With the temperature dropping below 60s here in Washington D.C area, we are seeing more and more orders for white tea products. At the same time, we’re getting more and more inquires on white tea. In the past, we’ve talked about white tea’s history, tea-making, health benefits and many other aspects (click here for previous posts on white tea). Today, let’s discuss one of the least addressed questions: the production area of white tea.
To the general tea-drinking community, white tea producing area seems to be not as critical as other teas’. Most online posts simply generalize the entire northern and eastern Fujian as traditional white tea producing areas. However, to white tea lovers, there’re actually 2 major white tea areas: Fuding (福鼎, pronounced: Fu-Ding ) and Zhenghe(政和, pronounced: Zheng-He'r) in Fujian province.
Both Fuding and Zhenghe are county-level administrative areas. Fuding is in Ningde City in eastern Fujian, and Zhenghe belongs to Nanping City in northern Fujian (Wuyi mountains is also in Nanping). Fuding and Zhenghe both have very long history of white tea production. Being the more famous of the two, Fuding counts more than half of the worldwide white tea production. This is perhaps why people say “white tea of the world is in China, and white tea of China is in Fuding”. Zhenghe, however, also has a deep white tea heritage. In fact, Zhenghe got its name because Emperor Huizong of Song (1111-1118) liked white tea from the area so much, he granted his reign title to the county. Fuding and Zhenghe both produce Silver Needle, White Peony and Gong Mei/Shou Me. Fuding’s Silver Needle is the most popular in all white tea products while Zhenghe focuses a little more on White Peony products.
The biggest difference between Fuding and Zhenghe white teas is the natural environment. Fuding is much closer to the ocean with an average altitude of 600 meters (1969ft). Zhenghe is in a mountainous area with an average altitude of 800 meters (2625ft). Different environments lead to different tea plants and the tea-making.
In theory, most white tea plants have a similar origin. But after reproducing and multiplying for thousands of years, plants in different area have developed different characters. In Fuding, major plants are Fuding Da Bai Cha and Fuding Da Hao Cha (Chinese: 福鼎大白茶/福鼎大豪茶); in Zhenghe, major plants are Zhenghe Da Bai Cha and Fu’an Da Bai Cha (Chinese: 政和大白茶/福安大白茶). In spite of similar names, each plant carries unique genes. Because plants have various levels of nutrients, tea polyphenols, amino acids, fragrances, etc., white teas in Fuding and Zhenghe have distinct harvest dates and tea-makings. By comparison, Fuding tea plants mature early, and Zheng he tea plants mature late.
As we’ve mentioned many times, tea-making is an agricultural activity, and the timing of the harvest affects tea production. Since plants in Fuding mature early, tea makers can utilize the those sunny days before the rainy season to wither fresh leaves under the sun. Plants in Zhenghe, however, have a late maturity in the rainy days. Therefore, most Zhenghe white teas have to be withered indoor. Maybe because of the demand for indoor withering, local Zhenghe architectural designs feature a lot corridors and covered bridges/porches. Therefore, the tea-making in Zhenghe is slightly different than that of Fuding. Zhenghe white tea is oxidized and slightly fermented, while Fuding white tea is only oxidized.
Consequently, Fuding and Zhenghe white teas have different appearances and tastes. Fuding white tea has a grayish-green color, and Zhenghe tea displays a more silvery-gray color. At the same time, Fuding tea also has stronger and shorter leaves, and Zhenghe tea leaves are slimmer and longer. Once infused or brewed, Zhenghe white tea soup also looks thicker than Fuding tea. Besides the visual differences, you can also distinguish Fuding and Zhenghe white tea apart by tasting new teas. (aged white tea cannot be compared by tasting because the aging process changes the character of a white tea, please click here and here to read our previous blog on aged white tea) Fuding white tea has a stronger “refreshing white fur flavor”, and Zhenghe tea tastes thicker and slightly sweeter.
In conclusion, the varieties in the growing environment leads to different tea plants and different tea-makings in Fuding and Zhenghe white tea. Please note that the similarities and the differences mentioned in this blog apply to white teas in general. It’d be quite inconclusive if you take only one white tea product and compare it to the standards in this blog.
We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!