By Robert, an expatriate and long-time resident in Kunming
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)
Fengqing, a stop on the Ancient Tea and Horse Trail, the trade route linking Yunnan with Tibet and South East and South Asian nations, has for centuries been associated with Dianhong tea.
Lushi of Fengqing County used to serve as a caravan town on the Ancient Tea and Horse Trail
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".
The statue of Feng Shaoqiu (1900-1987)
In 1939, the first batch of Dianhong tea products were exported to the UK via Hong Kong at the then unbelievable price of 800 pennies per pound; and the fame of "Dianhong tea" began to spread throughout the world. When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, Dianhong Tea was honoured as a "national gift of China", and Fengqing became one of the major exporters of Chinese black tea.
Queen Elizabeth who is a connoisseur of quality tea was presented with a gift from the province of Yunnan of Dianhong tea during her visit to Kunming City of Yunnan in 1986.
Fengqing (470 km from Kunming) is one of the places in Yunnan Province where ancient tea trees grow.
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.
When it is brewed, Dianhong tea is golden in color and has a strong refreshing taste with a distinctive fragrance.