Green Tea "Xin Yang Mao Jian" or "Maojian" (from China Tea Book)

Xinyang Maojian Tea is produced in various counties in Xinyang, located in the southern part of Henan Province. It is a renowned historical tea created in the late Qing Dynasty.

The Xinyang region is situated at the junction of Hubei, Henan, and Anhui provinces, ranging from 113°45' to 115°55' east longitude and 31°23' to 32°37' north latitude. The Dabie Mountains extend from west to east along the southern border of this region, while the Huai River flows through its northern part. The terrain slopes from west to east and from south to north. The tea-growing areas are mainly located at the northern foothills of the Dabie Mountains.

Xinyang lies in the transition zone from the northern subtropical zone to the warm temperate zone, with the Huai River serving as the dividing line. It is the northern edge of the subtropical zone and also the northern boundary of China's tea-growing areas, characterized by a humid climate. Xinyang's tea-growing region experiences distinct seasons with concurrent rain and heat, abundant light, heat, and water resources. The average annual temperature ranges from 15.2°C to 15.5°C, decreasing with increasing altitude. For every 100 meters increase in elevation, the temperature drops by 0.4°C to 0.6°C. The average summer temperature is 27°C. January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 1.6°C, and the average number of frost-free days per year ranges from 217 to 229. The accumulated active temperature above 10°C is stable, ranging from 4820°C to 4970°C. Annual rainfall in the hilly areas south of the Huai River is between 1000 and 1200 millimeters, while in mountainous areas, it exceeds 1200 millimeters. From April to September, rainfall accounts for 75% of the annual total. The average annual sunshine hours are 2168.9, with a sunshine rate of 49%. The relative humidity remains around 75% throughout the year. In areas around 500 meters above sea level, the months with a relative humidity of ≥80% in summer are noticeably more frequent. The Dabie Mountains is one of the areas in eastern subtropical China with the highest frequency of foggy days, averaging around 100 to 130 days per year. Foggy days are more frequent in areas between 300 and 500 meters above sea level, with around 110 to 160 days of foggy weather. The tea-growing areas of Xinyang Maojian Tea mainly consist of yellow-brown soil. Yellow-brown soil primarily includes three types: silty clay loam, sandy loam, and silty loam. The soil is deep, rich in organic matter, nutrient-rich, loose in texture, permeable, drought-resistant, and moisture-retaining, with an acidic pH ranging from 4.5 to 6.5. The organic matter content in the soil ranges from 1.5% to 2.5%, total nitrogen from 0.1% to 0.13%, available phosphorus from 10 to 20 milligrams per kilogram of dry soil, and available potassium from 80 to 115 milligrams per kilogram.

In addition to the local population of indigenous tea varieties, Xinyang Maojian Tea has introduced more than ten clonal excellent varieties, including Baihao Zao and Longjing 43. Due to differences in climate between the Nanshan and Xishan areas, there are variations in the timing of tea picking for Xinyang Maojian Tea. The Nanshan area has a slightly higher temperature and begins picking in early April, while the Xishan (high-altitude) area starts picking in mid-to-late April. Fresh leaves must adhere to the "Five No-Picking" principle, meaning no old leaves, no small leaves, no horse-hoof leaves (fish leaves), no tea fruits (flower buds, young fruits), and no old branches and stems. Harvesting should be done in batches and in a timely manner.

The processing technique for Xinyang Maojian Tea includes spreading and cooling of fresh leaves, stir-frying, fixing, initial drying, cooling, secondary drying, picking, and final drying. Freshly picked tea leaves are spread out in ventilated, clean, and odor-free bamboo mats in graded batches, with a thickness of 5 to 10 centimeters, and turned over lightly every hour or so. Premium and first-grade tender tea leaves are spread out for 1 to 2 hours before frying, while lower grades are spread out for 3 to 4 hours or more. All tea leaves should be fried on the same day they are picked. Stir-frying involves two stages: initial frying and secondary frying. Initial frying serves to halt enzymatic oxidation and shape the leaves. Using a tea-frying pan, with a mouth diameter of 84 centimeters (also known as a Niusi pan), fresh leaves are continuously stirred and flipped with a tea tool (a soft bamboo stick made into a soft broom) to evenly heat and shape the leaves. After 3 to 4 minutes of initial frying, the leaves become soft and fluffy. The tea tool is used to gather the leaves into a bundle and gently roll them in the pan, gradually increasing the pressure and speed of rolling while intermittently fluffing and flipping the leaves. The initial frying takes 7 to 10 minutes, and the moisture content of the tea leaves is approximately 55%. Secondary frying is essential for shaping the leaves, enhancing aroma, and improving flavor. The pan temperature is maintained between 80°C and 100°C. Stir-frying is initially done using the tea tool, primarily to roll and shape the leaves without causing them to clump together. After approximately 3 to 4 minutes, when the leaves are tightly rolled and no longer stick together, manual shaping is performed by hand, also known as straightening, grabbing, or throwing the leaves. A portion of the tea leaves is grasped firmly and thrown from a height of about 10 centimeters above the pan, causing the leaves to spread out along the edge of the pan and then roll back toward the center due to the slope of the pan. This process is repeated until the leaves become tight, slender, round, and glossy. When the leaves reach about 70% to 80% dryness (with a moisture content of around 35%), they are quickly removed from the pan and spread out on a winnowing tray. Secondary frying lasts approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Initial drying, also known as "firing the fur," involves quickly drying the tea leaves to fix their shape and remove excess moisture. Approximately 6 to 7 pans of tea leaves (1.5 to 2 kilograms) are grouped together for initial drying. The temperature is maintained between 80°C and 90°C. The leaves are stirred every 5 to 8 minutes. After 20 to 25 minutes, the leaves are shaped, slightly tough to the touch, but the tender stems do not break, and they exhibit a fresh green color and a slight fragrance, indicating that they are ready for the next drying step, with a moisture content of approximately 15%. After initial drying, the tea leaves are cooled indoors for about 1 hour, with a thickness of about 30 centimeters. Secondary drying, also known as "the second firing," involves further drying the tea leaves to achieve their final moisture content and aroma. The temperature is maintained between 60°C and 65°C. Approximately 2.5 to 3 kilograms of tea leaves are spread out for each drying session, and the leaves are stirred every 10 minutes. Secondary drying lasts about 30 minutes until the leaves exhibit a bright green color, glossy appearance, intense aroma, and a moisture content of 6% to 7%. Picking involves sorting and selecting the tea leaves to remove any unwanted materials such as re-greened leaves, leaf fragments, old stems, and foreign matter. After picking, the tea leaves undergo final drying, where they are gently heated to remove any remaining moisture and to further enhance their aroma and flavor. Xinyang Maojian Tea is a special green tea processed by pan-frying, and it is classified into special grade and grades one to five. Its characteristic features include long, slender strips (needle-shaped for special grade and grade one), a green or greenish color when dry, a bright green color in the liquor, a strong and full-bodied flavor, a clear and fragrant aroma, with varying degrees of delicate fragrance, fresh and tender aroma, and roasted chestnut aroma, and the leaves are uniformly bright green.

 (Source: China Tea Book. Author: Jiang Yongwen, Zheng Naifu)

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