Exerpt: As the capital of the FujianProvince, tea is a very important part of daily life, and Fuzhou itself is famous for the Jasmine tea that is created here. The blossoms can be seen during the high season, and the aroma that they produce is simply intoxicating. Vast numbers of Tea shops are located throughout the city, and it would be near impossible to find someone who hasn’t at least seen, if not participated in a tea ceremony..
— Amanda Sinclair
Editorial Note: Many thanks to Mr. Chris West, which is the main source of reference to this article as the first part of Fuzhou Expat MinRiver Tea Special. If anyone is interested in tea, or purchasing some of Chris’s tea, the website to go to is:www.minrivertea.com
MinRiver Tea Special – Part 1
Would you like a cup of tea? Perhaps an Earl grey? No? Maybe a Breakfast tea? Green tea? Jasmine tea? Camomile tea? Herbal tea?… The list is endless, and of course you can have most with the option of decaf, or tea in tea bags, or tea leaves. You can choose from white, green, red, black or milky tea. We are a society that loves tea, and has a huge variety from which to choose from. In particular you are not really considered British unless you wake up to a cup of tea, and drink it consistently throughout the day. We are after all famous for afternoon tea and High Tea. But we are largely to thank China, and in particular, Fujian province, for some of the best tea around, and for introducing us to such a wonderful and now, integral part of our identity. Even America has to tip its hat to China, as who can forget the Boston Tea Party?
Tea was introduced to the international community in the 17th century, but within China, it has a longer history, and was the favored drink among Emperors. The original story, of how a tea leaf fell into the Emperors’ cup and how he liked it, immortalized tea, and it grew from there.
Within China, the most prominent, and unrivalled province at producing the best tea is FujianProvince. There a number of key areas within the province that are famous for individual types of tea, such as Anxi for Anxi Tieguanyin, or Wuyishan, the birthplace of black tea, Zhengshan Xiaozhong, more commonly known as Lapsang Souchang, as well as numerous other black, and green teas. One of the government classifications for white tea is that it has to come from the Fujian province, among a few other points of criteria, but this stresses the prominence of tea from FujianProvince.
How about Fuzhou?
As the capital of the FujianProvince, tea is a very important part of daily life, and Fuzhou itself is famous for the Jasmine tea that is created here. The blossoms can be seen during the high season, and the aroma that they produce is simply intoxicating. Vast numbers of Tea shops are located throughout the city, and it would be near impossible to find someone who hasn’t at least seen, if not participated in a tea ceremony. Tea is taken very seriously here after all. However Fuzhou is not the most famous city within FujianProvince to produce tea, as you have heard cities such as Wuyishan and Anxi are more renowned for their tea growing abilities, but it doesn’t negate from Fuzhou. The actual tea fields are a comfortable distance away from the city, but close enough that you could travel there should you wish to visit. And even more, you can tour a number of tea farms, and learn some history and the art of making tea.
Tea as an art form:
Tea is not only to be considered a drink, it is also an art form, and a form of currency. The art of tea making is taken very seriously, with almost every Chinese citizen owning a tea set, and able to perform the tea ceremony. Many Chinese further consider the making, and drinking of tea akin to wine sampling, with each sip evoking a number of senses, from sight, smell to taste. In Western societies wine tasting is taken seriously. With people studying wine, and calling themselves connoisseurs, they are able to distinguish different aromas, and unique flavours within a wine, and even tell what vintage it may be. This is also true of many people within China, and the tea culture. They are considered tea connoisseurs, and are able to tell you whether a tea is a certain variety f green tea by a small taste.
There are also a number of courses offered at the university to help you to grow and fully understand tea. Within this course you could learn what conditions a certain type of tea needs to grow, the duration of each stage of the tea process, and what different types of tea you can produce if you change durations, or use a certain variety of seeds. It is such an art form, and taken so seriously here within China, that you can a Masters course in the art of tea growing and farming.
Tea as a currency:
Gift giving is also a major part of Chinese culture, and not only at birthdays and celebratory festivals, as most of these have their own unique food item that is given as a gift, such as mooncakes are given at Mid-Autumn Festival, and gongzi are eaten for Tomb Sweeping Day, but should you be needing to give a gift to someone to say thank you, or congratulations, there is no finer gift than Tea.
A lot of Chinese people will gift tea, and this is considered a respectful gift, especially if the tea is of a high quality, and a famous brand. It is such a revered gift, and product, that some teas will go for over 30,000 RMB per half a Kilogram. With such prices, you may see how tea could be considered as currency. You may give a gift of tea to someone who has done you a favor, or from whom you wish to elicit a favor, and it not only, depending on the type of tea, bestows respect to the person receiving it, but also takes the place of currency.
Therefore, if you are looking to give someone a gift, you should consider tea, but make sure it is not the cheapest tea, as that would be disrespectful, but also make sure that it is a tea that that person would like, as there are so many to choose from this may be difficult.