The Legend of the Tea Dragon
The Ten Famous Chinese Teas are a source of mystery and wonder. But with all great mysteries a certain amount of controversy arises when tea enthusiasts debate which teas actually make up the list of the ten best teas.
Regardless of how you rank your favorite Chinese tea the history and legends that surround these famous teas is certainly fascinating. So to satisfy my own curiosity and hopefully yours as well, I am on a quest to discover these famous tea legends and reveal them here.
Bear with me as my journey may take many moons and my travels will certainly be long - in other words keep coming back as I'm a workin' on it - there's certainly more famous tea legends to come.
I have listed the top ten teas in the order they rank based on the number of times they have appeared in twenty other top ten tea lists. (original research done by chinese-teas.net). I will add each tea's legend as I find it.
Top Ten Famous Chinese Teas
Enjoy the Elegance of a Traditional Chinese Tea Pot
English, Japanese, and Chinese teapots and more...
Not only is there a beauty in the distinct styles of famous tea, there is an equal beauty in the eclectic blend of teapots. Each region has it's own unique style, from the Victorian English to the Iron Japanese style to ancient Chinese teapots.
My favorite teapots are the handmade Yixing Teapots that are so fun to admire I almost hate to use them for tea - almost. =)
The beautiful thing about Yixing teapots is that the tea you use in these clay pots begins to "season" the pot making your tea more flavorful and rich the longer you use the teapot. That is why it is recommended to use one type of tea with each Yixing teapot you use.
You can find all styles of Yixing teapots for sale at Brandelic Artistry. (and cool artwork too!)
#1 Dragonwell (Long Jing) - Green Tea
Legend has it a great drought parched the mountainous regions of China's Lion's Peak in Hangzhou in 250 AD. The tea crop for that year was thirsting for every last drop of moisture it could find. Alas the lack of a single drop of precious liquid threatened their very existence.
So a monk traveled the treacherous mountain paths to summon the dragon residing in the spring that fed their well. The monk prayed to this dragon for rain pleading with him to save their precious tea crop.
The dragon feeling generous, and perhaps thirsty for tea as well, granted the monk's wish with a lush soaking rain and the spring never dried out. To this day that very same spring nourishes the tea bushes near Lion's Peak granting us the finest in Dragonwell tea, and the dragon has never thirsted for his favorite first flush Long Jing.
#2 Green Snail Spring (Pi Lo Chun) - Green Tea
Centuries ago Pi Lo Chun was known by the name Xia Sha Ren Xiang, which means astounding fragrance. Legend has it tea pickers walked among the tea bushes near the garden city of Suzhou filling their baskets with a particularly good crop of tender tea.
Moist with mountain mist, the tea shoots and buds were ripe with the absorbed aroma of the peach, apricot and plum trees planted among the tea bushes. The tea workers baskets soon filled to overflowing and not about to miss out on any of this fine crop of tea they stuffed as much as they could into their tunics. (some say they were stealing it for themselves)
Warmed by body heat and the warm spring sun, the fresh tea began to give off a rich bodily aroma. Many pickers exclaimed, "I was astounded" by the scent, and thus the tea's name was chosen.
Sometime in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, Emperor Kang Xi visited the Lake Taihu area in Zhejiang province. He was presented with a fine sample of this tea. The Emperor was impressed with the aroma and clarity of the tea and asked the name. "Astounding Fragrance" was his host's reply.
The Emperor disdainfully replied that such a name for this treasure was vulgar and an insult not fit for the likes of such an elegant tea. He demanded the unused leaves be brought for his examination, and declared that a more fitting name would be Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail Spring) because it was harvested in the spring on Biluo Peak in Dongting and the rolled shape looked like tiny green snail shells.
#3 Iron Goddess (Ti Kuan Yin) - Green Tea
Centuries ago in the Fujian Province of China an old farmer walked the paths near his farm every day enjoying the serene sound of birds and the gentle trickle of a nearby spring. Each day his travels brought him near an ancient neglected temple.
Seeing this once beautiful temple in such a run down condition saddened him deeply yet he did not have the financial means to have it repaired. One day he decided at least he could sweep and cleanse it with incense, and so twice a month he did.
