Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tong Mu - the Core Producing Area of Lapsang Souchong

After we published our blogs about Lapsang Souchong in April this year, we received a lot of emails and messages wishing that we would introduce more about Lapsang Souchong and Tong Mu, the core producing area of Lapsang Souchong. Today, we will let you know more about them. The photos we used were collected from the ones we took during our last three visits to there, mainly September, 2011 to the Guadun village of Tong Mu and March, 2012 to the Miaowan, Tong Mu. There are quite a few small villages scattered in Tong Mu. Among them, Guadun is probably the most well-known one, followed with Jiangwan, Mali and Miaowan.

Tong Mu (桐木), a village named after Tong Mu Guan (桐木关), at the center of the Wuyi nature reserve with an average altitude 1100 meters and the highest altitude of 2158 meters is at the north of Fujian province, bordering Jiangxi province. It is the fractured zone of Wuyi mountain largely covered with primeval forests. Wuyi nature reserve which is 565 square Kilometers in area is famous for the biodiversity. Set up as the national nature reserve as early as 1979, the ecological environment is well preserved here.  It is now praised as" the paradise of birds", "the kingdom of snake" and "the world of insects".

By the way, in 1848, Englishman Botanist Robert Fortune came to Tong Mu and succeeded in collecting the seeds of tea trees and obtaining the secrets of the tea production. Before that time, people in the West even didn't know that the black tea and green tea were made of the same tealeaves from the same plants and with the help of Robert Fortune, British East India Company began to grow and make tea in India.

The monument in the photo was set up around 2009 in memory of the birth of LapsangSouchong, the first black tea in the world in Jiangwan, Tong Mu.  It was unveiled by the 97 years old Zhang Tianfu, the famous and highly respected person of tea industry in China in 2009. The characters inscribed on it were" Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Fa Yuan Di"(the place of origin of Lapsang Souchong in Chinese):

The panoramic view of Guadun village of Tong Mu:

The tea gardens in Guadun of Tong Mu:

The garden in Miaowan of Tong Mu:

Tea harvesting in Guadun of Tong Mu:

Only single buds picked for making Jin Jun Mei:

One bud with two or three leaves used for making Chi Gan black tea:

Tea gardens in Tong Mu have begun to be developed since several hundreds of years ago. Now with quite a large number of people moving from here to the outside urban areas during recent years, many of them were abandoned without human care. The tea trees in the photos were all more than 100 years and you can see it is taller even than one man. Black tea made of the tealeaves picked from such ancient tea trees is called as Lapsang Laozong which is quite good with a typical flavor people called as " Lao Zong Wei"(Ancient Tea Tree Flavor).

Some tea leaves of the ancient tea trees turn to be purple. Purple tealeaves were seen as the best by Lu Yu, the ancient Chinese sage of tea.

Related Posts:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Different Kinds of Taiping Houkui Separated By Its Production Methods

Is the Taiping Houkui totally handmade? How can we tell the Taiping Houkui is handmade or not by its appearance? What is Nie Jian Houkui and what is Bu Jian Houkui? These are the frequently asked questions. Here we will elaborate on how to tell them.

Taiping Houkui can be mainly divided into three kinds by its production methods. They are Nie Jian, Li Jian and Bu Jian respectively. Now, Nie Jian and Bu Jian Houkui are the commonly found ones on the market. Among them, Nie Jian is almost entirely handmade. Five people can only make 500grams finished tea for more than 1 hour so for the same raw material, if it is made into Nie Jian, the price would be the highest. Li Jian is the almost handmade Taiping Houkui. Machine is usually used in the procedure of Sha Qing (fixation) for Li Jian Houkui.

Bu Jian Houkui is partly hand made. Machine is not only used in the procedure of Sha Qing(fixation) but also in Li Tiao (Shaping) so Bu Jian Houkui appears to be neater and thinner in appearance than Li Jian and Nie Jian and people can easily tell it apart. Bu Jian Houkui is much lower in price and inferior in taste and flavor than its counterparts of Nie Jian and Li Jian if made of the same fresh tealeaves while considering the wide price gap, people may think Bu Jian is a good choice.

Except the three main kinds, sometimes we can find another kind called as Kui Jian on the market. There is no strict requirement for the length, size of the fresh tealeaves to produce Kui Jian so the finished Kui Jian doesn't appears to be as uniform as Nie Jian or Bu Jian. It is usually produced by tea farmers in a casual way sometimes even with picked tealeaves from the remote abandoned tea gardens while you may find very good Kui Jian Houkui but unfortunately it is an unpredictable thing.

Some people may think Bu Jian Houkui is light in taste. That is because Bu Jian Houkui is thin and has a large size so people may throw less amount of tea when brewing it, causing it light in taste.

Quite a number of vendors would show Nie Jian or Li Jian Houkui to you and acclaim they are authentic Taiping Houkui. Is it true? No, Nie Jian, Li Jian or Bu Jian is just defined by its production methods but the authenticity is mainly decided by its producing area. Hou Kui produced from Hou Keng, the core producing area, is mostly Nie Jian but there are still a great deal of Bu Jian Houkui produced in Xinming Township, the original place of Taiping Houkui.

We can see grid marks on the leaves of Nie Jian and Li Jian Houkui. Some vendors take advantage of it and said they are the proof of hand-made authentic Houkui. It is another misleading statement. The grid marks were formed during the procedure of baking. Usually, if there are the grid marks existing, you can only say they are probably Nie Jian or Li Jian Houkui but as we said before, they can't prove its authenticity.

Another common misconception is that Nie Jian is necessarily much expensive than BuJian. It isn't. The main factors deciding the price include producing area, harvesting time and production method so you can't compare the tea price by only considering one or two factors

Nie Jian Houkui捏尖猴魁:

The Nie Jian Houkui in the photos is produced in Hou Keng, Xinming towenship. As Nie Jian Houkui is entirely handmade, it is the highest in price among all the kinds when produced in the same area at the same time. We only purchase small amount of Nie Jian Hou Kui of Hou Keng  for our regular customers each year It is a luxury tea. Nie Jian Houkui of Hou Keng is between USD600 to USD1000/KG during recent years while there are also a great deal of Nie Jian Hou kui from other parts of Xinming township around USD99/KG on the market.

Li Jian Houkui理尖猴魁:

Bu Jian Houkui布尖猴魁:

Kui Jian魁尖):

Related Posts of Taiping Houkui:

The Core Original Place of Taiping Hou Kui