FREE SHIPPING on orders over $65 International: over $250

Chinese Green Tea Production Regions

Posted by Boyka Mihaylova on

Tea is the world's most beloved drink. And for China – where it all started for tea – the most beloved tea is undoubtedly Chinese Green tea. The country is the unanimous leading green tea producer, with a whopping 80% of the global green tea output. A cup of green tea is a daily ritual for an ever-increasing majority of people worldwide. A Chinese green tea lover's profile proves to be as diverse as the countries that the same tea enters – Morocco, Uzbekistan, Ghana, and the United States, among others.

Green tea has a history going back several millennia. It is the first type of tea that ever existed. It was also the prime material from which the six main types of tea originated and developed. China spreads across five climatic zones, ensuring various soil types, sunshine, temperature, and rainfall. All of them create different terroirs, reflected in the multitude of local tea tree varieties and their specifics in taste, aroma, flavor, and appearance. Additionally, the rich historical and cultural heritage of the country provided rich craftsmanship, which, along with the local culture, further deepened the significance of certain Green tea types, turning them into symbols of significant cultural importance, carrying a historical legacy of the crafts, customs, and spirituality that shaped the face of a region and its people. Let's explore this rich legacy and dive into the most significant producing areas in Chinese green tea, following the craft, the legends, …and our taste buds!


Chinese Green Tea Producing Regions: Volume vs Heritage

Chinese Green Tea represents a powerhouse industry on the mainland. It has both an economic and cultural significance that is of equal importance. Additionally, the diversified profiles of each province within China create various Green tea production areas. Each has its characteristics in terms of geography, climate, production volume, craftmanship techniques, prevailing tea varieties, and folklore legacy. Some provinces specialize in producing large volumes of lower grade tea, mainly for export. Others are of greater cultural importance, representing locally significant tea varieties of important historical legacy. Some teas or their production techniques are proclaimed intangible cultural inheritance. Thus, even though they do not generate as much profit for the country's economy as the lower-grade, mass-volume ones, they remain an important landmark, shaping China's cultural face and representing the Chinese tea legacy for the tea world.

With this in mind, we'll discuss China's main green tea-producing areas from two perspectives. One is the economic significance of the regions that produce most Chinese green tea on the global market. The other is the culturally significant green tea-producing areas. Although ceding in commercial volumes, the distinctive varieties produced there guard the country's cultural legacy and shape the image of Chinese green tea as a unique beverage that enriches the world.


Chinese Green Tea: The Three Belts

China is divided into three primary regions for green tea production. A unique combination of geographic and climatic conditions gives each of them its distinctive nature. The Eastern belt, which encompasses Fujian, Zhejiang, and Anhui provinces, is known for delicate and aromatic teas like Longjing and Huangshan Maofeng. This area benefits from a humid subtropical climate that supports the cultivation of these refined flavors.

The Central belt includes Hunan, Hubei, and Shaanxi provinces, where the climate varies enough to produce robust and fuller-bodied green teas such as Maojian. The significant temperature shifts between day and night in these provinces slow the growth of the tea plants, enhancing the depth of flavor in the teas.

Finally, the Western belt, comprising Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan provinces, produces bolder, earthier green teas. The cooler, mountainous terrain in regions like Yunnan fosters the development of green teas with more pronounced flavors, setting them apart from teas produced in the eastern and central belts. Each region contributes uniquely to China's extensive green tea offerings.

Let's examine each province's green tea production and its economic and cultural significance.


Zhejiang – Chinese Green Tea's Image to the World

Chinese green tea is almost synonymous with the name of Zhejiang province. Home of the iconic Long Jing green tea, Zhejiang has gained recognition and yielded economic power for centuries, namely thanks to its tea industry. A whopping 94% of its total tea output is dedicated to Green tea production. 

The province doesn't lack Green tea varieties. Undoubtedly, the most recognizable one is "Dragon Well" Long Jing tea (龙井茶). Produced in Xihu District, Hangzhou City, it is one of China's top ten famous teas and has more than 1,200 years of history. Its tender, delicate buds have a refreshing and mellow taste, drawing comparisons to sipping "spring essence in a cup." In 2001, the State Administration officially declared Longjing tea a PDO product (protected designation of origin).