In the center of this temple was a statue of Guanyin, sometimes called the Iron Goddess of Mercy, and each day the farmer swept and burned incense in the temple the statue seemed less cracked and broken.
One day many years after the farmer had begun caring for the temple the Iron Goddess appeared to him in a dream. So touched by the poor farmer's devotion to her temple she told him to look in the caves behind the temple to find a treasure left for him with instructions to share the gift with others as he had shared the gift of his time with her.
The farmer searched the cave for hours before finding a small crevice far in the back, within it was a single tea shoot, which he cultivated into a splendid tea bush. The tea produced from this bush glowed with a golden brown liquid, diffused a distinct toasty aroma, and had a delicious sweet taste. Word spread of this wonderful tea and thus the Fujian Province became famous for the finest Iron Goddess oolong tea.
#4 Yellow Mountain Fur Peak (Huangshan Maofeng) - Yellow Tea
The Yellow Mountains of Anhui Province China is the home of Yellow Mountain Fur Peak tea. Imagine soaring cliffs piercing into the clouds as far as the eye can see, with rich fertile soil beneath your feet, cool air sending a slight chill over your body as a fine misty rain dampens the air.
The smell of orchids surround you in its magnolia-like fragrance as the sun begins to peek around the clouds. That is what you'd experience on Yellow Mountain - or Huang Shan. As with many of the surrounding mountains of China Yellow Mountain has it's own legend, based on life's tragedy of course.
A young man and a beautiful young woman from a tea plantation were in love, but the local tyrant enslaved her for his concubine. She escaped, only to learn that the landlord, in a jealous rage, had killed her lover.
When she found her lover's body cast away deep in the mountains, she wept and wept, until she became the rain, while her lover's body grew into the earth turning into a tea bush.
Legend has it this is why the area where this tea grows is cloudy and humid all year round, and why Yellow Mountain is gifted with the delightful Huangshan Maofeng tea.
#9 White Fur Silver Needle (Bai Hao) - White Tea
Legend has it that Emperor Hui Tsung was so distracted with his love for Silver Needle white tea and his pursuit for the perfect cup, that he neglected his empire and lost it to the invading Mongol hoards.
There is very little information about the legends of Silver Needle white tea - I am still deep in my quest to find the source of this delicate white tea from the Fujian Province of China.
Meanwhile... try a little Bai Hao Silver Needle tea for yourself and see just why it ranks in the top ten best Chinese teas.
#10 Pu-erh (Pu-er: Village of Cove) - Fermented Green Tea
Pu-erh tea can be traced back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD). According to legend, seeds of the tea plants used to make Pu-erh tea were left by Zhu Geliang (Zhegeliang) - Prime Minister of the Shu State during the Three Kingdoms Period.
He is also known as the "Tea Forefather". Zhu Geliang taught the people of southern Yunnan the art of harvesting and making tea. It is also believed that the Six Famous Tea Mountains located north of the Lincang River were named after six items left behind by Zhugeliang.
Youle (copper gong), Mangzhi (copper boa), Manzhuan (iron brick), Yi Bang (wooden clapper), Gedeng (leather stirrup), and Mansa (seed-sowing bag). As any good legend would have it the names and locations of these six famous tea mountains have shifted and changed over the years.
In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Pu-erh tea gained such great popularity that more than 100,000 people were involved in the tea growing on the puer tea mountains around Simao town.
Pu-erh tea is known for its many healing properties, including the best known remedy for curing a hangover according to some. But perhaps that is just an urban legend... you may have to try it for yourself.
Find some of our favorite Pu-erh tea for sale below.
Celebrate tea with a Chinese Teapot
There is an elegance and art form to drinking tea in China - Celebrate your next cup of tea with an authentic Chinese tea pot.
The Best Teapot for Chinese Tea: Yixing Teapots - Legendary Teas Deserve a Yixing Teapot
Yixing teapots absorb the flavor of the tea used over time and thus enhance the flavor and aroma. Yixing teapots are my favorite style to use with these legendary teas as they are an art form as are these delicate teas. If you enjoy an artful teapot like I do why not treat yourself to a new teapot from Amazon. If you are not familiar with Yixing teapots I'm sure you could find an informative book to spark some interest as well.
