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The Top 10 Most Famous Chinese Teas

Tea has existed for thousands of years. It was first discovered in ancient China, and ever since it has found itself as an ever-presence among the Chinese people. As an inseparable part of Chinese culture, people from all over this vast country have come to produce some of the highest quality and most exquisite teas in the world.

Naturally, with hundreds of even thousands of varieties available, some Chinese teas have reached a cult-like status. Such teas are listed repeatedly on “China Famous Tea” lists, and are among the most respected in China and around the world.

Here we seek to give you an introduction to these most famous of Chinese teas.

How many have you tried?

The famous Chinese tea, Long Jing (Dragon Well)

1. Long Jing (Dragon Well)

An incredible imperial tribute tea from around West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Long Jing (龙井 in simplified Chinese) is one of the world’s most recognisable Chinese teas, with high quality examples displaying long, flat-style whole leaves in yellow-green colour.

This Chinese tea has an incredibly vast history that spans over 1,200 years, in which it has been produced mostly by hand. Long Jing can vary from affordable to very expensive depending on the exact variety, and as such it has remained accessible to much of Chinese society.

These factors have all contributed to its proud bearing of the China Famous Tea title, not to mention the fact that it has been considered among the top 3 Chinese teas for decades.

Of course, what constitutes a genuine Long Jing is a hot topic. Since 1998 the Long Jing name has been under the protection in the UK and the EU as a Protected Designation of Origin. According to this law, authentic Long Jing can only come from Zhejiang Province in China. However some are even more restrictive, and consider only varieties of Long Jing made from around the West Lake region in Hangzhou, Zhejiang to be genuine.

The colour of the liquor is a light yellow peach, and the aroma of chestnuts can be enjoyed. When tasting an authentic Long Jing, one is enamoured by the sweet, rounded, and mellow flavour. Depending on the variety you might encounter distinct buttery chestnut notes or refreshing grassy vegetal ones – it is a delicate tea with complex processing and many secrets to its taste.

Others have noted that especially fine Long Jing teas have a full umami taste with an extremely mild astringency, and a lasting malty aftertaste – one that can be enjoyed long after the final sip.

 

Brewing

Long Jing can withstand 2 – 3 brews. Our recommendation is to start with the parameters below and then add another 30 to 40 seconds for each brew after that.

Tea / Water Ratio

1 – 2 tsp : 250ml water
Use closer to 2 teaspoons for a bolder flavour, and 1 teaspoon if you find this a little strong.

Steeping Time

1 – 2 mins, to taste.

Temperature

75°C – 80°C (167°F – 176°F)
Long Jing is a very delicate Chinese tea, so exceeding 80°C (176°F) is not recommended.

The famous Chinese tea, Huangshan Maofeng

2. Huangshan Maofeng (Huangshan Fur Peak)

Huangshan Maofeng (黄山毛峰 in simplified Chinese) is a gorgeous and slender green Chinese tea produced near Huangshan (lit. Yellow Mountain) in the south-eastern interior of Anhui Province. It gained the name Maofeng for the downy white hairs that adorn its finished tea leaves. The shape of this tea bears some similarity to other needle-like teas such as Baihao Yinzhen.

This supreme green tea is so highly regarded that the Chinese Department of Foreign Affairs will present it to foreign dignitaries of importance. It is found on almost every China Famous Tea list for its universal appeal, subtle flavours, and skilful processing.

The highest quality versions of this Chinese tea are plucked at a ratio of just one leaf to a bud, with the smallest buds producing the best tea. Its producers have farms that vary from sea level to about 800 metres in altitude, and instead of being pan-fried like many Chinese green teas, it is dried out using an oven, giving it a unique flavour profile.

Huangshan Maofeng is a softly spoken Chinese tea – it creates a pale liquor in the cup which exudes a light but beautiful floral aroma. Flavour overtones are fruity and sweet, reminding one especially of stone fruits, and accompany further grassy, vegetal notes. Buttery smooth on the palate and imparting minimal astringency, it then leaves a lightly sweet aftertaste as its farewell.

 

Brewing

Different flavours can be extracted across multiple cups when one steeps this tea up to 3 – 4 times, however the brewing time must be increased for subsequent brews. Because of Huangshan Maofeng’s light nature, it is recommended to experiment with brew time and the amount of leaves used. This is very much an art.

