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Tea from China
China was the birthplace of tea and the primary world supplier until the 19th century; it now ranks second behind India.
Plantations are mainly found in the southern and central provinces. For a long time, they were managed at the regional level by an exclusive central body, which was responsible for selling the entire region's production. When Deng Xiao Ping came to power, trade was liberalized, which led to the emergence of many private companies and put plantations and importers in direct contact with each other.
On the strength of its centralized past, China, unlike India and Sri Lanka, does not offer products from specific plantations but rather large, well-defined "denominations" for each type of tea which correspond to quality standards.
China’s tea-producing regions have a moderate wet climate with rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year. In addition, many plantations are situated on hillsides with constant low clouds, which gives the leaf the high moisture content crucial to the quality of green teas. The main harvest, which is both the best and the most abundant, takes place from mid-April to mid-May.
Offering the best
Quality standards are particularly applicable to black teas, which are mainly reserved for export and produced on a very large scale. This makes it even easier to achieve a consistent quality by blending many batches. Green teas, especially the most prestigious ones, are often produced in much smaller quantities, making them rare teas for which it is sometimes difficult to achieve the same quality from one year to the next.
To appreciate all their delicacy and freshness, these green teas should be drunk while they are still "new season", in other words in the 8 to 10 months following the harvest. That is why Le Palais des Thés has decided to adopt the same buying policy for these green tea denominations that it uses for spring Darjeelings. Every year, our experts visit plantations in Anhui, Fujian, Zhejiang, Yunnan, Jiangsu and Sichuan to select the best teas of the moment and send them as quickly as possible to France.
This selection, renewed once a year, is usually available from June onwards, with the exception of air-freighted teas which are sold from May, just a few weeks after the leaves are plucked.
Although rare nowadays, these teas were extremely popular during the Song dynasty. They are, however, still available in small quantities in Fujian Province. The leaves have not undergone any processing, but have simply been allowed to dry for almost three days. They have a very low tannin content and need to be brewed for a long time. One such tea, Aiguilles d'Argent, made up entirely of buds, is plucked once a year over a two- to three-day period. This explains why it is one of the most expensive teas in the world.
Green tea, the daily drink of the Chinese people, accounts for 80% of total production, with a large portion reserved for domestic consumption. It is grown primarily in the mountainous, humid Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian and Guanxi regions. The leaves can be folded, twisted, rolled lengthwise (needles) or made into balls or other shapes. These teas are characterized by their freshness, their greenness and their long-lasting flavor in the mouth. As a general rule, they should be infused for 3 minutes.
Le Palais des Thés offers:
- about 10 prestigious teas per year, chosen from among hundreds of exclusive teas produced in China in small quantities. Extremely fresh and of an exceptional delicacy, they are replaced from year to year in line with new recommendations and, for maximum enjoyment, should be consumed early season, within 8 to 10 months of plucking.
- the best-known teas in China year round.
These also include teas which the Chinese call blue-green. These teas, which have long, pale leaves before treatment and a low caffeine content, are processed using three types of fermentation:
These low-caffeine teas are perfect for late afternoon or evening. They are highly regarded by traditional Chinese medicine: they are thirst-quenching, calming and aid digestion of fatty foods. Wu Long (oolong) teas can be prepared in a traditional teapot using 0.35 to 0.7 oz / 10 to 20 g of tea for 34 fl oz / per liter of water and should be allowed to infuse for 7 to 8 minutes. They can also be enjoyed using the Gong Fu Cha method in tiny teapots which are filled with leaves and allowed to infuse for 30 to 60 seconds. Very high-quality semi-fermented teas can be infused several times without spoiling the taste.
The birth of black tea in China is very mysterious. No one knows exactly what led the Chinese to start fermenting tea after producing only green tea for centuries. According to one legend, black tea was the accidental result of a cargo of green tea that fermented during an overly long sea crossing. After reaching its destination, its recipients were quite pleased with the tea, went on to recommend it, and the rest is history . Whatever the case, black teas are mainly produced for export. They come from the Yunnan, Anhui, Fujian, Jianxi and Sichuan regions.
Produced in Fujian Province, these teas are obtained from Souchong leaves (low, large leaves), which are smoked with spruce tree roots. Very low in caffeine, they are suitable for any time of day and can be drunk with meals or savory breakfasts.
Produced very erratically, these are extremely rare teas which Le Palais des Thés is able to buy during certain years. When this happens, the teas are presented under our Grands Crus heading.
These teas, from Yunnan Province, have been fermented in piles under a damp cloth to maintain a degree of humidity greater than 85%. Pu-Ehr teas are usually put through this process several times.
Tea from Japan