If you have a favorite tea you'd like to share please let us all know. If you see any misinformation in my historical findings kindly (and gently) let me know. Or, if you'd just like to leave some fine words of wisdom please leave a comment or two...
~Peace and Prosperity to You
Share the mystery and wonder of the ten famous Chinese tea legends - please share this page with your friends...
Melissa Reese Etheridge from Tennessee, United States on February 26, 2015:
This is an excellent article. My teenage daughter, who's in college, and I both love tea. I'll have to share your article with her. The best tea I've ever had was in Galway, Ireland.
Karcy on January 11, 2015:
Imrpessive brain power at work! Great answer!
Virginia Kearney from United States on October 29, 2014:
When my family visited a tea plantation in China, we got to try several different teas. We all really loved the Yellow tea, but it was very expensive, about $150 for a large cake. I didn't buy any but would love to try to find some here.
dead sheep on February 28, 2013:
Very interesting! It's nice to find out the legends behind what I drink!
Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on December 19, 2012:
Lovely lens, very creative subject.
countsquid on August 21, 2012:
i like the tea legend concept and content layout
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on July 03, 2012:
This is new and different information. thanks
Zebedee32 on July 02, 2012:
I love this lens so I shared it on Digg :)
Aster56 on June 21, 2012:
Very informative lens. Thanks
JoshK47 on June 05, 2012:
Love this lens! Blessed by a SquidAngel!
dmoxi7 on May 07, 2012:
byMali on March 14, 2012:
Auntie-M LM on March 13, 2012:
I do love tea, and I do love your lens. You have crammed in so much legend and history I vertitably feel the scent of fresh tea brewing!
lychic on October 25, 2011:
good info sharing! They are practical information!
HubLens Admin on October 07, 2011:
Excellent tea lens! Your writing and the video as well as all info are presented in total enjoyable way. Thumbs up and thanks for sharing -
TheRosemaryComp on September 08, 2011:
amazing post :) Thank you!
TheRosemaryComp on September 08, 2011:
amazing post :) Thank you!
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on September 03, 2011:
I am sipping a nice hot cup of tea as I read this lens. Delightfully relaxing.
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on September 03, 2011:
Enjoyed these legends. Thank you.
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on August 02, 2011:
I'm not very adventurous when it comes to tea. I like my tea a LOT and I'm always scared that I might not like a different one so I stick with what I know.
laki2lav on July 29, 2011:
you just reminded me what i was really thirsty for. thanks
KANEsUgAr on June 30, 2011:
Great pics and info, I love tea.
yesperu on June 21, 2011:
Very interesting information, China is an incredible culture and we have a lot to learn from them.
Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on June 12, 2011:
Wonderful lens with interesting, helpful information.
efriedman on May 31, 2011:
I am adding this lens to my featured lens tab on Steam the Black Dragon (it just got a purple star - lucky me!)
miaponzo on May 24, 2011:
Thanks for this great tea lens!
efriedman on May 23, 2011:
Good description and images of the different teas. Glad to see an oolong and a white tea included. I love them both.
Jess Mahler from Lehighton, PA on May 08, 2011:
Great lens, and three of my favorites are in the top ten! (Iron Goddess, Silver Needle and Dragon Well). Lots of fun learning the stories behind my favorite cuppa.
MrsPotts on April 15, 2011:
Reading about these teas reminds me just how old the custom of tea drinking really is! I think I'll go make a cuppa. :-)
cuteordeath on April 11, 2011:
I love puer, but I prefer my oolong tea to come from Taiwan! :)
ratetea on March 28, 2011:
I appreciate that you emphasize how the "10 famous Chinese teas" list is not fixed, but rather, different sources include different teas on it. I was inspired by the differences in the lists to write my own List of 10 of China's underappreciated teas -- teas that I think are really good, but tend to not get as much attention, in part because they're more common and less expensive. I'd be curious to hear what your personal 10 favorite Chinese teas are.
stevenho128 on January 10, 2011:
Great lens, informative and nice layout. Thanks.
