What are the Qing Dynasty royalties favorite teas? From The Story of Yanxi Palace 《延禧攻略》

Posted by Justin Loh on

The recent hot Qing dynasty palace drama about a palace maid making her way up to be Imperial Consort Ling to Qianlong Emperor and eventually the mother of the next emperor Jiaqing emperor has shared some of the Chinese teas in the drama.

Living till 88, Qianlong Emperor once shared that 君不可一日无茶, meaning that tea is to be a daily fare for an emperor. His concubines also shared some of their favorite teas in the show. We share some of the teas that was described and the interesting history from the show.

Qianlong Emperor - 西湖龙井 Xihu Longjing

Xihu Long Jing, is the one of top ten teas in China, from Xihu, Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province. It's a green tea harvested only once a year and prized for its soy bean notes. Qianlong once toured Hangzhou and decreed the 18 tea trees at the foot of Lion's Peak to be imperial trees. These trees are still surviving today.

In fact of six times Qianlong ventured into Jiangnan, four of which he went to West Lake, Hangzhou to see the tea picking and production. He would enjoy the tea and made poems. One good example of how much he loved this tea was from the poem he wrote, "Enjoy tea at Long Jing while it lasts":

乾隆《坐龙井上烹茶偶成》

龙井新茶龙井泉,一家风味称烹煎。

寸芽生自烂石上,时节焙成谷雨前。

何必团凤夸御茗,聊因雀舌润心莲。

呼之欲出辨才在,笑我依然文字禅。

Fu Cha Empress - 云南普洱 Yunnan Pu-er

The empress not only loved Pu-er but a rare pu-er called Golden Pumpkin Imperial tea. The tea are pressed together to the shape of a pumpkin and as the tea slowly ferments naturally, its colour changes to golden orange, hence the name. This tea is from Xi Shuang Ban Na, Yunnan, a famous tea region making Pu-er tea. This tea is also referred to as the grand emperor of teas. Pu-er tea is  warm and gentle on the stomach yet consistent in each brew which reflects the warm and kind bigheartedness of the empress in the show.

Fun fact: In 1963, the forbidden palace was found to have over 2 ton of this tea when they were clearing the palace, showing how much the royal family loved this tea. Would really love to have a taste of that now.

 

Fu Cha Imperial Guard - 安溪铁观音 An Xi Tie Guanyin

The imperial guard Fu Cha Fu Heng was idolised by all the palace maids in the drama but only had eyes for Wei Ying Luo. An Xi Tie Guan Yin is one of China's top ten tea and categorised as a Oolong tea as it's semi-oxidised. This tea is famous for its orchid notes and creamy body. The aroma lingers and is so persistent there is a famous saying that even after seven brews, the aroma persists, just like how Fu Cha charms all the ladies around him.

 

Consort Chun - Jasmine Tea

In the first part of the show Consort Chun always wanted to steer away from the harem politics and her liking for the elegant jasmine tea represents the clean and simple life that she wants. Jasmine tea are green tea made by covering the tea with fresh jasmine flowers to impart the jasmine flavours into the tea. This tea has a history of over a thousand years.

Consort Xian - Enshi Jade Dew 恩施玉露

In the first part of the show Consort Xian like Enshi Jade Dew from Hubei province. This tea was one of the original teas in which the tea leaves are being steamed instead of pan-fried, much like the renowned Japanese Gyokuro, which  is written the same way in Japanese characters as in Chinese. History has it that when Japanese monks came over to Tang dynasty China to learn Buddhism in monasteries which grew tea, they learnt about this tea steaming method and brought it back to Japan to evolve over time to the Gyokuro green tea.

This tea is known for its umami flavours and seaweed notes.

Enshi is also known as a selenium rich region which has anti cancer properties, also showing how resilient Consort Xian is in the show.

Consort Chun and Consort Xian - Bi Luo Chun 碧螺春

This tea was originally grown on the eastern mountains of Tai Lake and called Dong Ting tea but was renamed by Kang Xi Emperor to Bi Luo Chun. This green tea was interestingly also once called Xia Sha Ren Xiang, 吓煞人香 because of the surprisingly unique aroma produced during brewing. Fitting for these two consorts who moved to the dark side and surprised everyone during the show.

Noble Consort Gao - Lu Shan Yun Wu 庐山云雾茶

Lu Shan Yun Wu is a high altitude tea, grown above 1,000m above sea level, resulting in long periods of time being covered in clouds. This effect of being covered in clouds causes the tea plants to produce more chlorophyll due to the lack of sunlight, much like how the highest grade of Japanese tea plants turned a darker shade of green after being shaded just before harvest.

This results in the green tea having a more umami taste. Due to the high altitude, and since it is made using only tea buds, the tea production is much lesser than usual and more difficult to harvest, making it rare and expensive, only fitting for people of the highest status like Noble Consort Gao during her prime!

Could your favorite tea reflect your personality as in the show?