Three teas – Darjeeling, Dong Fang Mei Ren (from Taiwan), and Jin Jun Mei (from Wuyishan) – are very similar. Their shared characteristics can also be seen in Zhong Hong, a China red or a China black from the Feng Qing area of Lincang County in Yunnan.
My words will likely spark a row as the experts end up in a hen-and-egg controversy. However, the fact remains that these are all great teas from their respective regions and command premium prices depending upon their availability and demand.
When visiting the offices of the Taiwan Tea Corporation in June, I accidentally coined the term “xi fang mei ren” for Darjeeling tea when some people were struggling with the pronunciation of Darjeeling tea from India. The name fits very snugly because we are the western-most tea-growing region of inner Tibet.
Darjeeling’s annual production has dropped from 11 million kilos to 7.5 million kilos because of fashionable organic production techniques. However, this tea is still in very high demand in tea circles and 25-30 million kilos of tea are sold as Darjeeling under various garbs and blends despite control mechanisms put into place by the Indian Tea Board, such as the Darjeeling Certification Trade Mark (CTM).
Robert Fortune, who collected tea seeds and plants from China in 1840s, could not imagine the potential of his work. The meager fees he received for the great feat he accomplished are truly pitiful in comparison to the rewards that should have been bestowed on Mr. Fortune. If a Nobel Prize was ever awarded for tea in those early days, coffee-drinking Norwegian Robert Fortune would have been a contender.
Since 1976 when I first landed in Chongtong, I have been proudly associated with this tea. Ever since that day, my travels to the far corners of the earth have earned me many smiles and beaming faces, thanks to the wonderful aromas and great cups of Darjeeling.