Drink Magazine

Tea Producing Provinces: Zhejiang

By Dchew78 @peonyts

Zhejiang, together with Fujian and Yunnan are the most important tea producing province in China. If diversity is your criteria, you would go with Fujian. If you’re arguing from the perspective of origin and history, you would go with Yunnan. But in terms of volume and value of production, you could make a very strong case for Zhejiang.

In 2006, Zhejiang produced 134,400 tons of tea valued at RMB 56.13 m. Out of which 50,000 tons and RMB 47.5 m are considered ‘quality tea’- i.e. non-commercial grade teas such as gunpowder and chun mei. To put it into perspective, 37% of the production accounted for 84.6% of the total value, not too far off the famous 80/20 rule.

Tea Producing Provinces: Zhejiang
As you probably might know, green tea is the most common category of tea produced and consumed in China. In terms of green tea, no other province matches Zhejiang’s importance. From the finest green tea- Xihu Longjing- to the commercial grade teas- gunpowder and chun mei- Zhejiang has it all.

Let’s start with the best- Xihu Longjing.

Xihu Longjing

Longjing aka Dragon Well is undisputedly the best known Chinese green tea. Throughout history, from Emperor Qian Long to author Lu Xun and Comrade Deng Xiao Ping, there is no shortage of famous Longjing lovers.

Originally Longjing was produced in the region surrounding Xihu in Hangzhou, known as Xihu Longjing. Till this day, Xihu Longjing, especially those produced in the region marked as Shifeng continue to be most valued for the Longjing productions.

Because of its fame, other areas of Zhejiang are major producers of Longjing as well. From Hangzhou to Xinchang and beyond, Longjing is virtually ubiquitous in the tea producing regions of Zhejiang.

(See more on the different types of Longjing)

Other Quality Green Teas

In Chinese tea writings relating to grading of green tea, it is usually broken down into 3 main categories- ‘Quality Green Teas’ (名优绿茶) , Gunpowder (珠茶) and ‘Mei cha’ (眉茶) of which ‘Chun Mei’ (珍眉) is the best known variety.

Within the Quality Green Tea category, Zhejiang doesn’t stop with Xihu Longjing though. Another well-known and beloved Zhejiang green is Anji Baicha or Anji White Tea. Despite its name, its production method is entirely the green tea method- i.e. ‘shaqing’ with no withering. (More on green tea production)

Another interesting green tea is the resurrected former historic tea, Kaihua Longding. From the Yinmaohou (Silver Monkey) to Qiandao Yuye, there are literally hundreds of varieties of green tea in Zhejiang.

Gunpowder and Chun Mei

At the other end of the spectrum are Gunpowder and the Meichas which for simplicity I will refer generically as Chun Mei. These are mass produced, largely machined picked and machine made teas, mainly for export or lower grade teas. Blended for consistency, you can think of these as the supermarket varieties in China.

Non-Green Teas

Tea Producing Provinces: Zhejiang
Though Zhejiang is predominantly green tea country, it does produce quite a fair bit of black tea as well, both in terms of quality and quantity.

In terms of the former, it doesn’t get any better for Zhejiang black teas than the Wuyi import Jiuqu Hongmei (Nine Bends Red Plum). This is grown in Hangzhou and locals often refer to Hangzhou as being famous for a green and a black- with the former of course being Longjing.

Then there are commercial grade black teas commonly referred to as Yuehong (Zhejiang Black). Many of these are summer harvest of green teas since summer harvest is generally more suited for black tea production- lower quality harvest and heat is more conducive for black tea production etc.

In Zhejiang there is a lesser known variety of yellow tea known as Wenzhou Huangtang as well as some production of scented teas although it is lower in regard compared with Fuzhou and to a lesser extent Guangxi.

See Xihu Longjing in stores

Read about other tea producing provinces here

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