Longjing Green Tea

Longjing tea displayed for sale at a local market


Another noteworthy local Green tea variety is Anji Bai Cha (安吉白茶), a renowned tea from Lu Yu's hometown, Huzhou. Hailed as the Green tea with the highest content of amino acids (5 to 6 times more than ordinary green tea), Anji Bai Cha has been proclaimed a PGI product (Protected Geographical Indication) as of 2004. 


Anhui – a Province of Historical Legacy 

Anhui has a long history of tea cultivation, that leaves an uninterrupted trace through two millennia of Chinese history. Starting in Han dynasty, during Tang and Song it has already established itself as one of the largest tea producing area in the empire. 91% of the total tea output is green tea, signifying its overall importance for the area. Anhui is also the province that concentrates the largest amount of China's Top 10 famous teas, mostly a great variety of green teas! 


Tea villages in Anhui province


Huang Shan Mao Feng (黄山毛峰) is one of the top ten famous teas in China. Its origins are going back to the Qing Dynasty. Growing in the revered Huangshan mountain, this tea has a slightly curled appearance, resembling a sparrow tongue, with characteristic silver hairs, hence its name. 

Another famous Chinese green tea from Anhui is "Melon Seed" Lu An Gua Pian (六安瓜片also called Pian ​​Cha 片茶). It is also a part of China's top 10 famous teas. The harvested tea leaves undergo a unique traditional processing technology where the tender leaves and tea stems are removed to create melon seed-shaped tea leaves. Luzhou Lu'an tea has been used as one of the descriptive names for Lu Yu's monumental creation "The Classics of Tea" as early as Tang dynasty. Lu'an Guapian becomes a tribute tea during Qing. Allegedly, the infamous empress dowager Ci Xi paid a monthly fee of 14 silver taels for it (around ½ kg of pure silver). 

"Monkey Chief" Tai Ping Hou Kui  (太平猴魁) is yet another addition to a list of famous Chinese green teas from Anhui province. It consists of two leaves embracing a flat and straight bud, covered with white hair. It tastes fresh, green, mellow and sweet, with a strong and refreshing aroma and a clear and bright soup color.


Taiping Houkui Tea 

Anhui is also the province with the biggest production of yellow tea. For example, the Huo Shan Huang Ya (霍山黄芽) grows in the mountainous area of Huoshan County. Its foggy hills, abundant rainfall, high humidity, and loose and fertile soil have provided ideal conditions for the growth of tea trees since the Tang dynasty.

Fujian – the Unlikely Companion

Fujian is not exactly a top of mind when discussing Chinese green tea. Yet, this province ranks second in the Eastern belt area in terms of green tea output volume. Its green tea production share is around 30% of all output (naturally, the lion's share goes to its famous loose-leaf Oolong tea, mostly Yancha). Fujian's major green tea-producing areas include Fuding (within Ningde city), Yongan and Datian (within Sanming city), Fuzhou and Longyan cities. 

A green tea-producing area of prominence is Songxi – a county located in the north of Nanping City with long-standing traditions in tea production dating back to the pre-Tang dynasty period. Today, Chinese green tea produced in Songxi is exported to the US, The EU, Japan, and Canada, among others. Most of the area's tea production has eco/ organic certification from international organizations in Switzerland, France, Japan, and the US. Since 2020, Songxi green tea has been proclaimed a PDO product (protected designation of origin).

There are many well-known internationally and domestically green tea types from Songxi. Tai Mu Cui Ya (太木催芽) is a baked green tea from Taimu mountain, created during the Ming dynasty. Its plump and tight buds with white hair are emerald green in color, with a refreshing and lasting aroma and mellow taste. And did you know that Rock Tea can also be green?? Wuyi Rock Green (武夷岩绿) is a baked green tea coming from – you guessed it – the Wuyishan area! Farmers pick one bud and one to two leaves before the Qingming Festival. They then process them through withering, rolling, and drying to obtain the Rock Green tea's thick leaves with sharp tips and tender white fuzz. More green tea varieties from Fujian include the Zhu Lan Cui Ya (竹栏翠芽), a pan-fried variety with a sweet and refreshing taste and needle-like buds that look like bamboo stalks when brewed. 

That's all for today! Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog post, where we will explore the other six provinces in China's green tea-producing zone.