Chinese tea names translated


November 11, 2013 | BY Karmun Ng

Do you know the story and meaning behind the tea you're drinking?

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Iron Buddha, Iron Goddess of Mercy, Iron Bodhisattva, Tik Goon Yam, Tieguanyin, Tie Guan Yin, Tit Kwon Yin – believe it or not, they all refer to a same tea.

Chinese tea names have long been controversial in pronunciation and meaning: why do they have so many variants and why do they all carry different meanings? Let's see if we can de-mystify some of the most popular Chinese teas and what their names mean. 

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Long Jing

Literal translation: Dragon well

This pan-fried green tea, the most famous of green teas in China, got its name off a well near the old Long Jing Temple some 1700 years ago.  Legend goes that while digging this well during the Ming Dynasty, one person found a unique dragon-shaped stone after which the well was named.

Bi Luo Chun

Literal translation: Green spring snail

This highly aromatic tea was said to be discovered when a tea-picker ran out of space in her basket and decided to put the tea in between her breasts instead. Warmed by her body heat, it emitted a strong aroma that surprised the girl. How it got its name is because it is often rolled into a tight spiral resembling snail meat and is cropped in early spring.

Tie Guan Yin
Literal translation: Iron Goddess of Mercy

It goes without saying that this tea was named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, who is known in Japan as Kannon and in Korea as Guam-eum.

Mao Feng

Literal translation: Fur peak

Mao Feng tea leaves are considered to have one of the choicest shapes of tea leaves because they have a broad, curved flat shape .

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Literal translation: Pu’er

Pu’er traditionally begins with rough “mao cha” (unfinished tea) and is characterised by being put through microbial fermentation and oxidation after its leaves are dried and rolled.

Wu Lung/Oolong

Literal translation: Black Dragon

Wu Lung tea is produced through a very unique process which includes withering under very intense sun and oxidation before curling and twisting the leaves into small beads, each with a tail. What's left are tea leaves that look like small black dragons, hence the name. 

Da Hung Pao

Literal Translation: Big red robe

Da hung pao tea is a premium variety tea that can sell up to US$1,250,000 per kilogram or US$35,436 per ounce (20g of Da Hong Pao tea from one of the mother plants was sold for ¥156,800 in 1998).

Qi Men Hung

Literal translation: Qi Men Red

Its slender, tightly curled black tea leaves make cups of lovely reddish brew, which delivers an intriguing flavor that is harmoniously fruity, flowery and smoky.

Lu’an Gua Pian

Literal translation: Lu’an melon seed

Also known as the Lu’an Leaf, this green tea derived its name from the shape of its processed outcome, which are flat and oval and resemble a melon seed.

Hou Kui

Literal translation: Monkey King

Sometimes listed as “China Famous Tea” for its premium quality, it is renowned for its "two knives and one pole": two straight leaves clasping the enormous bud with white hairs. The oven-made leaves are deep green in color with red veins underneath.

And finally, some Chinese food to go with that lovely tea.