Chinese Tea at Oversea

Below are a number of terms , both old and new , that one may encounter in connection with tea, including some names not our regular Chinese listing:

It should be noted that for promotion purposes, many non-Chinese companies borrow names form Chinese teas, such as bohea, Congou, Hyson, Souchong, Chunmee, sowmee, pekoe, Keemun etc... Such labels may contain little or no tea of Chinese origin.

Assam    Tea produced in Assam, in northern India. The most poetic description we have heard comes form Michael Spillane, manager of the G.S. Haly Co., tea importers of Redwood City, California. He calls it a bold, dark beverage, almost viscous , like cream, a "round " cup, a heavy beverage with no bite like Darjeeling. It is the base for Irish Breakfast Tea.

Bohea    From Wuyi, the name of a range of mountains that run along the western border of Fujian Province. The Dutch were the first to bring to Europe Chinese tea which they got in Java. This tea's name was probably prefaced by its place of origin, as it is today, so when "Wuyi ... tea" was introduced to Europe , the name carried over -- in this form. Originally Bohea (rhymes with Little Mohee) referred to high -grade black tea from Fujian. Later it came to mean a lesser grade of black . The term is rarely used today.

Broden Grude    The leaves have been crushed under a roller into smaller pieces, usually sold in tea bags. They yield their flavor more quickly than full-size leave.

Caravan    Blend of Chinese Lapsang Souchong and Indian black tea, used only by non-Chinese .

Chrysanthemum Tea    This is the only non-Camellia "tea" listed. It is included because it is sold by tea exporters and frequently associated with tea. It consists entirely of the pale yellow blossoms dried and infused like tea. The book Chinese Medicinal Herbs lists numerous pharmacological uses.

Congou    Produced "Kongoo" in the United States. From the Chinese word gongfu (kungfu, also the English trasliteration of the term for matial arts). It is a general name for all non-broken black Chinese teas, though many people now use the term for broken black tea as well . As a tea brewing term , it ments "art of tea brewing ."

Country Greens    An old non-Chinese designation for all Chinese green tea other than from Huzhou and Pingshui, in Zhejiang province. Used today it may mean any Chinese green. One brand exported from Shanghai used this name for Young Chunmee.

Darjeeling    A type of Indian black tea made from a small-leafed variety that grows at Darjeeling in the mountainous region of northern India. Sometimes called the champagne of teas, though Chinese Keemun black is often cited as a competitor.

De-enzyme    To deactivate enzymes by steaming, pan-frying, or baking to halt oxidation an dremove the source of the raw green taste in tea.

Dust     The finest siftings.

Earl grey     Many people enjoy this tea without relizing that it represents a moment of british-Chinese friendship in the otherwise hostile century of the Opium War. This blend of India and China blacks gets its unusual flavor from oil of bergamot, made from the peel of the Canton orange (Citrus aurantium) . Blossoms of this fruit are used to scent a tea called Tai Tai. What is called the legent of Earl Grey (we were unable to verify details) is that a packet of it and the recipe were given to Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey, when he was British prime minister (1830-1834) as a token of appreciation after a diplomatic mission to China. A Chinese official receiving them was in danger and member of the British group had saved his life. The earl had this tea made in England for his use, and much later the family allowed it to be made for public sale. It is now marketed by several companies. Twinings claim it as their biggest seller. This tea is not widely consumed in China or by overseas Chinese.

English Breakfast    Originally applied to Chinese black tea in the United States (Ukers), and now includes several blends in which the Chinese flavor predominates. Another view: originally Keemun, later any Chinese black (Blofeld). Today it can also be a combination of Indian and Ceylon teas. In short , a blend of black tea.

Firing    One method of drying or moisture removal in a basket or metal pot using direct heat.

Hyson    A name once widely used for a Chinese green tea. Chinese sources say it comes from Xi Chun meaning (Kang) Xi Spring (Flourishing Spring) and originally referred to the pellet tea (known as Gunpowder in English) which was sent as tribute to Emperor Kang Xi (1661-1722) and also exported. Latter this name came to be associatd in the export trade with a completely different type of long, tightly rolled leaf produced in Chun'an county, Zhejiang province (ref Jiukeng) One version is that this tea was named for the importer who first brought it to Britain, and indeed a cartoon printed in 1755 pictures the shop of the Philip Hyson company, now extinct. The confusion is further compounded by non-Chinese declarations that Hyson comes from the Chinese yuqian ("before the rain")but this is unlikely , as many teas have a "before the rain" grade, which simply means the earliest , most tender leaves.