Rusty Quill (author) on December 30, 2010:
@Joy Neasley: That's interesting, not so different in the US in some ways as well, where the price of your toys is a status symbol. Although in some cases those that get the best sales also like to show off how big a bargain they got. :)
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on December 26, 2010:
great lens....I have discovered here in China that a families tea set is everything. The more expensive the tea set displayed in the home, the more highly thought of in the social realms. Some I have found even leave the price tags on them, proudly displayed in the home.
noobeegin on December 18, 2010:
Beautiful lens. Tea is so comforting and enjoyable. Not sure why more people don't participate in this lovely daily activity.
poppy mercer from London on September 26, 2010:
More tea please: I really enjoyed this.
anonymous on September 25, 2010:
As a recent convert to tea I found this lens very helpful in journey to learn more about tea.
Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on September 15, 2010:
This is a great lens for tea lovers. I didn't even know all these teas existed. I mainly have green and black tea. Very well presented!
anonymous on July 18, 2010:
From one Chinese tea lover to the next. I love your lens. Check out my new
tea blog and let me know what you think. All advice welcomed.
Cho Yung Tea blog
p.s. Hope you don't mind if I share your lens with my followers.
HERBMASTER on November 21, 2009:
Enjoyed your lens! Good work!
imolaK on September 04, 2009:
It's a nice story about tea.Thanks for sharing.
anonymous on September 01, 2009:
It's a shame that pu erh is so wonderful -- it's absolutely one of my favorites -- because it overshadows the regular black tea produced in Yunnan, which is worthy in its own right. I've never heard any legends about Yunnan or Keemun (Qi Men) teas, but they are some of the finest in the world. As for greens...it's hard to find but I adore mao feng, and I'm drinking pi lo chun right now :)
Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on July 19, 2009:
This is a great lens! I love tea and this is so cool to have a history and legend about each of these special teas. 5* and I'm lensrolling to my tea lenses.
casablancajen on May 04, 2009:
I love tea! And this lens. My favourite is 15 year old pu-erh.
anonymous on March 02, 2009:
Hi, what a nice lens
I agree that green tea has many benefit for health,
beside made long life for human body it's good
for every people ,every age.
Have Nice day
Green Tea And Mesothelioma
mgtidaho on January 10, 2009:
You page is simple and clear. I enjoy reading about the pu-rah tea.
LadyT LM on December 31, 2008:
This is a great site with information about the different types of chinese teas. Some of them I've never heard of. Great lens.
GregGiordano on November 04, 2008:
Excellent lens. I love the photos and detailed history of the teas. Great job!
Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on October 25, 2008:
I've actually seen red robe tea growing on a mountain! It's quite expensive, but it's various relative strains are more affordable.
Welcome to the Learn About China group!
ElizabethJeanAl on October 24, 2008:
Welcome to the Totally Awesome Lenses Group.
anonymous on October 14, 2008:
Another great lens - I love the way you've written about the tea legends, much more poetic than I've found elsewhere. Props!
KimGiancaterino on September 17, 2008:
Nicely done! I like all kinds of tea, but try to drink more green tea for the health benefits. Welcome to Culinary Favorites From A to Z. Squid Angel Blessed.
tropicalteaco on September 12, 2008:
Thanks for the feedback!!! I am glad to have you apart of the Tea Junkie group!! If you want to enjoy the free sample just shoot me an email at email@example.com with your info and if not no big deal. By the way it is the big deal with Matcha right now. I have been getting tons of orders for it? Great lens
JJNW from USA on September 07, 2008:
Welcome to the Tea Party Group! I love your lens. 5 Stars for you!
tealife on September 05, 2008:
great indroduction. China is one the biggest tea exporter of the world. Beside these 10 famous tea, there're also many other kinds of tea which taste and look great. Please vist my tea site, which also introducing tea and green life style in China.
anonymous on July 12, 2008:
Oh, excellent Rusty - I love the tea legends in this lens, can't wait for more. I'm also a big fan of Yixing teapots as well. =)
The Homeopath on July 05, 2008:
What a wonderful read to sit down to with a cup of tea!
anonymous on April 14, 2008:
I love this lens. Very interesting to learn about the different teas. :)
anonymous on March 07, 2008:
Very interesting info, I will be checking back to discover more! Great stuff!!
anonymous on March 03, 2008:
Fabulous tea site I love your tea photos, and the tea legends are interesting to read. I haven't tried Iron Goddess tea yet but I think I will now! Thanks.