While composing my last post, Naming a Tea: Duyun Mao Jian, I became interested in China’s Ten Most Famous Teas. Like the rest of the world, the Chinese love compiling lists. So is there a universally acknowledged list of top-ten Chinese teas? Of course not. Wikipedia contributors counted the recurrence in some 20 lists and published this much-appreciated China Famous Tea page – in English too! Since Huang Shan Mao Feng – another green tea and No. 4 on the list – was briefly mentioned in my last post’s Comments section, reminding me of the magnificent Huang Shan, or Yellow Mountain, which I climbed in 2008, Mao Feng tea seemed the right topic for this post.
A mountainous region – noted for its peculiarly shaped peaks and ethereal cloud sea in China’s Anhui Province – Huang Shan is endowed with an illustrious tea history. According to China’s Famous Teas and China Tea Ching – recent publications that probably have not been translated into English – tea cultivation in Huang Shan originated in the Song Dynasty (960–1279) and flourished in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Teas, such as Song Luo, have been consumed for centuries, but Huang Shan Mao Feng, the creation of a tea manufacturer named Xie Zhengan in 1875 during the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1912), achieved international prominence surpassing all the others.
Xie Zhengan (1838-1910), also known as Xie Jinghe, founded the Xie Yu Da Tea Company and strived to promote Huang Shan Mao Feng during his lifetime. He was deemed a “red-crown businessman” – a well-respected, wealthy merchant whose entrepreneurial success enabled him to indirectly influence policy making without holding an official government post.
Mao Feng’s yellowish green tea leaves curl slightly, resembling a bird’s tongue. Its greenish brew exudes an orchid-like aroma. The tea has four grades: Premium, I, II, and III. Brewing usually takes 3 to 10 minutes. Pour a small amount of boiling water into a cup to steep the tea, wait about 3 minutes, then add more boiling water.
The translation of Chinese tea names continues to frustrate me. In this post, I chose to include a space between “Huang” and “Shan,” although the mountain range is most often spelled Huangshan; the same with Mao Feng. One wonders why Maojian, on the other hand, is seldom specified as “Mao Jian.” These inconsistencies could be detected in older T Ching posts as well, for example, ”Maojian and Yunwu” and “Huangshan Mao Feng and Guapian.”
I did bring some Huang Shan Mao Feng back to the States, but failed to prepare and drink any because I completely forgot about my purchase and had to discard it months later. At the souvenir store, Mao Feng, displayed prominently on the shelves, drew my attention not because of its being a famous tea, but because of the name Xie, which is the same as my last name, just spelled differently in China.