There is nothing bad to fear, once you have crossed that threshold, all is well. Another world, and you do not have to speak.
That is pretty true, growing in the greenhouse is very fragile and big limitation. No one wants to be born bad but we can learn a lot from it and thus improve it.
Why that tea is bad?
Tea is not just a product, it’s a natural gift that make it happen by gifted people. The weather, the soil and the people, it’s all tea connected. Drought is a real threat to us this year, 6 months and only one raining. Some of the bad teas showed above are the result of this bad situation. These teas might drag you to the field, to face what we face, to think what we think, to thrill what we thrill and you are not just owning a tea.
In my philosophy, the most interesting part is how to embarking on the challenge, normally everything will be evolved after that. Let’s take a look at The Prometheus Drops, it’s the fight back of desperation, the image is still so clear in my head. That was a very comfortable day in late September, the temperature of early morning and night was about 20°C, under the sun it’s much higher, as high as 38°C, but because of the high altitude one will feel cool once go into the shadow. This is the perfect weather for White tea making, I had this idea, still have. So everything of tea processing went into common route, then 2 days later I found a problem, the moisture didn’t go out as usual thus the White tea characters didn’t show out clearly. Then I asked myself, if we continued this way, the final tea we had would be same as other 90% tea in the market, is that what I want? Sure it was not, we need to find a solution but firstly I gotta to find out what caused this trouble. After checking and talking, I found the 1st direct cause was the fresh leaves plucked, over half of them were very big, too much big which means too much moisture. I can not blame our pickers, as in the past they always got the job done perfectly, besides they are all on the grandma age, how dare I piss them off?! The deepest crime is the long time drought, it had not been raining for over 6 months. The tea plants can survive is indeed a miracle as I saw many many dead bushes there. They survived and grew by the chewing of dew, so tough plants.
So what should I do now? how could I revert this situation.
Misfortune got blessing from luck, luck hides misfortune in somewhere.
BC 571 by Lao Zi
That’s totally true, with wisdom and patience the bad can turn into good. Too much moisture is the bad, let’s make use of it, then I had to break the tea making rules and import Fermentation into White tea, so I got the tea rolled, fermented and finally roasted, that’s ridiculous if you show this to an old tea master who might angry and shouted “how dare you make white tea this way?” I do. I am a creator which means break rule sometimes.
Then how is the final tea? Don’t guess, try it I am sure you will get a little surprise. Enjoy the bad tea.
How many of these teas you ever tried? You may wonder why so many tea names are dragon connected, actually there are more, the Chinese people just can not stop loving dragon, it’s the representation of chasing for a better life.
Dragon Well is not just a tea name, it’s the name of spring water that locates in West Lake of Zhejiang Province. Thousand years ago people didn’t have so many solutions for drought and flood, they only way they can do is to pray.
Intriguingly this spring water never dry or overflow no matter how bad of the drought and flood, people believe it has a channel connected with the sea and there is a dragon king in the sea. Dragon King is not just a god, it also has the ability and responsibility for raining.
This spring water has been existed for thousand years, this tea has been called Dragon Well for thousand years too but it’s not the no.1 China tea until the Emperor Qian Long arrived.
Emperor Qian Long
In China, since BC 221 the first Emperor Qin unified the whole China, only him can ware or use anything has dragon image, the emperor claimed himself to be the son of god, embodiment of dragon.
After almost two thousand years later, the Dragon Well village welcomed a special guest, the sixth emperor of Qing Dynasty, Qian Long was a both civil and martial man, he liked this tea very much and wrote six poems for it, also eighteen bushes were knighted. From this time on, Dragon Well tea became more and more famous. I assume he might be very happy to meet another dragon as a dragon.
Paint the dragon
Can you imagine a dragon has no claws or horns? The dragon image we see now has a long time evolution, in the beginning it’s just a totem of tribes, when time moved to the cultivation era, it became god, a god of water but there were many many gods at that time.
