China’s “Golden Family” of Panyang Congou Black Teas

The Panyang Congou family of black teas comes from China’s Fujian Province
and consists of:  Golden Monkey, Golden Crab, Panyang Golden Needle (or King
of Golden Needle) and, of course, Panyang Congou.
Chinese black teas are given a
longer, slower oxidation period,
concentrating a type of flavanoid
called thearubigins, and along with plenty of sweet
golden tips, give the tea a more rounded, gentler
body and mild, mellow flavor.
The thearubigins, together with plenty of sweet
tips, a fine pluck, and processing steps that draw
out the lightly sweet
aroma of rock fruits,
along with hints of
semisweet chocolate
have made these
teas extremely popu-
lar in the U.S., and
Europe.  One of the
“youngest” and most popular of these teas is Golden Monkey.

Golden Monkey originates in the Saowu region that lies outside
the city of Fu’an, near the coast in China’s Fujian Province.
Golden Monkey is a relatively new tea developed for export in the
last 15 to 20 years, and has a huge following in the West and

Golden Monkey is made from Da Bai (or Big White), the same
cultivar used to make white tea.  The leaves are harvested when the tips are as large as they
can get without forming whole leaves.  The
sweet tips contain extra sugars that help the
bud eventually form into a whole leaf. During
oxidation the bud turns a lovely golden color.

One of the keys to Golden Monkey’s newness
is in its name.  Most Chinese teas are given
two names, with the first for the place of ori-
gin and the second the style of leaf.  An ex-
ample is Panyang Congou.  Panyang is a
town in Fujian Province, and Congou is a tea
trade classification for this style of black tea
with a twisted or coiled shape.  Golden Mon-
key means nothing aside from processing
and marketing purposes where the word
“monkey” suggests a high quality tea.

Next in the list is Panyang (also called
Tanyang) Golden Needle, which is also located near
the town of Fu’ an in China’s Fujian Province.  Also
called King of Golden Needle, this tea also contains
plenty of nice golden tips, giving it a light, sweet fla-
vor.  Because it contains less tips than Golden
Monkey it has a bit more body and stronger flavors of fruits and nuts.

The Panyang region has been producing black teas for over 200
years and the best teas are described as “tippy” because of the
large amount of golden tips or buds present.

While the leaves of Golden Monkey are twisted or coiled,
Panyang Golden Needle has straight, flat needle-like leaves that
have a polished sheen.  This is because they are slightly heated
in a wok and the repeated rubbing against the metal surface of
the wok gives them a polished look.  Panyang Golden Needle is finished in an oven rather than
over a fire, so the well-rounded tea is not overpowered by fire flavors.

Golden Crab is a lesser known tea.  Of the teas in the Panyang Congou fam-
ily, they are all given a fine pluck of one bud and a leaf and sorted into four
quality grades, with the first being Panyang Golden Needle (or King of Gol-
den Needle), which has the finest leaf with the largest amount of tip.  Next
comes Golden Monkey with a slightly larger leaf and less tips, and Golden
Crab which is still larger.  Lastly, Panyang Congou has the largest leaf with
the least amount of tips, but with a more full-bodied, brisk flavor.

Panyang Congou is also grown outside the city of Fu’ an in the small village
of Tang Yang on Taimu Mountain.  This tea is one of the last of its kind, one of the great
historical teas produced in China during the tea trade days.

The word Congou is a corruption of the Chinese words gong fu or kung
fu, meaning “highest mastery” or “highly skilled,” and a tea trade
classification referring to the masterful skills needed to produce this
type of twisted shape of tea by hand.

Today Panyang Congou teas are made by machine with the leaves
rolled into a tight twist or spiral before being slowly oxidized to draw
out the thearubigins, the flavanoids responsible for the mild, mellow
flavors, along with other compounds.

Panyang Congou is more full-bodied and brisk than its relatives, Golden
Monkey or King of Golden Needle, with less tips and the fruity flavor of unsweetened baked
apples, closer in taste to an Assam or Nilgiri.

Known as Tan Yang Congou in China, the first Panyang Congou tea
gardens were established over 300 years ago during the early Qing
dynasty (1644-1911).  Panyang Congou, along with Paklum and
Chingwo were popular teas of the English during this time of China’s
peak tea trade with Europe.  Today Paklum is no longer made and
Chingwo is also nearly out of production.

Most of the tea produced today in the small village of Tang Yang is
green, with Panyang Congou accounting for only about 5%, or 20 tons, of the total 400 tons of
tea produced yearly.