Irish Breakfast    This drink , which has a malt flavor, is so thick that it has a whitish color that looks as if milk has been added. As it cools down, the tannin and caffine sink to the bottom and a milky film rises to the top . This is callled "creaming down."

Lapsang Souchong    Fujian black tea given a smoky flavor throught processing with smoke. The name is derived from Zhengshan Xiaozhong, meaning "Sub-variety" (Xiaozhong) of Genuine Wuyi Mountain (Zhengshan) tea.

Mei (Mee) or Eyebrow Teas     The processed leaves of several famous green teas derive their name form the fact that they are eyebrow shaped. These include: Chunmee (also Chunmei and really Zhenmei, Precious Eyebrow) from Zhejiang province; also the highest grades of Tunlu from Anhui and a twentieth century name in Europe for all Tunlu; Showmee (Shoumei, Longevity Eyebrow) Fujian province; Sowmee (Xiumei, Elegant Eyebrow). A name for teas produced in both Anhui and Zhejiang. Xiumei (Beautiful Eyebrow). Another Tunlu tea.

Ming Qian Cha    Tea picked before Qingming festival, inearly April, Any tea picked around this time is supposed to have a high quality . Therefore, the term has come to mean "good quality tea. "

Panfiring or firing    The process of drying the leaves by heating them.

Pan-fry     To stir-fry one large pan, often flat, for the purpose of shaping the leaves and drying them. For famouse high -grade teas with a special appearance the tea makers use great skill in shaping the leaves.

Pekoe     From pek-ho or baibao, the white down which covers certain kinds of leaves and buds. Now it means only two-leaf-one-bud sets sifted to a certain size, and is not a guide to quality. There are also orange pekoe (slightly larger ) and flowery orange pekoe, with a lot of tip, or buds. Long ago the name did refer to tea cented with orange blossoms, but now it merely describes a certain appearance.

Pingsuey     (Pronounced "Pingsooey" when used in English. ) Pingshui is a town in Zhejiang province. More than one kind of tea comes prefixed with this name, and "the Pingsueys" is a large general category including several teas from the area. In the United States, teas retailed as Pingsuey are black, although in fact only 10 percent of the Pingshui tea is the green Gunpowder.

Rolling     Rolling the tea leaves into tight strips down during pan-frying.

Twankay     Tea books in English list a number of kinds and grades of tea by names that grew up in the nineteenth century based on local pronunciation, or foreign tea buyers' mispronunciation of local place names. Our Chinese tea material takes no note of these. Whether or not they mean something to western wholesale buyers, they are rarely used for retail sale today, so hardly pertinent to our list. Out of curiosity we investigated this one.
Twankay is a green tea named according to one source, for two rivers spelled as Taung and Kei (not chinese pinyin spelling ; perhaps the latter is Qi) in the vicinity of the Xinanjiang River near the meeting place of Anhui and Zhejiang provinces. They are too small to be noted in an atlas. The town of Tunxi stands at the convergence of two tributaries of the Xinanjiang. Can Twankay be Tunxi Green ?

Young Hyson    Ref Hyson . Used only occasionally today for Chinese Green tea, and means the younger, more tender leaves.

Yunwu Tea     Several Yunwu (Cloud and Mist) green teas are produced in various parts of China. The name, referring to conditions that produce extremely tender leaves, indicates it is a high -grade tea. They include: Huading Yunwu, also known as Tiantai Yunwu, from Zhejiang and Lushan Yunwu, from Sichuan.

Books on Tea

The Chinese Art of Tea by Blofeld, John.(Boston: Shambala, 1985). Highly personalized Taoist-oriented account of history and lore, rare and legendary teas including specials from Taiwan, description of kung-fu tea-making, his translations of Chinese Tang and Song tea poems, a chapter on his travels through teahouses of China in the thirties, and experpts from the tea book by Song dynasty Emperor Hui Cong.