The important time to distinguish it from others is the man mentioned above, the first emperor of China, from that time on, dragon began to have patent rights, it means power, noble and inviolable. According to the archaeological findings, the next dynasty Han started to have four claws then scales in the following dynasty Tang.
Phoenix and dragon
Emperor is dragon, in turn Queen is phoenix, they always come together, just like Yin and Yang. In Guangdong province, there is an Oolong named Phoenix Mountain Dan Cong, it’s said the plant seed was gifted by the phoenix.
Dan Cong means single bush, this tea was picked and processed one bush by one bush, different craft is applied to each bush as they are different, a very fine manufacturing. In this big machine time this might means insane but it helps to create remarkable quality, the most impressive character is strength of aroma, if it’s no.2 there is no no.1. Interestingly many styles of aroma available, the most famous one is Duck Shit Aroma.
Emperor tea man
Historically the most powerful tea man was emperor Zhao Ji who was the eighth emperor of Song dynasty, Da Guan Tea Comments is the book written by him. The first classic tea book was written by Lu Yu but the crown of most delicate belongs to this one.
He pushed forward the tea to the highest level in the entire China history even today, and the representative work is Dragon Ball Phoenix Cake (aka DBPC, Long Tuan Feng Bing) which is the origin of Wuyi Rock tea.
The minister would be very lucky to get one DBPC from the emperor, as this tea is not just monopolized by the emperor but indeed cost very very much. So almost everyone drinks tea, no matter rich or poor, high and low, still today a lot of people are studying the tea life in Song dynasty.
This is the first article of One Day One Tea series which walk you into a specific area of China with tea, food, people and stories. We hope to reveal the real life there for you beside the drink.
That would be the first word if you enter Wuyi Mountain or heard it’s listed as the World Cultural and Natural Heritage site in 1999.
Take a sip of the tea, you must be shocked how strong that it could be. So let’s talk about Big Red Robe, the most mysterious tea, which ever cured the Emperor and soldiers guarded, if you picked a leaf, you will be thrown into the prison.
Taiwan scientist Lin Fu Quan
Back to 1940s, because of Japanese aggression and bombing, the Fujian Tea Center moved to Wuyi Mountain, many tea scientists hence had the chance to close watch Rock tea including Mr. Lin Fu Quan who was named one of two key persons of Taiwan tea revival (another one is Mr. Wu Zhen Duo – the father of Taiwan tea).
Lin wrote the first technical tea book in 1943 (figure below) which completely documented the history, factory organization, processing craft and marketing channels, it’s regarded as the bible of Rock tea. Later in 1955 Lin wrote another book about Taiwan Oolong and Bao Zhong, it greatly promoted the development of Taiwan tea.
Lin clearly raised a point that Wuyi Rock tea can be divided into three classes according to their farm location:
Rock tea or Zheng Yan Cha: the top quality originated from core areas named Three Pits and Two Streams
River tea or Zhou Cha: Common quality originated from Wuyi but outside Three Pits and Two Streams
Outer tea or Wai Shan Cha: Tea comes out of Wuyi like neighbors Jian Yang and Jian Ou
Lin ever wrote a tea song introduce the goods of tea drinking:
民國茶葉先驅 – 林馥泉
Farmer Ms. Gong Ya Ling
Jin Jun Mei should be the most famous black tea in China, one of the co-creators is Ms. Gong Ya Ling who ever be one member of Wuyi Tea Bureau, a tea research institution. Ms. Gong later quit and found her company to achieve her perfect tea dream, all of her Rock teas including Big Red Robe have no fire and internationally organic certified.
Are we going to talk about how good of her tea? No, we are going to talk about how weird of her accent.
I come from the South of Fujian, we speak hokkien. Wuyi Mountain locates in the North of Fujian and they speak another local language. When she talks, even there is very nice tea in my cup, I can smell the Hokkien from her voice. So I asked, “Where do you come from?” with no surprise, she came from my hometown even left for over 40 years. Still there are many many Wuyi farmers speak Hokkien. She told me how she moved to here.
