We have had many, many spectacular teas from the region of FuLiang, which is located all-around the porcelain center of Jingdezhen. However, these have been mostly mid-season spring green teas. Some of you may remember what was Mary Lou’s all-time favorite green tea: Ming Mei, which we sourced for many years back in the ‘aughts’ and into the early “twenty-teens”. That delicious, richly-flavored, mid-season green tea was from one of China’s first certified organic tea-growing gardens (located in Jiangxi), a tea that was for most of the “twenty-teens” highly-sought-after on the domestic Chinese tea market and ultimately priced out of the export market for a number of years. Happily we have been able to source it again for several years now…
Jiangxi Province in general and the FuLiang area of it in specific, is a stunning region of steep mountains and bamboo forests, with many settlements that date back to summer residences of both wealthy and powerful Chinese and later, westerners, who were all escaping the heat of the summer in the major cities that have been so densely populated for centuries. There are varied and interesting examples of architecture of many of the people who have had either permanent or seasonal residences and businesses in the region. Many of these are particularly noticeable on Lu Shan, from which we still source a fine green tea during the P.Q.M. Spring Green Tea season.
However, we are currently blessed with a delicious and special black tea from this region, known very simply as Fuliang Black. This is quite exciting, and it is made from the same leaf plantings as the green tea in the area (as with Keemun tea, whose leaf was historically made into green tea, but then a tea maker long ago decided to think outside the box and made some black tea with the leaf and history was made!).
So the pluck used in this new black tea is what in green tea would be called a mao jian: one leaf and a bud.
The flavor is jam-packed. It is rich, full-bodied, quite ‘raisin-y‘, and is (we think) best drunk neat, or plain, but it does accept milk quite readily so if that is how you prefer your liquid tea, then try it both ways. This is what we like to call a ‘sturdy’ black tea – one that has incredible structure. Because of the incredible terroir of the area the growing conditions are superb and this tea reflects that. It has neither the cacao-like aroma of its black tea neighbors to the east in Fujian Province, nor the spicy, winey, complex flavor of the Keemuns to the north.
The leaf is slender, whole leaf, and beautiful to look at, much more interesting than its cousin the Keemun congou. It is more like the Keemun Mao Feng A++ but more slender and much more deeply-flavored. The leaf does not erupt in size the way the new Bai Lin does (which has the most remarkable increase in size when rehydrated!)
The aromatic qualities of our Fuliang Black are bright and intoxicating – mostly in the wet leaf – with nuance of raisin and dried fruit.
We think that our new Fuliang Black is elegant, slightly sweet, and has a finish that lingers, what the Chinese refer to as ‘returning flavor‘.
The liquor is clear but with high soluble solids, and is a deep, rich claret color.
The area known as “Fuliang” is located in north-eastern Jiangxi Province, nestled in just to the west and south of the ‘holy trinity’ of tea provinces: Anhui, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi Provinces. Now known as Jingdezhen, this region is well-known for its porcelain and ceramics production (including many teawares), but it is not as well known for its tea, even though this is a very important area in Chinese tea history. How could it not be with so much notable tea production all around it – to the east as mentioned, and to the west and south are the also-important, varied tea-producing provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Fujian, and Guangdong.
This area was one of the first places that we visited on our first trip to China in 2000, and we have re-visited it to source many of its delicious teas and functional teawares.