Xinyang Maojian (信阳毛尖) is one type of green tea that originally was produced in mid China The name can be divided into two parts that are associated with two aspects: "Xinyang" (信阳), the first part, is the Xinyang city in Henan, China that produces this type of tea; "mao jian" (毛尖) are the words to depict the shape of the tea – "mao" (毛) means tiny fuzz in cup when brewed, "jian" (尖) refers to shape of tea leaves: sharp, full young leaves.
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Xinyang has a tea history dating back to 2300 years ago – in 1987, at Gushi County of Xinyang, tea was discovered in an ancient tomb. In the past century, Xinyang Maojian has been considered one of the 10 best teas in China. It has a wide market and popularity in Henan province, where people like to drink it as a relaxing beverage after a busy day. In Xinyang Maojian history, there were 8 famous tea shops: 1) Yuanzhen Tea (元贞茶社，1903); 2) Longtan Tea (龙潭茶社, 1903); 2) Hongji/Cheyun Tea (宏济/车云茶社,1910); 3) Yushen Tea (裕申茶,1911); 4) Guangyi Tea (广益茶社, 1912); 5) Wanshou Tea (万寿茶社, 1913); 7) Guangsheng Tea (广生茶社, 1915); 8) Bohou Tea (博厚茶社, 1919). In 1914, Longtan Tea and other tea shops sent teas to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and won Gold Medal. Over the next 100 years, the tea shops disappeared, while the Longtan Tea have survived and developed into a group of companies known as Henan Xinyang Maojian Group.
Located in southern Henan Province, Xinyang is a place with a mild climate and good conditions for growing trees that produce the tea's unique quality: Xinyang tea trees are planted at high altitudes where the weather is clearly divided by four distinct seasons. Many high mountains, such as Mt. Cheyun, Mt. Jiyun, and Mt. Tianyun, surround the location in order to support environmental humidification and moisture. Moreover, the location is abundant with forests, clouds, rainfall, with large temperature difference between day and night. These geographical advantages help keep Xinyang's soil healthy and fertile, while trees more efficiently absorb chemical elements to produce higher quality green tea.
Xinyang Maojian features
The appearance of the Mao Jian tea's leaves are commonly known as "hairy tips”, a name that refers to the leaves' slightly dark-green color, straight and delicate edges, and thin and firmly rolled appearance with both ends in a pointed shape. The regular length of a Xinyang Maojian tea leaf is about 0.5–1 inches. It also tends to form balls, releasing a rather pungent smell when stored for a long time. It needs air, or the lack of oxygen will release an odor, to make up for the lack of oxygen. Comparing it with other famous types of green tea, Mao Jian leaves are relatively small. After brewing Maojian and pouring the water into a teacup, the aroma will flow into the air and create a peaceful atmosphere.
Fresh tea leaves requirements
The harvest season for Maojian tea is in spring and fall. However the best quality tea comes from leaves that are harvested in mid-April. Chinese call it "Yu Qian Tea", which means the tea is picked earlier in the spring before the Solar term 'Grain Rain' (Guyu). Because the leaves are rare and fresh, the price is two or three times higher than tea produced after this season. In general, the approximate ratio of fresh leaves to produced tea is 50,000 buds: 500 grams.
Dating back to ancient Chinese history, tea production was initially developed during the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1066–221 BCE). The tea technique was originally invented in southern China, which then spread over the entire country with political and economic growth, as well as improvements in cultural interaction, transportation, and communication. Drinking tea gradually became more widely accessible, although also a symbol of class division in China. In his book History of Tea, Chen Yuan explains, "Tea culture followed transportation movements settled in Henan's Qinling Mountain. Because of weather conditions, trees could no longer be pushed northward." In 1987, archaeologists in the Xinyang area discovered ancient tea in excavated tomb sites, and determined that the tea was made in 875 BCE.
The tea industry has taken off even more in the twentieth century, and Xinyang Maojian has continued to build up its own unique style and fame. The late Qing dynasty scholar Hanlin Chen and others influenced a number of urban and rural areas, including Xinyang gentlemen, landlords, and merchants. One after another, different groups and communities began to develop their own tea production. They went to Hangzhou, Zhejiang and other important tea places to buy seeds, and learned the West Lake Longjing tea frying techniques. Based on knowing production technology, as well as knowledge about digestion and absorption, people in Xinyang eventually improved their techniques and created a unique tea-frying process. In 1913, they produced "The Mountain Tippy" tea, later renamed "Xinyang Maojian." Xinyang Maojian tea won gold medal in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, in 1914 and was selected for the top ten in 1958.