Dianhong Black Tea

What is Dianhong Black Tea?

Dianhong tea is a kind of relatively high-end, Chinese black tea, sometimes used in various tea blends and hails from the Yunnan province of China, the birthplace of tea itself. The main difference between Dianhong and other Chinese black teas is the amount of fine leaf buds, present in the dried tea. Dianhong teas is brassy golden orange in colour with a sweet, gentle aroma and no astringency. The inferior ones may taste bitter with darker color.

Yunnan black tea, or Dianhong tea, is a legendary local tea grown in Fengqing County (470 km from Kunming) of Lincang City (520 km from Kunming) in the southwest of Yunnan Province. It is one of many famous indigenous teas such as the “drinkable antique” Pu’er tea and is available in local tea houses to as well as supermarkets like Carrefour and Walmart. Dianhong and Pu’er teas are delicacies though prices vary with quality.

                                                            Dianhong tea (left) and Pu’er tea (right)

History of Dianhong Black Tea

In the autumn of 1938, many of China’s black tea producing regions were occupied by the Japanese. To develop tea business, an important export for earning foreign exchange to support the War against Japan’s invasion, Mr Feng Shaoqiu (1900-1987) – a tea expert of the former China Tea Trade Company Limited – was dispatched to Yunnan to develop a new producing base. Through arduous inspection and investigation, he identified the top-quality teas among those freshly picked in Fengqing County, and used these teas to make black tea which he named “Dianhong Tea”. So far, Fengqing has planted over 20,000 hectares of tea bushes, from a base of less than 2,000 hectares in the 1940s, with an annual tea output of about 10,000 tonnes — of which 70% are black tea. And 84% of its total population (0.45 mln) has been involved in the tea industry.

                                                             The statue of Feng Shaoqiu (1900-1987)

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Manufacturing Process of Dianhong Black Tea

“Yunnan Black Tea Production Techniques” has a worldwide impact, with significant Yunnan local characteristics and product advantages. The traditional production techniques of Yunnan black tea include withering萎凋, rolling揉捻, fermentation发酵 and drying干燥. The first is withering: after a period of natural water loss, the fresh leaves of tea become withered and withered. After withering, water can be evaporated appropriately to facilitate shape. At the same time, tea fragrance is appearing, which is an important processing stage to form the aroma of Yunnan black tea. Secondly, twisting: the withered fresh leaves are twisted, and the strength and time of the twisting are grasped by the tea maker.

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Varieties of Dianhong Black Tea 

The two most commonly consumed Dian black teas on the market are Dian Congou black tea (滇红工夫) and Dian broken tea (滇红碎茶). The former is made with one bud with one, two or three leaves and the main producing methods include withering, rolling, fermentation, drying. 

  • Dianhong Congou Black Tea (滇红工夫): Also called Gong Fu Black Tea. This is the most widespread style of black tea produced in China. Both Keemun and Dian Hong black teas are made by the Gong Fu method. Traditionally, this method requires hand picking of whole buds and leaves.  After a fair amount of delicate hand processing higher quality examples of Gong Fu Hong Cha are dried over charcoal while electric dryers may be used to finish lesser grades. Good Congou black tea will retain recognizable leaf shape, although it is not uncommon for lower grades to be chopped like Hong Sui Cha.
  • Broken Black Tea/Hong Sui Cha (红碎茶): It is made specifically for foreign consumption. This type of tea is mass produced with modern machinery and is sorted in accordance with the grading system used by the international market.
  • Golden Yunnan Black Tea (金芽滇红): It is Considered the best type of Dian hong tea. It contains only golden tips, which are usually covered in fine hairs. When viewed from a distance, the dried tea appears bright orange in colour. The tea liquor is bright red in colour and exhibits a gentle aroma and a sweet taste. The leaves are reddish brown after being brewed.

Main Dianhong Producing Areas in Yunnan

The main Dian black producing areas in Yunnan are Lincang, Baoshan, Xishuangbanna, Dehong, Honghe, including more than 20 counties. The main tea producing areas in Yunnan spread along 23°27 N where scientists believe that the climatic conditions are beneficial for biological diversity. Geographically, the producing area of Dianhong black tea in Yunnan can be divided into 3 main parts: West tea-area of Yunnan, South tea-area of Yunnan and Northeast tea-area of Yunnan. The west tea-area is primarily located in 4 cities of Lincang (临沧), Baoshan(保山), Dehong(德宏), Dali; the total planting area is about 52.2% in Yunnan province with the 65% of the total production in Yunnan. The south tea-area is slightly smaller than the west tea-area; however, it is regarded as the birthplace of tea and tea culture in China. The main tea producing counties in this area are Simao(思茅), Xishuangbanna(西双版纳), Wenshan(文山) and Honghe(红河), the tea area and tea out account for 32.7% and 30.8%.

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