Historically almost all tea masters in Wuyi came from the South and workers came from neighbor city. As the South is close to the sea, people jumped onto the era of ocean trade and became the dominant power of tea business, they are very capable of change to adapt to the times. Wuyi local people just sticks with the tradition. Now guess who win? Both. Everything will change, to tea, the terroir and tradition will protect them and empower them.
Mr. Liu Shi Zhang – inheritor of intangible cultural heritage
Mr. Liu Shi Zhang is another story, he was born in Wuyi Mountain. Also he is nephew of a very famous tea man – Liu Bao Shun. When you arrived Sangu Resort of Wuyi Mountain, walk over the beautiful bridge under Da Wang Feng King of Peaks and maybe appealed by the croaking of frogs, you will be surprised to find out you are in a very old village, all old buildings are well protected and Mr. Liu’s home is at the end of the road.
Big Red Robe, Buddha Hand, Shui Xian, Rou Gui, Water Turtle, Half Sky Demon, many many tea bushes with name tag just sits on the roadside, through this path is a yard.
Liu owns a modern factory and persists in making the right style tea, the key of what is right is not in the hands of market but he believes in the hands of his ancestors, father and even his. The character is, the first second meet his tea, you will not be surprised or shocked but just ok, then more and more quiet smiles.
Liu is also a big gourmet, he introduced the most local food, Smoked Goose which is not just quite spicy also very aroma, oh man it uses Big Red Robe tea as the smoking material.
Stream fish is superb too. The whole area is very well protected, every spot of water is so clean and sweet, fish in there with no excuses to be so delicious. But the dish I like more is not in the stream but in the rice paddy field, every autumn when the rice turn yellow, you can take off shoes and catch the fish by yourself.
Mr. Wang Yong Zeng’s Inn
Wang doesn’t sell tea but runs an Inn close to Liu’s home, every night every dinner, there will be very crowd with diners, most of them do not get accommodation here.
To my surprise, I like the breakfast most, very simple, just rice porridge with fired peanut and steamed buns. I always eat too much of the rice porridge. One day I asked how to make such gorgeous rice porridge and he told me the secret. Also he told me how much work he put on finding how to make it. Nothing comes easy.
As he has many guests who runs tea factory, once he know you have such needs he will introduce them to you without hesitation. Here you can drink many top Big Red Robe tea for free too, a nice place to meet top teas from different factory.
Uncle Xue Feng don’t know tea
It’s true. Uncle Xue Feng thinks Big Red Robe is Red tea as the liquor is kind of red. As a man lived in the south of Fujian for over 70 years, he almost drinks tea every day. Every family has a Gongfu tea set here even the host doesn’t drink tea, as you will need it when there is a guest come. Normally there is some cookies too, or snacks or candy or home made salted fruits, all kids like that especially in the Spring Festival, the host will give each coming kid a red envelop with money inside, sometimes it’s fifty Yuan, one hundred Yuan although used to be just five Yuan or ten Yuan. All kids love to visit relatives along with parents even though they don’t like tea, the bitter tea.
In Uncle’s most life he drinks Tieguanyin only, some day I took a Big Red Robe to cup with him, his first response was “WOW Big Red Robe!” It’s an expensive tea in his mind even he hasn’t ever bought it. To him Big Red Robe is more than a tea name.
There are many articles available online about history of Jasmine tea if you Google, then why another post? The simple answer is I want to offer something that is useful for importers’ tea purchasing decision, so consumers can have more chance to buy good quality tea.
Besides although jasmine tea is a common table product, still there are some tricks you should know.
In 2019 the highest average price comes from Fuzhou which is 29USD/KG, the second is 17USD/KG from Qianwei, the third is 16USD/KG from Heng County and the last is 13USD/KG from Yuanjiang.
You may ask why the price has so huge difference? Aren’t they all jasmine tea? Are the reasons behind associated has affection to our purchasing? Let’s hit the fun part.