Tea / Water Ratio

2 tsp : 250ml
Try more tea leaves if you aren’t finding your brew flavoursome enough.

Steeping Time

2 – 3 mins
If you use a very high proportion of tea leaves to water, you may want to reduce the steeping time below 2 minutes.

Temperature

80°C – 85°C (176°F – 185°F)
75°C (167°F) can be used, but may be a little weak. Don’t brew higher than 90°C (194°F).

The famous Chinese tea, Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail Spring)

3. Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail Spring)

Bi Luo Chun (碧螺春 in simplified Chinese) was first ranked the top green tea in the country in the late 1800s by the Encyclopedia of China, and has commanded attention by never once falling from the top 3 ever since. The tea is revered for its unique curly appearance, delicate white hairs, and complex fruity notes.

Interestingly, Bi Luo Chun is not this tea’s original name. The tea was originally known as Xia Sha Ren Xiang (吓煞人香), or Scary Fragrance. This was because of an old Chinese tea legend that tells us of a tea picker who didn’t have enough space left in her basket. She began to store extra leaves in between her breasts, but they became warm from her body heat, and created a strong aroma that shocked her.

Much later, a Kangxi Emperor visited the village and fell in love with this Scary Fragrance tea, but decided it deserved a more elegant name. Thus, “Green Snail Spring” tea came to be.

Another interesting fact is the terroir in which this tea is grown. Tea plants whose leaves are destined to become Bi Luo Chun are grown in between tea trees, which keeps the biodiversity of the area higher but also helps to impart the tea’s signature scent.

Bi Luo Chun creates a yellowish-green liquor in the cup and has an incredible fruity floral aroma that also imparts a certain charcoal toastiness. Far from being disagreeable (or scary!), this aroma is actually pleasantly complex. Its flavour is fruity but mellow, imparting a tender but soft taste that is extremely refreshing. A truly outstanding Chinese tea!

 

Brewing

Do not brew this tea normally! It is too delicate. Instead, pour water into the brewing vessel and then sprinkle Bi Luo Chun over the top, allowing it to gently float down to the bottom. Pouring hot water directly onto this Chinese tea will cause the flavour to become unpleasant.

Bi Luo Chun may offer you 3 – 5 infusions depending on your taste, as long as you continually increase the steeping time.

Tea / Water Ratio

1 – 2 tsp : 250ml

Steeping Time

1 – 2 minutes for the first infusion, to taste.

Temperature

80°C (176°F)

The famous Chinese tea, Baihao Yinzhen (Silver Needle)

4. Baihao Yinzhen (Silver Needle)

Baihao Yinzhen (白毫银针 in simplified Chinese) is the most prized and expensive variety of Chinese white tea. To create a genuine Baihao Yinzhen, or Silver Needle as it is commonly called in English, one must use only Da Bai (Big White)-derived tea tree cultivars. It is made in both Fuding and Zhenghe Counties of Fujian Province, China.

The yield for this special Chinese tea is very small. Only the very topmost unopened buds of the Chinese tea plant are hand-picked to produce the tea, which is an incredible amount of work and requires highly skilled pickers to pluck the tea selectively without damaging it. To make things even more complicated, it can only be plucked on a sunny morning, after the dew has dried away from the trees. The yield for Baihao Yinzhen won’t exceed more than 50g per picker per day.

Baihao Yinzhen creates a beautiful crystal clear straw-coloured infusion that imparts the aroma of freshly cut hay upon the senses. When drunk, the taste is light, decorated with fruits, and has a pleasant smokiness. The aftertaste is sweet and clean and will remain with you after finishing the tea.

There is only one other tea that Baihao Yinzhen’s flavour profile may be compared to: Bai Mudan. But even then, Bai Mudan does not carry Baihao Yinzhen’s delicate sweetness, and has a far fuller flavour.

 

Today, in addition to the Chinese offering, we also have a fantastic and unique Silver Needle produced in Indonesia. This high quality tea has its own characteristics and we highly encourage you to try both of them!

Brewing

Try not to pour water directly on Baihao Yinzhen’s leaves to protect its silvery white down. Instead, let water run gently down the side of your brewing vessel.

Tea / Water Ratio

2 – 6 tsp : 250ml
Start with a smaller number of teaspoons, then work up if you find the flavour weak. Keep in mind that Baihao Yinzhen’s rigid form and unique shape is going to alter what a teaspoon can hold – a lot.

