FuLiang Black, a new tea

 

The domestic demand in China for Black teas is not quite the bubble that Puerh once created, but the popularity is growing, and we see this trend on the other side of the Taiwan strait as well.

One new Black tea is FuLiang Tippy Black: new to me and also newly developed.

“New” teas always pique my interest, since most teas boast of their long histories. Other than hybrids and I don’t really count the newfangled blooming teas as new, how do “new” teas come about, in terms of their development? What was the intent behind this foray into something different?

This Black tea also allows me to write a bit about Jianxi province, little known but important in the context of tea. Bordered by more famous tea provinces such as Zhejiang and Fujian, Jiangxi is overshadowed by its neighbors, but one of China’s earliest certified organic tea regions, WuYuan, is in Jiangxi, and our Organic Ming Mei Green, was one of the earliest teas to receive organic certification.

Souchong Black tea field, August 2016

Souchong Black tea field, August 2016

Jiangxi boasts two mountains. Lu Mtn. and JingGangShan (Jing Gang Mtn). I failed to remember much from the reading I did beforehand, and upon arriving at Lu Mtn. I was surprised to see the many European style chalets that still stand, creating an alpine feel. These had been built by Europeans who moved to the forested higher elevation during summers to escape the heat. Jing Gang Mtn. holds historical significance as a Red Army base when Mao had to regroup his troops against the KMT. There are green teas with long associations with both mountains.

Jiangxi’s main claim to fame is porcelain from Jingdezhen. The area in the NE part of the province was once known as FuLiang, but during the Song dynasty, the name was changed to Jingdezhen, and today remains a center for fine porcelain. The history of tea production in FuLiang goes back to the Song. Most people, even in China, are not aware that the area surrounding Jingdezhen produces tea. By the Tang, the ancient city of Fuliang was a tea distribution center.

Souchong Black from Spring Tea Co. (August 2016)

Souchong Black from Spring Tea Co. (August 2016)

Looking back, I may have been impulsive, but this was one of those teas where the first sip leads to a buying decision. The flavor is reminiscent of Keemun, with satisfying sweet, round notes, and is a bit more elegant than the more robust Yunnan Blacks. This FuLiang Black was finished in late April and early May.

The garden itself is located about 600 meters above sea level, and the tea’s distinctive features are fine uniform leaves with pointy tips showing a sleek luster. Processing is standard: withering, shaking, and then the sequence of lumping the leaves together, separating them, followed by oxidation, and several rounds of drying. The entire process takes about 27 to 30 hours. The plucking standard for the tea that we have is one bud and one leaf.

Until 5 years ago, the cultivar was only made into green tea. In the context of rising interest in black teas in the domestic market, it is easy to understand the motivation behind the shift from green tea to a black tea. The recent emergence of black teas in spiral shapes was obviously inspired by the cachet of Pi Lo Chun (a spiral green), and all-bud or very tippy Blacks were also developed in recent years to meet demand for high-end fully oxidized teas, no longer relegated to merely an export category.

Some other examples:

Text and photographs courtesy of Lydia Kung