Golden Green Deep Dive - China's Best Green Tea？
Official Promotional: “Baojing Golden Green - China’s Best Green Tea”
More than 400 years ago, in China’s captivating region of Xiangxi, the oldest known source trees associated with Baojing Golden Green were born. Two hundred years later, Emperor Jiaqing (1760-1820) paid a tael (50 grams) of gold for a tael of Baojing’s “golden green tea.” From then on, “a tael of gold for a tael of tea” became a well known literary allusion. Just 30 years ago, the villagers in Baojing County’s Huangjin Village discovered that the quality of their indigenous tea trees was comparatively better than the imported Fuding Baicha varietal in terms of quality. Zhang Xiangsheng, “the Mother of Golden Green” visited the village and identified the varietal that is now called Golden Green #1 a decade later, introducing cloned propagation which in turn overcame the issues posed by the varietal’s low fruiting rate and local rats’ proclivity to eat teas seeds. She selected 24 sample plants that had developed into tea fields in the thousands of acres by 2006. For this, Zhang Xiangsheng was awarded 50,000 RMB as outstanding technical talent by the Baojing County Government.
More than ten years ago, Peng Jiguang, the father of Golden Green, started to research the tea and its unique quality. The Vice-President, President, and then Party Secretary of Hunan’s Agricultural Academy one by one sent Peng first tens of thousands and then ultimately millions of RMB in research and industrial development funding. In 2008, the Hunan Tea Research Center and the Xiangfeng Tea Corporation together invested more than 5 million RMB to establish the the Golden Green Tea Company in Huangjin Village. Subsequently, various government organs at the county, autonomous state, provincial, and even national level have contributed personnel and tens of millions of RMB for the building of a new Golden Green value chain. Golden Green is now the “tea” in Baojing County’s , “North County Fruit, South County Tea” development scheme. Baojing Golden Green was approved as a certified “geo-label” with specific geographic and chemical production standards in 2010.
Budding 15 days earlier than the one-time national default varietal, Fuding Dabai, Golden Green #1 also has 25% better yield in its local environment. When the leaves of this varietal are processed as a green tea, it is distinctly fragrant, flavorful, and creamy. Golden Green #2 does however produce a greener leaf color while #8 and #168 respectively offer a superior level of fragrance and a unique floral aroma. Following the twisted green tea processing first popularized by Hunan teas like Gaoqiao Yinfeng, all of these different cultivars can be processed into the deep green finished products proscribed by the official geo-label. The automated production line at Baojing Golden Green’s original factory in Huangjin Village can now produce 500 kilograms of such tea in a single day. This is equivalent to 200 times the daily output of traditional wok-fried producers (such as Xiangmiao).
[Dubious health claims omitted]
Our Take: One of China’s Best Green Teas
The origin story detailed above leaves much to be wanted. For starters, what is up with the boast that Golden Green is China’s best green tea? This comes from a 2018 Baojing County news article detailing the teas silver and gold medal wins at that year’s Shanghai International Tea Expo. In the article, an unnamed worker claims that the tea’s amino acid content (7.67%) was more than twice that of any other domestic Spring tea picked at the same date. Adding to this claim the worker also repeated the hype about Baojing County’s unique environment and Huangjin Village’s huge number of old age trees. While this is harmless marketing puffery, it is still important to point out that not everyone wants the extra sweetness that high amino acid content can bring. Even less people actually seek out old growth green tea. Farmers and consumers alike in Hubei prize the very youngest tea trees(>10 years) for the cost-effective and fragrant green teas that such teas can produce. It is finally also somewhat misleading to omit the fact that the vast majority of Baojing Golden Green produced even in the Hulu Township is old growth.
How about the link between the modern Golden Green and the tribute tea drawn from the same area？ There is good reason to believe that claim is broadly true. Here’s what we know: 718 tea old growth tea trees in Huangjin Village have been dated back to the Ming Dynasty, the oldest of which is 400~ years old, and even more tress date from the Qing Dynasty. The Baojing County Almanac also does record that there was a tea picked and processed in Hulu’s Huangjin Village which was recognized as a tribute tea under the Jiaqing Emperor. There is however a conflicting account that the expression of “a tael of gold for a tael of tea” got its start in 1538. This allegedly happened after an official paid for some restorative tea with a chunk of gold at a Miao hamlet called Lenghanhe. Supposedly, that hamlet gradually became known as Huangjin, meaning “golden.”Regardless of how the expression got started, there is no reason to believe that the tea produced in the village in either 1538 or 1820 looked or tasted like the high-end product that today is known as Baojing Golden Green. The modern picking and processing methods only matured in the last two decades.
In spite of whatever embellishment may be present in the official hype, Golden Green really is a uniquely fragrant and creamy green tea. It is the product of considerable technical investment and expertise that makes it worth the price, regardless of its historical pedigree. We encourage any green tea lover to give our Xiangmiao Golden Green a try. Find out how it ranks on your list of favorite Chinese green teas.