feel every bump in the rough road. The truck pulls up to the foot of the mountain and the workers file, passing each other their baskets as they begin the long climb. While not the steepest trek, the climb to Hou Kui looks almost vertacle from the bottom. Shunan begins the rough ascension, only stopping to dig out a juicy bamboo shoot along the way. The tea field sits on the side of the mountain, accompanied by stone ridges workers in previous years put in to keep them from slipping.

Hou Kui tea has abnormally big leaves for a green tea. The pick for Hou Kui is a little later than some teas. You don’t want a bud that’s too tender or else you wont have enough flavor. Shunan is there relatively early in the season so a lot of the buds are still too young.

By 9:30 am the truck pulls back into the processing facility and baskets are once again unloaded from the back, but this time they are full of fresh tea leaves. After a careful sifting process, the teas are taken to be stir fried.

Stir frying is the mimportant step in green tea making.
When the tea leaf is plucked, enzymes inside of the leaf start to ferment. Greens teas are exposed to high heat right away to kill these enzymes, which in turn keep the leaf in its freshest state. In this village Shunan gets another lesson in stir frying tea. She has tried this in every region she goes to, but it is still a technique she has yet to master. Each Time you can hear the cool sizzling of the tea leaf burning. The trick, she is told, is to keep the tea moving and to always have your hand on tea so you don’t burn yourself.

The next step is what really makes Hou Kui processing unique, the hand pressing. Every single leaf is individually hand pressed to give it its long shape. To further press the tea they lay a cloth across the hand pressed tea and pull a roller over it. This is what gives Hou Kui those squared markings on the leaf. Though while sometimes faked, a checkered pattern on the leaf is a sign of hand made tea.

You can purchase Tai Ping Hou Kui here 

Things Get Wild at Dian Tuo

Yufei Weng

Thick in the middle of tea bushes, Shunan takes a step toward another plant hoping to spot a tender bud. Suddenly the ground below her gives way and she begins to slide down the slope. She reaches out for the closest thing to grab on to and is saved by a near by tea branch. For such a frail looking plant, tea bushes are deeply rooted and very sturdy. Shunan pulls herself up laughing and returns to the search for wild tea.

Tea picking is a physically demanding. The plants that produce the best tea can be lower to the ground or need a little bushwhacking to get to. For a lot of tea plants newer varieties have been created that while easier to pick and produce a better yield, don’t always taste as good.

The tea farmer don’t always have the facilities to produce white tea so often they sell the fresh leaves to buyers who can process them well. This goes on in a large, almost chaotic, outdoor market. A crowd of tea growers trying to sell their leaves at the best price while tea buyers try to get the most for their money.

Into the Fog. An Adventure at Lu Shan

Yufei Weng

Shunan sits on top of Lu Shan with a cup of tea looking over the fog which passes below her. The thick fog covers the earth below giving Shunan the feeling she could step off the mountain and walk to the peaks she sees in the distance.

The trek up Lu Shan was new for Shunan. An area she hasn’t been before, Lu Shan is one of the coldest tea regions she has visited due to the high elevation. Through the thick fog that rests on the path, you can hear the gentle crunch of ice slipping off the trees. This fog is what gives Lu Shan tea the title “fog tea”. In the past, scholars and rulers would make this trek to show their devotion to their job. A climb like this is not for the weak of heart.

Below the peak are the tea fields. The locals rate the tea by how foggy the growing area is; the foggier the better. Since the location is more north than most tea regions and at a higher elevation, the cold prolongs the tea from budding. The old variety is not picked till April 5th, which is the cut off date for picking other teas.

Lu Shan has both old variety and new variety teas. In this case though, the old variety gives a better yield then the new variety. While the government gives incentives to grow the new variety the locals secretly keep to the old variety.

You can buy the true origin Yu Wu at our online store