Saturday, October 13, 2012

Guest Post: Fujian Province - The Mecca of Chinese Tea

Today I'm featuring a guest post written by my friend Derek Chew of Peony Tea Shop. He's an excellent writer and very knowledgeable.

Fujian Province- The Mecca of Chinese Tea

To single out any tea producing province for special mention is tricky; after all there are 18 main tea producing provinces in China.You could jointly make a case for Yunnan-Sichuan-Chongqing since there is quite a bit of historical and scientific evidence to suggest that these provinces were the original birth place of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Making the case of volume would be tricky, since Fujian and Zhejiang frequently jostle for pole position. In terms of size of tea fields, it would be Yunnan (at least at point of writing).

Making the case for Fujian (not that there is any prize to be won) I would argue from 2 aspects:
  1. Birthplace of 3 categories of Tea
  2. Global Influence
Birthplace of 3 categories of tea

Of the 6 basic categories of tea- green, white, yellow, oolong, black and dark (also known as post-fermented) tea- 3 of them are believed to have originated from Fujian province.

Most researchers believe the first black tea originated from Tong Mu Guan in Wuyishan, Fujian which is what is often known in the western world as Lapsang Souchong. Wuyishan or Anxi- both located in Fujian- are often held up to be the originator of oolong or wulong tea. Moving eastward, we have Fuding which is the birthplace of the white tea.

With 3 out of the 6 basic categories of tea originating in Fujian, it is hard to argue against its importance towards the tea industry. In fact, even today, white tea and oolong tea are predominantly produced in Fujian province.

Depending on where you stand on scented tea- Fuzhou, Fujian produces the bulk of top grade jasmine tea in China as well. Hence, in terms of diversity, no other province comes close to Fujian.

Global Influence

How influential is Fujian on the global tea landscape? For starters the word ‘tea’ originated from the Fujian dialect pronunciation of the Chinese word (cha), which of course means tea. Xiamen (or Amoy as it was known then) was also one of the early export ports of tea way back in the 17th and 18th century.

Closer to today- the 20th century to be exact- Chinese of Fujian descent were among the first waves of Chinese immigrants, settling down in South East Asia as the Sino-Japanese and Chinese civil wars devastated the nation.

Among the many influences the migrant Chinese community- especially the Fujian and Guangdong people- had on their new countries was the love for tea, particularly tea popular in those 2 provinces. Consequentially, Fujian (and Guangdong) teas- noticeably Tieguanyin, Shuixian and Jasmine Tea- quickly became staples of Chinese tea in overseas communities.

Of course when you brew a pot of Tieguanyin, Wuyi Yancha, Huang Jin Gui, Silver Needles, Jasmine Tea or so many of the wonderful varieties of Fujian tea, you might be inspired to make a case on its gastronomic merits, I know I would.

Author bio:
Derek Chew has never met a well-made oolong tea he didn’t adore and counts Wuyi Yancha, Tieguanyin and Phoenix Dancong among his favorites teas.

Disclaimer: Derek Chew owns and operates Peony Tea S.- an online tea shop selling oolong tea, green tea among other categories of Chinese tea but his ancestors came from Guangdong province, not Fujian.