Food Research Institute Studies by Etherington, Dan M., and Forster, Keith. "The Complex Case of the Chinese Tea Industry." (Food Reaserch Institute of Stanford University), vol. 21, no.3 1989. The most exhaustive study we have found in English on the Chinese tea industry, recent development , problems, and prospects using figures from Chinese and international sources.

The Essential Guide to Brewing, Serving, and Entertaining with Teas from Around the World by Israel, Andrea. (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1987). A recent one of many like it with lore, recipes, and a reasonably current list of some of the mail order sellers.

The Classic of Tea, by Lu Yu. (translated by Francis Ross Carpenter; Boston: Little , Brown & Co., 1974)

5000 Years of Tea, a Pictorial Companion by Maitland, Derek.Delightful coffee table book. (Hong Kong : CFW Publications, Ltd., 1983)

The Book of Tea by Okakura, Kakuzo New York: Dover Publications. 1964

The Tea Lover's Treasury by Pratt, James Norwood.Good on social history in Europe and the coffeehouse tea trade. Directory, history of tea firms, ten-page chronology. (San Francisco: 101 Productions. 1982).

The Book of Coffee and Tea by Schapira, Joel, David, and Karl. By members of a tea-coffeee merchat family . Section on herbal teas. (New York : St. Martin's Press, 1975).

The Great Tea Venture by Scott, J. M. New York : E.P. Dutton & Co., 1964

Tea by Shalleck, JamieOne of the best on the history of tea in the West . Contains the author's translations of tea descriptions by early Western travelers.

All About Tea by Ukers, William. Encyclopedic two-volume collection of information about tea, its hsitory, and the trade as they stood at that time, but now out of date. Quotes of tea in early literature (Chinese, Japanese, English). A bisic source for books about tea, including this one. (Whitestone, New York : Tea & Coffee Trade Journal Co., 1935)

The Romance of Tea by Ukers, WIlliam H.A summary of the cultural parts, from his larger two-volume work. chapter 5 , "Tea adn the Fine Arts, " is a delightful survey of tea in Western art and English literature. (New York: Knopf, 1936)

Teas of the World by Woodward, Nancy Hyden. An excellent short history of tea in England and the United States , although her informaiton on its background in China is not reliable . Entertaining collection of quotes and verses on tea. Some recipes, tea mail order addresses. (New York : Collier Books, Macmillan, 1980).

Books Related On Tea

The History of Porcelain by Atterbury, Paul , ed.We are indebted to articles by various writers in this extremely informational and well-written book for much material in chapter eight. (New York: Wm. Morrow and company, Inc., 1982).

Blue Willow, An Idnetification and Value Guide by Gaston, Mary Frank. Paducah, Ky.: Collector Books, Schroeder Publishing Co. Inc., 1983).

Chinese Herbal Remedies by Leung, Albert Y. New York: University Books, 1984

Chinese Medicinal Herbs by Li Shizhen (Pencao Kangmu)Translated by F. Proter Smith., M.D. and G. A . Stuart, M.D. A translation of the 1578 classic referred to in this book's text as Canon of Medicinal Herbs. (San Francisco: Georgetown Press, 1973).

The Stonewares of Yixing from the Ming Period to the Present Day by Lo, K.S.Hong Kong : Sotheby's Publications and Hongkong University Press, 1987.

The Chinese Potter: A Practical History of Chinese Ceramics by Medley, Margaret. OXford: Phaidon, 1976

Richer than Spices by Thomas, Gertrude Z. Trade and lifestyles that started with the marriage of Portugal's Catherine of Braganza to England's Charles II. New York: Alfred A. Dnopf, 1965.

The Clipper Ships by Whipple, A.B.C. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1980.

Tea, Quality and Human Health, International Scholarly Symposium, Papers Presented, November 4-9, 1987 by Tea Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural science. Hangzhou, 1988.

Famouse Teas of China by Zhuang Wanfang, Tang Qing zhong, Tang Li-xing, Chen Wen Huai and Wang Jiabin. Hanzhou: Zhejiang Peoples's Publishing House, 1979.

All The Tea IN China by Kit Chow & Jone Kramer China Books and Periodicals, INC.

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