Drink Magazine

The Vast World of Green Tea: How We Chose Our Lineup and the Ones That Got Away

By Dchew78 @peonyts

Green tea is a huge beast. Outside of China, most people probably can name at most 3-5 green teas and that includes Sencha and Gyokuro. However, in China alone there are literally hundreds of varieties of green teas (estimates place it close to 700) and new varieties emerge all the time.

If you take a look at any books on Chinese teas listings, as many as 50-70% of it will be filled with green tea varieties. Not exactly surprising considering it makes up 70% of the total volume of tea produced in China.

However for a tea merchant, it can be rather daunting to pare it down to a manageable figure. While we would like sell a huge staggering variety, it is not practical. The limited shelf life and finicky storage of green tea further accentuates the problem.

A look at typical tea shops probably show around 5-10 Chinese green teas, at least if we are referring to ‘pure teas’- those unadulterated by flavorings or additives.

Fame and Popularity

Certain teas pick themselves. By virtue of their fame, you expect to see them in any self-respecting shop.

Xihu Longjing and Dongting Biluochun are the first 2 that comes to mind.

Notwithstanding the fact that their fame leads to higher demand and as anyone who spent more than 10 minutes studying economics will attest, ceteris paribus higher demands results in higher prices.

Whether it is ‘possible’ Xihu Longjing and Dongting Biluochun to be purchased at those prices is a topic for another post.

In spite of the price, these remain popular and in our case were among the first few teas we looked for this year.

Jasmine pearl is another one, being a perennial favorite for its comforting floral aroma but while its price has been creeping up, it’s still some ways off from the first 2.


Xihu Longjing and Dongting Biluochun have a distinct roasted bean and fruity aroma respectively. They were also both wok-roasted green teas.

My observation is that baked greens have a less distinct aroma as compared to wok-roasted ones but has a longer lasting aftertaste. Both have their respective fan bases.

We turned to 2 popular baked green teas- Huangshan Maofeng (probably the 3rd best known Chinese green tea) and Taiping Houkui.

Huangshan Maofeng is pretty much a no-brainer. Its fame is just below Xihu Longjing and Dongting Biluochun. Coupled with its unique appearances and lingering sweetness, it is another common selection.

Taiping Houkui is one for those who love unique teas. It is huge, physically. In terms of the taste, it’s no slouch either.

Though it is a Top 10 Famous Chinese Tea, it is lesser known outside of China. Without fail though, when I show it to someone who has never had it- the reaction is that “It’ so big!”

Big on enjoyment as well- it’s perfect to cool down on a hot day.


Basically this explains why we pick Dafo Longjing. Prices of Xihu Longjing- genuine ones- are making it prohibitive for daily consumption.

Dafo Longjing from Xinchang has gradually gained prominence among tea drinkers with many respected tomes listing it in addition to Xihu Longjing, essentially giving it the recognition it deserves. Qiantang Longjing, Yuezhou Longjing etc though are seldom listed.

At a fraction of the price, Dafo Longjing is able to cater to the market segment who wants a delightful everyday tea that won’t break the bank.

The ones that Got Away

There are some varieties we would have liked to carry but for various reasons it was not possible.

The first is a familiar favorite Xinyang Maojian. I liked the roasted chestnut aroma and affordability of it. Unfortunately it was timing. Unlike the rest of the green teas, harvesting of Xinyang Maojian only commenced in late April. By that time, a combination of the bird flu outbreak and a focus on the oolong harvest rendered it quite difficult for us to source for a new Xinyang Maojian of good quality- the better ones usually sell out pretty fast.

Hence we were force to give it a miss this season.

Another green tea that intrigues me is Anji Baicha aka Anji White Tea. It is so named because of the appearance of the leaves but in terms of processing, it is definitely a green tea.

It intrigues me because the amino acid content is almost twice of a typical green tea, giving it a unique taste. That would be a distinctive green tea offering in our lineup.

One final piece of the puzzle is Enshi Yulu, a steamed green tea, quite similar to gyukuro.

For Anji Baicha and Enshi Yulu, I had not managed to find a suitable one at the price range I had hoped for.

Oh well, that is what next spring is for.

There are still plenty of quality offerings this spring


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