With its endless mountains, abundant rainfall and pure environment, China’s Southwest Guizhou (Gway Joe) province is a perfect location for growing tea bushes. However, despite a long history of tea cultivation, the province is little known in the West. Even within China it takes a distant back seat to other places like Yunnan, Sichuan, Fujian and Zhejiang. Yet, its remoteness is one of the factors that make it such an ideal place to produce fine teas. One of the most well known Guizhou teas, Duyun Mao jian, is on record as a tribute tea in Imperial times.
The local people there have an expression “Anshun Jia Cha Ye,” literally translated as Fake Tea Leaves from Anshun. This phrase has been used for generations to describe something that is not authentic or a person who is disingenuous or purports himself to be something he is not. Based in actual practice, the words’ origin derives from the fact that Guizhou’s Anshun district was well-known for producing inauthentic versions of some famous teas. As with anything that achieves a level of popularity, copies or look-alikes are bound to enter the market. A prime example is Pi lo chun. True aficionados assert that the fluffy green buds of this tea can come only from the Suzhou area in Eastern China. Its fame spans over several centuries and demand for it outweighs supply. Even in its hometown, one can still find knock-offs being sold under the same name. Far removed Anshun was a notable source for such teas.
Ironically, the phrase is now loosing its sarcastic impact. Improvements in production and marketing as well as better access roads have resulted in greater awareness of Guizhou teas. Their high quality is developing a good reputation in its own right. Today, tea drinkers inquire if they are buying “real” Anshun tea leaves.
Mr. Xiong Chao Zhong, manager of the Anshun tea factory, proudly proclaims that their Waterfall brand Mao feng tea is made using the same methods and technology as Pi lo chun but has its own unique and perhaps superior characteristics. Names of other Anshun teas to know are: Cui long (Green Dragon) and Xiang cui (Fragrant Green). Though production volumes are relatively small (20,000 kg / year), demand is growing steadily. Who knows? Perhaps soon, the old adage may have to be modified to “Real, fake Anshun tea leaves.”
This post first appeared on T Ching 27 March, 2008. So far as we can tell, “real fake Anshun” is doing well even seven years later.
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Editor’s note: TBF means “Throw back Friday.” The loading image is a magnolia blossom.
I love that over the years, this tea has evolved into someone unique. Although its beginnings were less than honorable, with time and attention, even a copycat can become something special. Seems to me there’s hope and opportunity for just about anything/anyone.
Anshun has maintained its position in the tea market and continues to produce very nice teas. The area, also know for its minerals (especially coal) has started to gain more attention and investment. Even tourism projects are underway so it won’t be long before Guizhou is well known to tea lovers in the west. In fact, I just heard that Starbuck has placed some really big green tea orders from Guizhou producers.
Thanks for the update Dan. I wouldn’t think that coal and tea were compatible commodities – along with tourism. Amazing!
Yes Michelle, Guizhou is very mountainous. Rich coal deposits and rivers. Guizhou actually sells electricity to other places. There are many lakes and caves that attract tourists. Quite beautiful actually. Also a lot of interesting minority groups are from that area. A topic for another post perhaps…..
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