Industry SWOT analysis
SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis is a framework used to evaluate a company’s competitive position and to develop strategic planning. I am not going to present a long PPT but just borrow this word to spread some ideas.
best tea base and scenting craft
the answer for top jasmine tea
cheapest jasmine flower and mature industry system
in short of good tea base
most buying should come here
unique aroma and good quality flower
industry is small and decentralized
come for something not so common if time and money is not the thing
everything is not mature
the heaven for the real professional
The real professional here means you have the following skills:
Tea base processing
Understand the difference among Steaming, Pan Frying and Roasting
Raw leaf material from different regions, different varietals
Difference between different jasmine
Rational use of other flowers to decrease cost
Good communication with local people
That’s too much? Sorry it could be longer but I didn’t list them all, for example if the incoming flowers contain many immature buds and it’s raining outside, what would you do?
Fuzhou is the greatest ambassador of jasmine tea
All what you have seen now means something.
If we think of Fuzhou as a basketball player, it could be Kevin Durant of NBA who knows every offensive skill, scoring is not a problem at all. Fuzhou can conquer your taste without a hesitation, this ability comes from the Gene and long time experience.
Tea leaf is started as medicine, then food and lastly drink, so in 2000 years ago it’s reasonable to _eat_ tea along with other plants, but that’s just mixing, then after several hundred years, people started to drink this mixing, the most famous mixing record comes from Tea Classic written by Luyu in 758 BD.
Seems people enjoyed this mixing drink very much, they even added the dragon brain which is a plant spice called Borneol into the tea. The first one recorded complained this mixing is Cai Xiang in his famous book Cha Lu in 1049 BC. From this book we can see the spice was added in the process of tea manufacturing, that’s a big improvement compare to mix with finished tea.
The real tea scenting documented from a book written by Zhao Xihu in 1240, he described the process with step to step details but took Lotus as example:
Before sun arises, open the half open flower, put some tea into the stamen then bind up with hemp skin and let it be over night. Remember don’t pluck it but do it lively. Pour tea out next morning and roast it with paper wrapped. Repeat this process and finally show out a more than beautiful tea.
Lotus tea, this is really a beautiful name, also it can be done with Sweet clover, Riley, rose, rose mold, LAN Hui, bucket flower, stick, wood fragrance, plum blossom etc, also he presented how to scent with these flowers in porcelain jar:
By weight three teas one flower, one layer of tea covered by one layer of flower till fulfill the jar then seal it by paper and steam it in pot, after some time take out the tea, wrap it up again after cool down and make it drying by roasting.
That’s 781 years ago, they already knew how to do flower tea scenting but this kind of activity is for private use not a commodity trading in the market, but academically we can say jasmine tea has a history that is over 781 years.
New era of flower tea scenting
In Song Dynasty people has more experience with tea scenting, racing to the next Dynasty Ming, everything has a big leap, loose tea became the main trend (the emperor stopped compressed tea but loose tea instead), flower tea scenting skill also had big development. The famous tea book written by Money Spring Year in 1539 had very detailed description. In 1613 Xu Bo talked about Jasmine tea scenting in Fujian, that’s the earliest record about how Fujian people did jasmine tea scenting.
The next Dynasty follows Ming is Qing, between 1851 to 1861, jasmine tea had become a common commodity that has mass production. Around 1890 the tea were shipped to Fuzhou for scenting from around the country, Fuzhou was the center of jasmine tea production.
Processing craft of jasmine tea scenting
Firstly let’s clarify an important term about tea scenting, what is three Yin with one Ti?
As you know tea scenting is a repetition of several processing steps, every round include a final step Roasting to remove moisture, this whole around is called a Yin.
After that normally imply with a Yin but without roasting, and flower used need to be higher grade, this kind of final scenting is called Ti or Fly. Without roasting, the freshness can be reserved.
So Three Yin and one Ti is equal to 3 Scenting 1 Fly.
The full scenting map is:
Preparing tea base
Serving flower buds for blooming
Mixing tea with flowers
Opening the mixed pile once over 48°C
Removing flowers when scenting finished
Roasting tea to remove moisture
Repeating step 3 to step 6 for whatever times you want
Freshing it by repeating step 3 to step 5, this is Ti
How much time takes for this 3 scenting 1 fly?
