The Generational Family of Chinese Tea: Explained | TeaSource
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The Generational Family of Chinese Tea: Explained

After a recent trip to Fujian Province, China, Maggy Waddington (daughter of owner Bill Waddington) provides some insight into the world of Chinese tea.

The world of Chinese tea is too vast to ever be covered in a single blog post, but here’s a quick overview with a slight focus on Fujian teas. Not only is tea consumed 24/7 in Fujian, there is an established tea culture with its own specific types and groups.

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Tea fields in Fujian Province, China

Imagine if Chinese tea was a family...

Shou Mei

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As a white tea, this should not come as a surprise, but Shou Mei is the cat. Yep, that’s right. Shou Mei is the quiet shy, cat that you forgot you had. Subtle, it manages to have just enough personality to distinguish itself from water, but not enough to be overpowering.

Silver Needles

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Silver needles is the newborn daughter. Young, pricey, and a little too delicate. This white tea is the baby of the family and whenever it’s around all eyes are on this amazingly light, crisp, and intriguing tea.


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This is that snarky teenage brother who thinks he’s too cool for family reunions and would rather “play fort bro”. This tea is more floral than grassy tea and is a staple of Chinese green teas.

Big Red Robe

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You know your older cousin who wears sunglasses all the time but drives a mom van? Maybe he even insists you hold the door open for him? Yes, that’s Big Red Robe. Since historically this tea was reserved only for the emperor, it makes sense that this tea attempts to act as exclusive as it can…without being exclusive at all. This toasty, smooth, roasted oolong is truly amazing and thankfully available to everyone, commoner and king.

Ti Guan Yin (aka Iron Goddess of Mercy)

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This is your classic, rambunctious younger “tween” sister who insists that “like no one says cool anymore (ugh)”. This oolong, which can be either baked traditionally or left greener, prefers to be known as a staple of Fujian oolong. Smooth, floral, and distinct, this oolong isn’t cool, it’s “dope”.

Jin Jun Mei

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This black tea is the mother-head of the household…and she don’t mess around. Lover of expensive taste and eccentric as can be, this black tea is sweet, floral, slightly fruity, but also very complex. Translating to “golden horse eyebrow”, this black tea is definitely a first class tea.

Sheng Pu’er

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Sheng: slowly aged pu’er that gets more valuable with age…kind of like grandpa! This old tea truly represents your local old grandpa. Deep, earthy, and with an abundance of…flavor. These teas have the potential to become more valuable and wiser with age.

Shou Pu’er

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Meanwhile, our guy Shou Pu’er is grandpa’s younger brother that you still can’t figure out why grandpa agreed to take him in for all these years. Shou Pu’er is younger and has been aged in a less natural process, which gives it some dark notes and smooth subtleties.

Dark Tea

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This is your great aunt that you’ve never actually met but you’ve heard stories about. Elusive, she’s the mother figure to grandpa so you know she has at least a bit of decency. Dark tea is rare in the US, but still a truly unique category of tea with a complex history that matches the complexity of its flavor.


  • Posted by Tim Hargrave on

    Very interesting and helpful, Maggie! Thank you!

  • Posted by Keith R. Starkey on

    Nice read! I can relate to tea much better now!

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