We’re welcoming a NEW Platinum Collection of astonishing, rare Chinese Teas that capture the purest and truest flavours of some of China’s most famous teas and tea producing regions. From the misty mountains of Fujian, to the lakes of Zhejiang, and the diverse coastal terrains of Guangdong, each has character and complexity to really linger over. In this guide, we explore each region, and the teas that result from the terroir, methods of production, and refined mastery here.
Zhejiang is home to arguably the world’s most famous green tea: Long Jing (Dragon Well), the very best of which fetch prices higher per kilo than gold.
Dragon Well is the literal translation of the tea’s Chinese name ‘Longjing’ and is named as such owing to an old legend in which a monk begged of a dragon to bring water to the village well, at the peak of a drought. The well remains to this day at its location near to the West Lake, and it is said that when rain falls upon the surface of the dense well-water, it dances and snakes in the shimmering movements of a dragon.
This tea was granted imperial status in the Qing dynasty when the emperor, who had been enjoying tasting Dragon Well (as well as filling his pockets with the leaves), had to make a swift departure to visit his ailing mother. The fragrance of the tea from within his robe piqued her interest and, serving the tea to her, she was cured. These days, the tea represents the ultimate imperial gift, and is exchanged as such.
West Lake Hangzhou is where this tea was originally cultivated, though there are now three distinct areas within the district that are authenticated and protected as a designated origin. They are:
A. Hangzhou – the most central and most famous Long Jing region
B. Qiantang – about 30km (20 miles) from Hangzhou
C. Yuezhou –about 100km (60 miles) from Hangzhou, with the highest geographic elevation
Tea purists may argue that the very best Long Jing can only come from the original source – indeed, there is something about the feeling of ‘authenticity’ that tastes so good, though in reality it is a combination of factors and, specifically, the care with which it is grown and produced. At AVANTCHA we would advise letting your tastebuds lead you where you most prefer. And why not make that an informed decision by tasting as many as you like before settling with your favourite? With Long Jing, expect notes of roasted chestnut, sweetness and vegetal-umami, and then sip longer and slower to find what else awaits you.
NEW AVANTCHA Superior Qian Tang Long Jing Green Tea
A Superior Example of China’s Most Famous Tea
From the spring harvest of 2022, this Superior Qian Tan Dragon Well Long Jing green tea is our highest quality of rare Chinese teas. It comes from a tea garden in the traditional growing area of Qian Tang. Upon opening this tea pouch, take a moment to inhale deeply – it doesn’t get any fresher or more succulent than this, and it’s a moment to truly savour. This tea has elegant, flat and long green spears that release the delightful roasted chestnut aroma as well as an asparagus-vegetable and citrus note that delights the palate. It has a coating, silky mouthfeel, and is nutty-sweet with deep umami that occurs as a result of the early spring rains and the growing conditions.
White fish, cheese and nutty desserts pair well with this exceptional example of China’s most famous green tea.
NEW Anji Bai Cha Green Tea
Fresh, Sweet, Limited
An exciting, spring-fresh Anji Bai Cha green tea from Anji County, Zhejiang – the original home of this widely celebrated Chinese tea. The leaves have been plucked early in the year pre Qing Ming, which means before the early rains of spring when the bushes that have lain dormant over the winter months begin to rouse, and the precious first buds of the year slowly emerge, dense with nutrients and rich flavour.
When processed, the leaves flatten into long, paper-like, emerald needles that unfurl into almost transparent pale leaves with a strong vein. They produce the lightest pine-green infusion with an amazing aroma of fresh, light fruit and vegetables (cucumber and sugar snap peas), as well as warm hay and meadow flowers.
This Anji Bai Cha is buttery-smooth in the mouth, with a calming energetic quality that exudes superb sweetness and a deep umami that comes about as a result of the amino acids that have gathered in the tea bushes over winter. This rich and vibrant quality is much the reason that Anji Bai Cha is so celebrated, as so often first harvests are for their unique flavour profiles.
Da Fo Long Jing
A Rich, Deep Long Jing with Intense Chestnut Notes
Vegetal and sweet, Da Fo Long Jing is a stunning Chinese green tea from the Yuezhou area that has the highest altitude within the protected Long Jing producing districts of Zhejiang. The Da Fo style of Long Jing was developed in the mid-90s when the government brought in tea makers to teach the locals how to produce this top imperial tea and add value to their communities. It’s becoming widely known for its rich flavours attributed to a deeper firing process than elsewhere – a nuance adopted here.
The uniform leaves infuse to release a nutty aroma with intense chestnut notes and light floral nuances. The low astringency creates a balanced infusion with a long finish and sweet aftertaste. Enjoy alongside rice and fish for a delicious and traditional pairing. Or discover the joy of nutty Da Fo Long Jing with creamy textures such as goat’s cheese, or soft brioche with chocolate.
