Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

The Ming dynasty saw a huge growth in China’s population and general economic prosperity. However, the Ming emperors were dogged with the same problems of previous regimes and collapsed with the invasion of the Manchus. During the dynasty, the Great Wall of China was completed. It also saw the construction of the Forbidden City, the imperial residence in Beijing.

Tea culture was reborn in this dynasty. It was at this time that tea began to be prepared as we do it today. Before the Ming Dynasty, Chinese teas were divided by production shape into two groups: Cake tea (flake tea) and Loose tea (or Buds tea). Now, it was no longer solely reduced to a brick or to a powder; whole leaves were now favored. Steeping became more pleasant, by pouring simmering water over the dried leaves, marking the beginning of the age of brewed tea. This “new” way of brewing tea about because of the Emperor.

The founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty-Emperor Taizu Zhu Yuanzhang, realizing that producing cake tea was more labor intensive and sometimes posed hardships for tea planters, he issued a ruling to abolish cake tea and instead replaced it with bud tea (loose tea). This in turn promoted the creation of many new production and processing skills of tea in the Ming dynasty

A Jesuit priest, Alexandre de Rhodes, “discovered” China (between 1618 and 1653), and he attended the preparation of black tea in a noticeably clear vase. He wrote, “The same leaves remaining at the bottom of the vase could be used twice, but that they let them boil in water.” Drinking loose tea – prepared the way Alexandre de Rhodes drank it, was amazingly simple, straightforward, and convenient, people now could enjoy the true essence of drinking tea.

During this dynasty, the development of ceramic factories stimulated the boom in utensils necessary in the Chinese art of tea. In the tea utensils aspect, the Yixing purple-sand teapot rose exceptionally in the Ming Dynasty, which became a quite prevailing fashion, and the scholars and other dignitaries were keen to collect them. People gradually innovated by designing cups with handles, while the tea bottle metamorphosed into the tea kettle. At the end of this dynasty’s reign, tea began being exported to the West: a veritable revolution was silently going to enflame Europe.

 Next… Mingqian Huangshan Maofeng

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