Steeping Time

Up to 5 mins

Temperature

75°C – 85°C (167°F – 185°F)
There is a fair amount of contention about the ideal brew temperature for this Chinese tea; we recommend that you start at 80°C (176°F) and then to adjust higher or lower, to taste.

The famous Chinese tea, Qimen Hong Cha (Keemun)

5. Qimen Hong Cha (Keemun)

Qimen Hong Cha (祁门红茶 in simplified Chinese), or Keemun as it is usually known in English, is a newer variety of black Chinese tea that first began production 1875. It quickly became popular in the west for it delectable aroma and smooth taste, and has appeared prominently on China Famous Tea lists ever since. It is a favourite of black tea blenders.

Keemun’s name is derived from the Qimen region of Anhui Province, which is where it is produced. Despite the region’s name being pronounced more like chi-mun, it’s English Romanised name became Keemun until it was later corrected. However, the tea was already famous, and so its name remained.

Keemun was first created by Yu Ganchen in 1875. Unsuccessful in his attempts to earn a living through civil servantry, he decided to leave his home in Qimen County for Fujian Province, where he learned as much as he could about black tea production. Yu then returned to Qimen County to make his own black tea. At the time Anhui Province had only ever produced green teas, but Yu’s new black tea proved to be hugely popular throughout the province, and quickly became highly sought after.

When brewed, Keemun exudes a wonderful smoky aroma from its gorgeously deep crimson red liquor. Not content with just smoke, the aroma also imparts exotic floral and stone fruit notes. Keemun’s taste is similar to its aroma – that is, fruity and floral with some depth – while also being irresistibly smooth and mellow, with almost zero astringency. It’s easy to understand why it became one of the west’s favourite Chinese teas!

 

You can also try our Special Release Keemun Black Snail.

Brewing

Keemun is a great Chinese tea that is generally easy to brew as long as you use water just under boiling. We recommend steeping for less time, trialling it, and then working up to a longer steep depending on your desired strength.

Most styles of Keemun will stand up for 3 – 5 steeps as long as you increase the steeping time for each brew. Increasing by thirty seconds is a good rule of thumb, provided your first brew was the desired strength.

Tea / Water Ratio

1 – 2 tsp : 250ml

Steeping Time

2 – 5 mins

Temperature

90°C – 95°C (194°F – 203°F)

The famous Chinese tea, Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe)

6. Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe)

Da Hong Pao (大红袍 in simplified Chinese) is a Wuyi Rock oolong tea from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, China. Known as the King of Tea for its rarity and unbelievable quality, it is revered all over China.

There are actually three types of Da Hong Pao. The first type is Mother Tree Da Hong Pao. You cannot get this. Almost no one can get this. There are only 6 mother Chinese tea trees in existence in Wuyi Rock, and they are so historically and culturally significant that the Wuyi government banned picking from them in 2006. In 2005, an auction sold just 20 grams of the tea for ¥208,000 yuan, which was equivalent to over $25,000 USD at the time.

Once the ban on harvesting from the mother trees came into effect, one final batch of Mother Tree Da Hong Pao was collected and given to the Palace Museum in Beijing for safekeeping.

The second type is Purebred Da Hong Pao. This Chinese tea is harvested from the leaves of trees derived from the cuttings of the six mother trees, is very high quality and can be quite expensive. However, it is a beautiful tea and worth every cup.

The final type is Commodity Da Hong Pao. This is actually a blended tea combined from a few different Wuyi Rock teas, and does not come from the mother trees or any of their offshoots. It was originally put together as a way to deal with soaring demand for Purebred Da Hong Pao, and was very popular with consumers.

As for tasting notes, a good Da Hong Pao brews up into bright and clear sunny orange-yellow liquor. It’s aroma is orchid-like and its taste is full of deep, complex and delicious notes, like stone fruits, nuts, and brown sugar. It is an incredibly smooth Chinese tea on the palate and leaves a beautiful chocolatey aftertaste.

There’s a lot to say about Da Hong Pao. Check out the BBC’s story on this Chinese tea, The Drink that Costs More than Gold.

 

Brewing

Da Hong Pao can be infused up to an incredible 9 times. Be sure to increase your steeping time each round according to taste.

Tea / Water Ratio

1 – 2 tsp : 250ml

Steeping Time

2 – 3 minutes initially, may go up to 3 – 6 minutes or longer in subsequent steeps.

