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Welcome to Hunan

You know you are in a country that loves its tea when the Cafe at the airport serves these type of it was with great excitement that I left the airport at Changsha yesterday and started my tea travels in Hunan.

I have been lucky enough to spend today learning about the past & future of Hunan tea and meeting some wonderful people that work here in the tea trade - more on that later.  Its time to head to the gardens tomorrow - I am already 5 hours into that journey - but what I learned today is fascinating stuff - so I wondered if you, like me,  might like to learn more.  Thanks to the team at the Tea Museum at the Hunan Tea Company I can share the below - so make a bowl of Comins Tea, sit back and take a journey into Hunan......

'Hunan's tea regions lie between the parallels of 25 degrees and 30 degrees {or so} North which are the golden latitudes of Chinas tea production....

...Hunan has a long tea history and produced tribute teas as early as in the Yugong period.  In the early Han dynasty the Chaling County of Hunan became an important tea producing region of China.  Moving into the Tang Dynasty there were Jietan, Yueyang Junshan, Yonghu, Nanyue Shilin and Quijang slice teas under production {to name a few}.  In the Song Dynasty Hunan tea prospered for a time under the "tea horse trade" and tea tax increased sharply leading to the tea related uprising in Hubei - according to records in the early part of the Northern Song Dynasty the annual tea trade in the lower reaches of the Changjiang River had a volume of more than 10.2 million jin {1 jin equals 0.5 KG} ranking it as number one in the whole country.  In 1037 government run tea plantations were set up in the two counties of Anhua and Xinhua and manufactured teas for tribute offerings.  In the Yuan Ming and Qing dynasties Hunan's tea together with its mulberry, ramie, cotton and sugar became one of 5 major local specialities.  Changsha, together equally with Guangzhou, Jiujiang and Hangzhou, was already listed as one of Chinas four biggest tea markers and the tea trade became the most extensive commercial activity of the prefecture of Changsha.

In the late Qing Dynasty and into the beginning of the republic of China tea was still Hunan's main speciality product.  Hunan was selling tea through four main routes :

1. Forwarded from Hankou and Hanshui to North West China

2. Eastward down the Yangtze River to Korea and Japan

3. Through Shanxi and the grassland tea road to "Kyakhta, sold to Russia"

4. Down the Xiang River through Xiangtan and Hengyang to Guangzhou over the maritime route and "sold to the UK and US markets from Hong Kong"

After the founding of new China tea production was rejuvenated in Hunan.  In the 1980s and 90s Hunan created numerous well known teas and new varieties while continuing to improve its tea refining techniques.  This work continues to this day and Hunan continues to expand its tea production area and its tea varieties.  The region are also continuing to invest in their tea culture research and innovation in tea technology.  I observed some of this work in action today - you can see  the sheer variety of cultivars growing in this region below.  I also got a taste of what will be on offer over the next few days - it has been a tantalising introduction.

So thats a whistle stop introduction to Hunan - I hope you enjoyed it..  I'll be back tomorrow {connectivity permitting} - with news from the tea fields.

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