The answer is 15 days, how could it takes so long? Let’s disassemble it and see what’s going on.
Roasting and cool down: 2~3 days
First scenting: 1 day
Roasting and cool down: 2~3 days
Second scenting: 1 day
Roasting and cool down: 2~3 days
Third scenting: 1 day
Roasting and cool down: 2~3 days
One fly: 1 day
If something bad like raining happen, the process needs to wait, so time cost could be longer.
In China, jasmine flower for tea scenting use is divided into three classes:
All above types belongs to Jasminum Sambac, there are over 200 species in the world, this Jasmium Sambac is the most widely used for tea scenting and also national flower of Philippines and Indonesia.
You may heard Pakistan’s national flower is jasmine too, you are right but this jasmine is not Jasminum Sambac, it is Jasminum officinale forma grandiflorum which is widely used as the material converted into Jasmine Concrete and Jasmine Oleoresin.
Back to Jasminum Sambac (jasmine in short), double flowers jasmine is the most widely used in China for tea scenting, it’s imported from Guangzhou in 1963, now it has many variants too, a famous one is Jin Jian Moli in Qianwei county. Heng County plants this double flowers jasmine only, over 95% is this type too in Fuzhou.
Fuzhou also has another uniqiue varietal called Fuzhou Varietal which is Simple Flower Jasmine, the aroma is not so strong compare to Double Flowers Jasmine, output is smaller too, also plantation management is much more difficult, BUT, but, this Simple Flower Jasmine has very quiet yet long lasting aroma, so normally for scenting high class tea, this Simple Flower Jasmine is used for the Fly while use Doulbe Flowers Jasmine for Yin.
This Simple Flower Jasmine also has another important varietal called Formosa varietal which was imported from Fuzhou in 1882, with the Taiwan soil it turned into something different from its ancestor, then in 1930 Mr. Chen Daokui brought it to its home Fuzhou, then slowly it changed to something different from Taiwan varietal too and become the what we called Fuzhou varietal.
In 1884 Sichuan started to introduce Jasmine plant from Fuzhou, 1938 Suzhou also introduced this plant from Fuzhou.
Then how about Multiple Flowers Jasmine? Its aroma is too weak, not valuable for tea scenting.
Heng county jasmine tea industry
First thing first, as Heng county is the biggest chance your jasmine tea come from, let me show you how to find the factories. You can find most jasmine tea suppliers in the South East Tea Town, almost all factories have a shop there, here are some details:
Name: South East Tea Town
Address: No.133 Zhong Shan Middle Rd., Hengzhou town, Nanning city, Guangxi Province
Also there is a trading market for Jasmine flowers where is neighbor to above tea town, all farmers come here with their jasmine flowers in bag to seek a buyer while all factories have a spot here for flower buying, here are the details:
Name: Hengxian Jasmine Market
Address: No.47 Longshou Rd., Chengbei District, Hengzhou county, Nanning city, Guangxi Province
So how to visit here? You can come by air or high speed train. Nanning Wuxu Int’ Airport (IATA: NNG; ICAO: ZGNN), from here it would take about two hours drive to the tea town, 154 Kilometers.
The High Speed Train Station of Heng county is under construction that will be ready in about 2026, so now the train station available is Nanning Train Station.
Heng County has jasmine history back to 400 BC but the start of jasmine tea scenting began from 1960s, at that time there was a govrenment controlled factory called Hengxian Tea Factory, they imported the scenting skills and plant from Fuzhou, after 1978 especially the Reform and Opening of Economic, the local government decided to focus on jasmine, in 2000 Heng county was rewarded as the Home of China Jasmine. The local industrial standard is also established for Jasmine Tea and Jasmine Tea Scenting Technical Regulations.
Can we just scent ONE kilogram tea? Any difference?
The good news is you can, even do it in your home as private hobby.