Temperature

80°C (176°F)

The famous Chinese tea, Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess of Mercy)

7. Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess of Mercy)

Tieguanyin (铁观音 in simplified Chinese) is an oolong Chinese tea that comes from Anxi, Fujian Province, although it is also produced in other areas of China as well as Taiwan. It is a tea type with its own cultivar (also called Tieguanyin) and, uniquely, it can be harvested in any season (although winter-harvested Tieguanyin is relatively rare). The best Tieguanyin in quality tend to be harvested during the in-between seasons, spring and autumn.

There are many different varieties of Tieguanyin, ranging from affordable to quite expensive. One even set the record for being the most expensive tea ever sold in the UK, at an eye-watering $3,000 per kilo. While this doesn’t come close to the prices seen in Mother Tree Da Hong Pao, it is still a very solid achievement for a tea, and demonstrates Tieguanyin’s appeal among connoisseurs and collectors.

There is a surprisingly wide variety of makes of Tieguanyin, which vary in oxidation level, the amount of roasting done, and flavour profile. Possible flavour notes include those of roast, fruits and nuts, cream, sweet honey, floral, and vegetal – sometimes even rocky or mineral notes. You’ll find that with less oxidation and less roasting you’ll get closer to those green tea-like vegetal notes, and more will push the Tieguanyin towards those toasty, nutty notes.

While many Tieguanyin are quite different from each other, they all share their leaf shape: Tightly-rolled balls with the branches removed.

 

Brewing

Brewing Tieguanyin can be as complex as the tea itself, as the ideal parameters are highly dependent on the amount of oxidation and roasting. In general, we recommend higher temperatures for darker Tieguanyins and maybe going somewhat lower than the recommendation below for greener varieties. Experiment with steeping time gradually until you find what works.

Remember, you can always steep for longer if your steeping time was too short and the tea too weak! But you cannot unsteep tea. It’s always better to give the tea a taste test after two minutes and then every minute or so if you want to avoid wasting any liquor.

Tea / Water Ratio

2 tsp : 250ml

Steeping Time

2 – 5 minutes

Temperature

90°C – 95°C (194°F – 203°F)

The famous Chinese tea, Taiping Houkui (Peaceful Monkey King)

8. Taiping Houkui (Peaceful Monkey King)

Taiping Houkui (太平猴魁 in simplified Chinese) is an incredible green tea that is frequently found on China Famous Tea lists. It is picked from the Shidaye (柿大葉) Camellia Sinensis varietal, which produces exceptionally large, long leaves, and is found only within Anhui Province. Taiping Houkui is a type of Jian Cha (尖茶), or green tea with a sharp, pointed shape. It has been known as The King of Tea since 2004, when it won the namesake award at the China Tea Exhibition.

Taiping Houkui derives part of its name from the former Taiping Province in China, which is occupied by present-day Anhui Province. The other part is derived from a Mr. Wang Kui Cheng of Hou Kang Village, who is credited for his original creation of the tea from the particularly strong tea bushes he had growing on his tea farm.

Unlike other types of Chinese tea, Taiping Houkui is plucked twice. It is first taken from the bush at a 1 bud to 3-4 leaves ratio, then plucked again within the factory so that only 1 bud and 2 leaves remain. This painstaking process is done by hand and greatly increases the plucking time, but allows for a higher quality tea to be made, with less damage to the leaves. There are also stringent quality requirements for the plucked leaf, including the exclusion of leaves that are not the right size, too pale, somewhat purple, buds that are bent or otherwise curved, leaves that are too wide, etc.

Upon first brewing, the first thing one notices is the beautiful orchid scent. Unlike a “typical” Chinese green tea, its flavour has little display of bean-like or nutty flavours, and instead imparts a smooth, sweet and refreshing liquor. The flavour itself is very clean with a velvety mouthfeel. Fresh and grassy with a sweet, long-lasting aftertaste.

 

Brewing

Please note that Taiping Houkui’s shape may mean that you see a lot of tea per gram. This is normal – use the recommended number of grams regardless. It has a lot of surface area compared to other teas and this is part of what makes it unique. If you brew by eye and use much less tea than recommended, the tea may be quite weak to taste. We recommend you weigh the leaves with an appropriately sensitive scale.

