There is good reason why royalty was associated with the finer things in life. Kings and government meant taxes, and if gold couldn’t be had, your locality paid in other forms. If your locality was recognized for horses, you worked to contribute your best horses as a form of tax. The emperors of China were no different. Throughout the centuries, various teas became recognized as “tribute teas.” His royal person then had the privilege of drinking these tribute teas or offering them as gifts.
While no definitive list of tribute teas exists, here are ten of the most commonly recognized:
- Long Jing (dragonwell)
- Bi Luo Chun
- Huangshan Mao Feng
- Liu An Gua Pian
- Xinyang Maojian
- Duyun Maojian
- Lushan Yunwu
- Junshan Yinzhen
- Tie Guan Yin
Each of these teas tells stories of its own, including colorful legends of its origins, and exploits of how it became acclaimed as a tribute tea. Suffice it for now to notice the dominance of green teas on the list (1-7) over yellow (number 8), wulong (number 9), and black (i.e. Pu’er).
Armed with this information, you are better prepared to delve into the best China has to offer in teas. After all, if these were treasures dedicated to the king, shouldn’t they spend a little time enriching your palate?
Further research of your own is still advised before acquiring these teas for yourself. For example, Xinyang Maojian originates from Henan province. Similar maojian teas from other provinces attempt to imitate the style and flavor. Accept substitutes at your own risk, but just as when choosing wine, be mindful that life is considerably brief to spend time drinking poor tea. Follow the lead of kings and seek tribute teas.
Guest post provided by Jason Walker of Walker Tea Review. Jason’s site hosts online tea tastings and video tea reviews.