The Mystery Behind China’s Black Tea Production

China’s Fujian province is a treasure trove of indigenous teas as dozens of differ-
ent varieties of Camellia sinensis have originated there.  It’s believed that black
tea originated in China’s Fujian province around the 1700’s, by tea makers who
had become frustrated by the poor quality of the green tea made in that region.
But it is a mystery as to how
and why 
black teas were first
produced, as China drank and produced only
green tea for thousands of years.
It’s hypothesized that wanting a change and
looking for something new to present to the
Imperial Tea Tribute board, they began to
experiment with other

types of tea.Their taste for sweeter teas (like their green

white teas) led to the development of
bud laden black teas.  The same process
that turned tea black, turned the light green
buds a soft gold color during oxidation, which
is why many of China’s teas have the word
“golden” in their names.

Fujian province is home to the Panyang family of black teas, produced in the small village of
Tang Yang on Taimu Mountain, located just outside of Fu’an City.  Panyang Congou teas are the
last of this type of great historical teas that were produced in China during the tea trade era.
Known as Tan Yang Congou in China, the first tea gardens were es-
tablished over 300 years ago during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).

Panyang Congou, along with Paklum and Chingwo were popular dur-
ing the height of tea trade with Europe.  Paklum is no longer pro-
duced and Chingwo is nearing the end of production, too.

Today other teas have replaced Paklum and Chingwo.  The Panyang Congou family of teas is
now comprised of:

 Golden Monkey, Golden Crab, Panyang Golden Needle, and Panyang Congou.
All are processed with a different style and are sorted into four quality grades, starting with
Panyang Golden Needle (or King of Golden Needle), the finest grade, with the most amount of
golden tips.
Golden Monkey is next, with slightly larger
leaves and less tips.  Golden Crab follows
with a bit larger leaf and again less tips,
and last, Panyang Congou with the largest
leaf and least amount of tips, along with a
dark, full bodied taste, a bit more like

Assam or Darjeelings with their brisk, ro-
bust, yet light and fruity flavors.
Of the 400 plus tons of tea produc-
ed in the village of Tang Yang only
5% is Panyang Congou, and the
remaining 95% is green  tea.  It is
made in a traditional style with less
tips than Golden Monkey or Golden
Needle, which is why it’s not as sweet, but still has a fruity flavor, tasting a bit like un-
sweetened baked apples.

Panyang Congou is the strongest and most brisk of the four
teas that make up the group.  Congou is a tea grade class-
ification for this type of Chinese black tea, made with this
particular tight twisted shape.  It is a corruption of the Chin-
ese words Gong Fu or Kung Fu, meaning “High Mastery,” or
skillfully made.

These teas were once made by hand, but today they are
made entirely by machine.

Golden Monkey is grown not far from Panyang Congou, also outside the city of Fu’an, in
Saowu, a region near the coast in northern Fujian province.

Golden Monkey is a relatively new tea, developed for
export just in the last 13 to 18 years. With the light,
sweet hints of rock fruits and semisweet chocolate in the
flavor, it’s developed quite a following in the

U.S. and
A hint to its newness is in its name.  Most

Chinese teas
          have two names, the first being its place of origin and the second, the style of leaf.
Keemun Mao Feng as an example, Mao Feng is a style of tea from Keemun.
Golden Monkey is made from Da Bai (Big White) a cultivar used in white tea that has a
slightly larger leaf than Golden Needle.

Panyang Golden Needle is the finest leaf, made with the
largest amount of sweet golden tips.  Also called King of
Golden Needles or Tanyang, it comes from the town of Pan-
yang, also located near Fu’an in northeastern Fujian pro-
vince, which has produced

black teas for 200 years or more.

Like its name indicates, Golden Needle is long and straight, needle-shaped unlike Golden
Monkey’s tightly wound spirals.  It’s also tippy with plenty of sweet golden tips.

All of these teas have their own unique characteristics, but they have one very important thing in common – they are
all delicious.  Enjoy.