If you use a Gaiwan Gongfu method to steep, you may get up to 4 steeps out of one serve of Taiping Houkui. The typical brewing method listed below will likely yield a few less.

Tea / Water Ratio

3 grams : 170 – 200ml

Steeping Time

1 – 3 minutes

Temperature

70°C – 80°C (160°F – 176°F)

The famous Chinese tea, Lu'an Gua Pian (Lu'an Melon Seed)

9. Lu’an Gua Pian (Lu’an Melon Seed)

Lu’an Gua Pian (六安瓜片 in simplified Chinese) is an excellent Chinese green tea produced throughout history, with records that go as far back as the Cha Jing, or The Classic of Tea, which was written by the Buddhist monk Lu Yu (733 – 804 CE). It was very notably highly favoured by Empress Dowager Cixi of the late Qing dynasty, who effectively wielded power over the Chinese Government from 1861 until 1908. It is known as one of the oldest teas in China, with a long and storied history.

Lu’an Gua Pian comes from Lu’an City in Anhui Province, within the Da Bie mountains. To get to the plantations that grow the leaves for this tea, one must trek through winding bamboo forests, around great lakes, and a number of small villages.

Interestingly, and unlike most other Chinese teas, Lu’an Gua Pian does not utilise the bud. Pluckers wait until late April to begin the harvest and only take one leaf from each stem, commonly the second, but sometimes the third or fourth. Even more unusually, the veins of each leaf are removed during processing, which as you can imagine is a pretty painstaking process just to produce one tea, but that is part of what makes it special. This Chinese tea gets its Melon Seed name from the shape of the fully processed leaves, which have a flat and oval shape and resemble melon seeds.

A light vegetal aroma complicated by a floral fruitiness permeates the air around the brewed tea, and it offers a bright, lively, and cleanly-coloured liquor. When drunk, its mature leaves offer a thick and creamy body, characterised by sweet nutty notes and grain, with a distinct roasted taste. It is an incredibly distinct Chinese tea and frequently ranks among the top 3 China Famous teas.

 

Brewing

This tea can offer multiple infusions. Increase the steeping time gradually for each. Be careful not to use water that is too hot, or it will ruin the beautiful taste.

Tea / Water Ratio

2 tsp : 150ml

Steeping Time

2 – 3 mins

Temperature

80°C – 85°C (176°F – 185°F)

 

10. Sheng Puerh

Sheng Puerh (普洱茶 in simplified Chinese, literally raw tea) is an incredibly unique type of fermented Chinese tea that comes in a number of different forms, but is most commonly recognised as coming in the Bing Cha form, a 357 gram rounded cake (it also comes in other shapes and sizes, as well as loose leaf). Puerh tea is geographically marked and can only come from Yunnan Province in China despite processing; any other location and the result is known as Dark Tea.

Within Yunnan, Sheng Puerh is incredibly popular. Many provinces in China only drink tea from their own province and thus there are many Yunnan people who have only been drinking Puerh for their entire lives. Sheng Puerh is also an incredibly diverse category; the addition of the fermentation technique allows for a great deal more variation in flavours depending on a variety of factors, as well as the length of time the tea has been aged.

Unlike other teas, age is a big factor in Sheng Puerh. Microbial processes within the tea cause fermentation over a period of many, many years, resulting in a flavour that develops considerably over time. Much like a fine wine, certain aged sheng puerhs can fetch a very high price at auctions.

Sheng puerh tends to be more like a green tea than its Shou Puerh cousins, but it can present with a rainbow of flavour profiles depending on terroir, age, processing – you name it. It would be almost disingenuous to give a flavour profile to all specimens here, as they can be so different from each other. As such, we’ll leave you to discover the tastes of Sheng Puerh for yourself.

 

Brewing

If your tea has come in the form of a compressed cake, you should use a puerh knife to break off a piece or two, depending on the amount you’d like to use.

Puerhs in particular like to showcase their individuality. Play around with these values until you get a result that you like.

Tea / Water Ratio

3 grams : 250ml

Steeping Time

1-2 minutes – keep your steeps short initially and then lengthen them, as puerh can often be brewed a great many times.

Temperature

85°C – 90°C (185°F – 194°F)

Try our huge range of famous Chinese teas today

The teas we’ve listed here are among the most famous in China, but the amazing and complex world of Chinese tea doesn’t end there. Take a look at our great tea range and discover for yourself the dazzling and complex world of tea.

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