Black Tea "Xiao Zhong Hong Cha" or "Souchong Black Tea" (from China Tea Book)

Souchong Black Tea, a specialty of Fujian Province, is divided into Zhengshan Souchong and Waishan Souchong. Zhengshan Souchong is produced in Tongmuguan, Xingcun Township, Chong'an County, also known as "Tongmuguan Souchong" or "Xingcun Souchong." The imitation Souchong black tea produced in places like Zhenghe, Tanyang, Beiling, Pingnan, Gutian, Shaxian, and Jiangxi's Qianshan, with a quality resembling that of Zhengshan, is collectively referred to as "Waishan Souchong" or "Artificial Souchong." Some lower-grade Gongfu black teas are smoked to produce Souchong Gongfu, also called "Smoked Souchong" or "Fake Souchong."

The term "Souchong" appeared in Lu Tingcan's "Continued Tea Classic" in 1717: "Wuyi tea grown on the mountain is called rock tea, while that grown by the water is called island tea... The best is known as Gongfu tea. Above Gongfu, there is Souchong, named after the tree, with each plant weighing only a few liang." Dong Tiangong's "Records of Wuyi Mountain" in 1751 also mentioned "Souchong," stating, "Tea production varies, with tea found everywhere in Chongjian, Yanquan. It is divided into rock tea and island tea, with the former grown on rocks and the latter along streams. Rock tea is the best, followed by island tea. When picked and roasted, the flavor should be exquisite, although rock tea is not very delicate. There are various names such as Souchong, floral aroma, Gongfu, and pine and moss. Proper preparation brings out the natural flavor, with no redness in the color..." However, neither of these historical records refers to Souchong black tea.

In 1732, Liu Jing, the county magistrate of Chong'an, wrote in his collection "Moments of Leisure": "All rock tea is picked and roasted in various temples, and is bought and sold in temples throughout Jiuku. There are no sellers in the market. Teas produced in places such as Shaowu and Guangxin, Jiangxi Province, are black with red soup, known locally as Jiangxi Black, and are all privately sold in Xingcun." This refers to Jiangxi tea, which, although distributed in Xingcun, cannot be considered black tea, let alone Souchong. The earliest record of domestic black tea can be found in Volume Two of the "Qing Dynasty General History" on page 847: "In the thirteenth year of Chongzhen, red tea (including Gongfu black tea, Wuyi tea, Souchong tea, and white hair tea) was first brought from Holland to Britain." This record indicates that Wuyi black tea and Souchong black tea appeared before the thirteenth year of Chongzhen (1640). Whether Wuyi black tea came first or Souchong black tea did is unclear from historical records. However, since the opening of trade on the fifth day, foreign merchants came to China to buy tea, and the Gongfu black teas from Tanyang, Zhenghe, and Bailin in Fujian Province emerged, as did Souchong black tea. There is a local story about this: In the late Daoguang period of the Qing Dynasty, due to the unstable situation, a Northern army passed through Xingcun, Chong'an, and occupied a tea factory. The green tea that was brought in could not be dried in time. The stored green tea fermented and turned black, emitting a unique smell. The factory owner, anxious, quickly stir-fried and dried it with pine firewood, slightly sieved and sorted it, and then shipped it to Fuzhou for trial sale through foreign merchants. Unexpectedly, this special fragrant Souchong tea aroused the interest of foreign merchants, and business boomed, bringing in substantial profits and winning the favor of many people. Since then, foreign merchants have placed orders every year, and Souchong black tea became popular for a while.

The term "Zhengshan" in Zhengshan Souchong indicates that it is from the "high mountain areas." The area referred to as "Zhengshan" includes areas centered around Miaowan and Jiangdun, extending north to Shilong in Qianshan, Jiangxi, south to Baiyeping in Caodun, Wuyishan City, east to Da'an Village in Yangzhuang Township, Wuyishan, and west to Siqian Village in Guangze County. Zhengshan Souchong refers to tea produced in the Wuyishan area. The term "Waishan" refers to tea produced near Wuyishan and processed in Xingcun. However, after processing into Souchong black tea, the Waishan tea stands out in the market, hence Zhengshan Souchong is also known as "Xingcun Souchong" to distinguish it from Souchong produced outside the Wuyishan area.

Cao Dun and Tongmuguan in Xingcun, Chong'an County, are located in the northern section of Wuyishan Mountains, with steep terrain and an altitude of 1000 to 1500 meters. It has a warm winter and cool summer, with an average annual temperature of 18°C and an annual rainfall of about 2000 millimeters. Between spring and summer, the area is often shrouded in mist, with fertile mountain soil enriched with kaolin, resulting in dense and tender tea leaves.

Zhengshan Souchong has a unique black tea processing technology, such as pot-roasting after fermentation (also known as "over-red roasting"), rolling, and baking. Zhengshan Souchong black tea has plump and solid strips, a shiny black color, a thick red soup color after brewing, a long-lasting pine smoke aroma, a mellow taste with a hint of longan, and when milk is added, the tea aroma remains strong, forming a syrupy milk tea, with even more colorful liquid. In the 1970s, it was exported to various countries in Europe and America, with an annual production of 1200 tons. However, due to frequent wars, the production gradually decreased, and by 1949, it was almost extinct. It was not until the 1950s that it was restored and developed. Due to the small consumer base, the production of Zhengshan Souchong black tea has remained at around 200 tons, with most exported to Europe and America, mainly to the United States, Germany, France, and Japan, with only a small amount sold in the domestic market.

(Source: China Tea Book. Author:  Liu Xin, Shi Zhaopeng.)

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