The Wuyi Mountain terroir (placeness) in China, is historically speaking, the world’s first tea terroir for oolong and black teas. Teas you may be familiar with such as Lapsang Souchong, Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao) and Tie Guan Yin are all Fujianese and the best examples of these have been refined over many centuries, truly coming to capture the spirit and taste of Fujian. The landscape here combines lush green with misty mountain tops and winding valleys, with forest wood stacked up neatly against little houses that dot the rural roads. Tea is a way of life here, with afternoons spent lingering over multiple infusions of tea, the room perfumed by the sweet, rosy character of a beautiful oolong.
NEW Jin Jun Mei Black Tea
An Astonishing Example of True Black Tea
From Tongmu, the birthplace of black tea in Fujian, China, comes this outstanding Jin Jun Mei black tea. These lovely buds are tended to by Tea Master Mr Shi on the slopes of Wu Yi Shan mountainside, protected by wild trees and fog.
Teas produced here are of sublime quality and flavour due to the unique conditions. A pre-Qing Ming tea, the leaves are carefully withered, rolled, and fired to create gold-black twists – hence the name ‘Golden Beautiful Eyebrows’.
Inhaling the dry leaf is a sensory experience: sweet, chocolaty, and perfumed. This thick infusion has an amber colour with a brilliant orange hue, and is fragrant with hops, sandalwood, and distant orange. This tea tastes of biscuits, spices, and lingering floral sweetness, but over many infusions, its profile slowly changes, becoming sweeter, like butterscotch, and imparts a feeling of pleasant wellbeing.
NEW Wild Wuyi Black
Pure, Wild Character and Complexity
This particular example of wonderfully Wild Wuyi Black tea grows in the mineral-rich soils of Wuyishan in Fujian. The tea is fully oxidised, making it a black tea, but it has the fruity, complex flavour of an oolong tea. The tea was picked in early April in an abandoned tea garden at an altitude of 800m; as a result, the leaves are large and long. Processed, they resemble elegant, lengthy twists (like delicate little branches), unfurling into an infusion that is the colour of roasted peaches, with an energetic aroma. With an alluring black tea depth, the scent is incredibly floral and fruity, with a hint of peach and elderberry. The taste is much the same, and the mouthfeel is refreshing, awakening the senses and the palate. With a light to medium body, and a touch of astringency, this tea is truly enlivening.
NEW Roasted Tie Guan Yin
6 Generations of Refinement
Roasted Tie Guan Yin is a comforting and warming oolong tea from Anxi County, Fujian, China, grown by the sixth generation of a family that has long cultivated this tea. To preserve its original spirit, it is produced in a traditional manner with nuances that only years of refinement can achieve and that cannot simply be explained – it is a matter of know-how, and mastery. This tea is autumn-picked with an oxidation of around 40%. Roasting slowly over charcoal gives it its gently toasted quality. Each rolled pearl of tea unfurls into large, speckled green leaves that release a toasty-sweet aroma with hints of nuts. The resulting infusion is sharp with a beautiful, clear golden colour and full fragrance. Expect subtle notes of honey, butter-soaked herbs and some minerality, as well as a soft and creamy mouthfeel. Owing to the excellent quality of this tea, it will stand up to multiple infusions, offering surprising changes as you carefully savour each cup.
YUNNAN – Ancient, Rare Chinese Teas
It is believed that Yunnan is the oldest tea producing region in China, famous for its unique Pu Erh Teas that can only be made here from ancient, wild trees, and flavoursome black teas. In Yunnan, tea has been produced for well over two thousand years. The climate is well suited to producing tea, with plenty of rain and warm humidity and some of the highest altitude tea gardens in China. Combined with ancient skill, Yunnan teas are not to be missed. Keep an eye out for NEW Platinum Collection Pu Erh Teas coming in 2023.
Yunnan Golden Buds Black Tea
This rare tea belongs in our Platinum Collection for the exceptional quality of its whole, long golden curls that unfurl into deep brown leaves when infused, and produce a liquor of outstanding complexity and flavour. Aromas of rich, wild forest honey, malt and cacao can be found in this mahogany-red coloured infusion that has a full body and silky texture and a pronounced caramel, sticky date sweetness with a lasting finish. This tea is picked and harvested in March in the spring where only the finest young buds of the highest quality are meticulously selected and fully oxidised to create this deep, dark and comforting tea. This crop comes from tea gardens in the Jinggu region of Yunnan, which is known for its ancient tea production and large-leaf wild trees. We understand that this area has been known to be called ‘an immense forest of bright pearls’, as well as being the place within which 35 million-year old Magnolia fossils were found, proving Magnolia to be one of the oldest flowers on earth, and an ancestor in the area to the later tea bushes cultivated here. This is why Jinggu is known as ‘the land of tea ancestors’.
