Songluo, Sweden and the Sunken Ship

Karen recollects the intertwining history of this Mother of Fry-Dried Green Tea during her recent Anhui visit

Protruding tea buds at a tea garden in Anhui province

Protruding tea buds at a tea garden in Anhui province

On the 21st of April, we have the opportunity to visit Huangshan Wangguangxi Songluo Tea Corp., Ltd. in Anhui province of China. The company is named after its founder Mr. Wang Guangxi, who has been honoured as the provincial intangible cultural heritage inheritor for Songluo Tea.

Founder Mr. Wang sharing the history of Songluo tea with Karen

Founder Mr. Wang sharing the history of Songluo tea with Karen

Songluo tea is a type of green tea whose origin and history can be traced back to 600 years ago in Ming Dynasty. It is considered as the mother of fry-dried green tea, though it is not listed among the Top 10 Famous Chinese Teas due to a variety of reasons from lack of publicity to civil strife.

Inside the tea processing plant at Huangshan Wangguangxi Songluo Tea Corp., Ltd.

Inside the tea processing plant at Huangshan Wangguangxi Songluo Tea Corp., Ltd.

A museum dedicated to Songluo tea has been built by Mr. Wang’s company in 2012 to increase the awareness of this historically renowned tea among tea lovers.

Songluo Tea Cultural Museum in Anhui

Songluo Tea Cultural Museum in Anhui

What caught our eyes inside the Songluo Tea Cultural Museum was a display of two jars. Inside them were Songluo tea recovered from the sunken Swedish sailing ship Gotheborg more than 270 years ago.

Samples of Songluo tea recovered from the Gotheborg on display in the Songluo Tea Cultural Museum

Built in Stockholm, the East Indiaman Gotheborg set sail on her last voyage on March 17th, 1743. She was the largest vessel of the Swedish East India Company at the time. This was her third and last trading mission to China in pursuit of silk, teas and porcelains to fill up her 843 tons cargo capacity.

After 30 months of sailing, on September 12th, 1745, the Gotheborg sank into the sea just before reaching her home port of Gothenburg, Sweden. The cause was that it hit an underwater rock, yet mystery remains why the crash took place given an experienced pilot on board sailing through a familiar route.

The return cargo from this last voyage contained ingots, porcelain, tea, silk, and pearl, with tea taking up the most amount at 366 tons.

A drawing of the sinking East Indiamen Gotheborg

In 1984, an excavation project of the the East Indiaman Gotheborg kicked off and lasted till 1992. Large quantities of teas were found. The boxes holding the teas had been pretty much decomposed, yet surprisingly some teas stored in tin cans remained sealed off from water after being submerged into the sea for 240 years.

Brewing Songluo Tea

Using fresh Songluo Tea samples produced by Mr. Wang’s company, we compared two brews of Songluo tea, 3 minutes each at 80C (176F) and 90C (194F), respectively with Qi Aerista and found that the latter brew was more robust and flavourful.

Left: Songluo dry leaves, Upper Right: brewing metrics; Lower RIght: tea liquor from the 3-minute 90C (194F) brew

Left: Songluo dry leaves, Upper Right: brewing metrics; Lower RIght: tea liquor from the 3-minute 90C (194F) brew

The following summarizes the results from the 3-minute 90C (194F) brew of the Songluo tea.

The 5 most predominant aroma noted in the dry leaves of our sample rated in scale from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong).

The 5 most predominant aroma noted in the dry leaves of our sample rated in scale from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong).

Top 5 tasting notes we captured from our sample of Songluo tea brewed at 90C(194F) for 3 minutes.

Top 5 tasting notes we captured from our sample of Songluo tea brewed at 90C(194F) for 3 minutes.

Although we could not say that Songluo tea, at least for our samples used, is the best green tea we have ever had, we were glad that the aromas sensed in the dry leaves were fairly consistent with the tea taste itself.

However, dry leaves with high aroma does not necessarily translate into a good cup of tea. This is because aroma in dry leaves can be improved by increasing the temperature during the last stage of drying or by adding a step to bake or fry the tea at a higher temperature to uplift the aroma before packaging. If the temperature is not controlled properly, it may result in a burning or smokey taste appearing in the final tea taste.

Qi Aerista, the Smart Tea Brewer

Making tea may seem easy, but making that perfect cup consistently requires some work. Let Qi Aerista help you! Qi Aerista is an app-connected smart tea brewer that lets you hot brew, strong brew and even cold brew your favorite tea to perfection every time. Want more info? Check out our Facebook page now!

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