Back to factory, huge difference will appear given scenting 1kg and 1000kg, or let’s be more serious, 100kg and 1000kg. Different machine will be used, 100kg is a small quantity, so closed box alike roaster is used while open chain conveyor roaster is used for 1000kg. In closed roaster, the mixture can not go out freely, so the final aroma is repressive, you will get it if try our experimental tea.
Arising Star – Black tea Jasmine
All around the world when we talk about Jasmine tea we take Jasmine Green tea as an assumption, because Green tea especially the one uses Roasting as Drying method, it has the best flower aroma absorption ability and its character of clean and smooth has good coordination with jasmine aroma.
The Fujian Tea Research Center also invented a series of new varietals that not only has right quality for jasmine tea scenting but also has very good output, it’s the hybrid of Yunnan Big Leaf with Fuding Big White.
All these sounds nice but there is one problem trouble me all the time, that is the storage, it needs a big icebox to store this green tea stock, not just about the cost also about the quality change worries in transit especially for high end tea. So why not use black tea instead of green tea?
Previous experience shows out black tea doesn’t have good flower aroma absorption ability, that’s the reason. I dig more and found a way to increase the absorption ability much, to this end, we need to break the old rule on how to make black tea, we call the new one as Dancing Rule, here Oolong varietal is used as raw material, Leaf Dancing craft is used, also the tea fermentation level is adjusted too. This saves cost, saves worries and bring much enjoyment.
The best jasmine flower for tea scenting
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The truth of the real world is that not everyone born equally, we need to fight for it. In the jasmine flower world, they are not equal too from the perspective of a tea maker. So next question is which one is the best?
According to the Chinese traditional culture, the world is fulfilled with two forces – Yin and Yang which varies into six Qi in whole year, each Qi controls two months.
Scientifically speaking, perfume essential oil comes most from the highest temperature which is summer, between May to July, these time belongs to the Qi 少阳相火(Shang Yang Xiang Huo), the main character of this Qi is hot along with damp, short word is, at this time the jasmine flower could be very aromatic but humidity is also very high which harm the aroma absorption by teas while decrease the shelf life a lot too.
So we pick the end of summer and early autumn, that is July 25 – September 5, hot yet dry.
The origin of China Jasmine flower
If you have a Google then you will find many articles claim the jasmine plant in China can date back to Han dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) that was introduced to the nation from south east Asia via India. This conclusion is based on one book written by Ji Han in 304 AD, in this book Ji Han talked about Jasmine tea and confirmed it’s immigrated from other country to Guangzhou, but many of them ignored Ji Han also quoted a sentence as evidence of his saying, this quotation comes from a book called A Journey to South Yue written by Lu Jia, Lu Jia is the founding hero of Han Dynasty, here is the original saying from his book:
This book is full of beautiful and romantic description, thanks to him we still have the memory of such gorgeous place. Actually Lu Jia went there not for a vacation, he had a mission from his new emperor, to persuade the King of South Yueto surrender, that’s not an easy job, instead he had big possibility to be killed. South Yue is not a civilized region, they are irritable and impulsive, also there is a fact, South Yue is far away from the center China, many big rivers and mountains make it doesn’t easy to be conquered, so the King of South Yue can just rage on the hearing of Lu Jia and throw him out for the crocodile.
And Lu Jia knew that although no double he was very the talented man, so when he came across a mountain he made a wish, “if I can return with success, I will ware this mountain with brocade.” At that time brocade was bright and very beautiful cloth. He went into the South Yue and finally met with Zhao Tuo, the King of South Yue after three months waiting. Zhao Tuo asked a question, “how do I compare to your king?” That’s a very challenging question, Lu Jia successfully persuaded Zhao Tuo who even built a palace for him.
It’s time to get back, on the way to that mountain, Lu Jia remembered his wish, he wanted to do it but the mountain is too big and it seems impossible to have enough brocade, suddenly his genius brain got an idea, “plant flowers and cover it wholly.” Still today there is a tablet standing on the mountain telling this story.