GUANGDONG – Famous Oolongs
In the southeastern corner of China, the diverse terroir of Guangdong combines fertile coastal plains and rivers with tropical and subtropical environments, as well as a distinct monsoon season. As with other tea producing regions, Guangdong has its own teas that it’s famous for, including Dan Cong Oolong. The oldest tea trees here are living treasures, offering large leaves that produce some of the world’s most aromatic infusions. Each tree varietal has its own name relative to its unique fragrance, of which there are ten – such as magnolia, orchid, jasmine etc. Our Mi Lan Dan Cong is from the orchid varietal, and offers superbly floral, honeyed and peachy depths. A Dan Cong Oolong with the best flavours is a palette-teasing combination of mineral, floral, and ripe, stone-fruit flavours. These teas are charcoal-fired to a medium or heavy roast and, like fine burgundy wine, need patience and diligent steeping in order to reveal the fullest flavours.
Peach Dan Cong
Pronounced Notes of Peach Sweetness
In Da’an village, Guangdong, China, this rare Chinese oolong tea is picked from old, wild trees at 1000m altitude in April. It is roasted and rested repeatedly to extract the incredible fruity flavor of this oolong (a Pao Tao varietal). With bright, clear floral aromas of warm honeysuckle and ripe fruit, this tea is light yet extraordinarily complex despite its pale peach infusion. Honeyed with hints of peach and caramelized apples, the flavor is unmistakably sweet and luscious.
Phoenix Dan Cong
An Exceptionally Fruity Oolong
Harvested in late spring from the esteemed Wudong Mountain area in Guangdong province, this full-bodied Oolong is a complex blend of rich, fruity flavours. The term Dan Cong translates as ‘single stem’. The tea is harvested from one stem of a single bush from the Phoenix Shuixian varietal. Exclusive and delicious, enjoy Phoenix Dan Cong with fruits and light desserts.
Organic Gaba Oolong
This Organic Gaba Oolong is grown in the mountains of Fujian and oxidised in an environment rich in nitrogen. The name Gaba comes from a naturally occurring amino acid within the tea. This tea is compelling not only for its science, but for its flavour as well. Incredibly smooth and balanced, the amber liquid features ripe fruit and dark caramel flavors reminiscent of light black tea.
GUIZHOU – An underrated region for Rare Chinese Teas
While Guizhou might not have the same fame as other tea-producing regions, it quietly creates some of the finest rare Chinese teas in the country, developing and refining its own unique production methods in isolation. We will be adding more teas to our collection from Guizhou in the coming months. Watch closely – teas from Guizhou are increasingly getting attention, so why not start your journey with our Xue Ya Snow Sprouts, favoured by the team at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant.
Xue Ya Snow Sprout Green Tea
A Deeply Refreshing Green Tea with Hints of Spring Flowers
Xue Ya is produced in Fan Jing Shan, Guizhou. In this tea garden, the elevation is 1200 metres. Snow Sprout is a refreshing and complex green tea that is harvested in the early spring. The tea has a very low astringency, a slightly savoury flavour, and a distinct aroma of unripened fruits and fresh flowers. The floral, deep aftertaste of this soft green tea is best enjoyed on its own or with light snacks like buttery Marcona almonds.
Yellow Tea Buds Yellow Tea
An Ancient, Dying Art
These tea buds are small and light in appearance, covered with smooth, downy hairs, producing a light yellow, oily infusion with flavours of sour plum and fermented citrus. There is a coating sensation to the mouth with mellow flavours of white grapes, soft meringue, and violet undertones. After multiple infusions, the infusion becomes darker in colour, revealing a raisin-like sweetness and cucumber notes. This is a wonderful tea that is both experiential and surprising!
JIANGXI – Mountains Carpeted with Tea & Chrysanthemum Gardens
Lushan Yun Wu is a type of green tea produced in Jiangxi province on the Lushan Mountain among the clouds and mist, which is another name that is fondly used for this famous tea. On the southern bank of the Yangtze River, this area of Jiangxi has favourable conditions for tea trees with four well-defined seasons and plenty of rain. The tea leaves produced there are strong and covered in fine hairs, creating teas with bright clarity, and clear aromas. Jinagxi is also famous as a centre of chrysanthemum production, and porcelain.
Lushan Yun Wu Green Tea
Picked in very early spring this year, Mr Zheng (the tea producer) has cultivated a stunning example of this famous tea, with elegant twists of deep green leaf. Upon infusion vegetal aroma of red beans can be detected and as the tea cools, it offers juicy, fruity high notes such as passionfruit and lime, and sugared almonds. The flavour begins with brothy courgette and gives way to succinct sweetness with a thick umami aftertaste.
While these are some of China’s most famous tea-producing regions, there are others that cultivate astounding rare Chinese teas, which we are constantly on the hunt for. Check back on this article for time to time as we add more origin information as more rare teas enter our Platinum Collection.