was the name given to an influential foreign businessman doing
business in Hong Kong and China during the 19th century. The life of a Tai-pan
in those days was often exciting and luxurious, as undiscovered trade routes were
opened and they quickly gathered great fortunes on the frontiers of world
commerce. Like many wealthy businesspeople in any time period, the Tai-pans
of old China enjoyed the splendid accessories of wealth: sumptuous feasts, fine
wines, racehorses, and the like. In fact, they were most likely very influential
on the development of the luxury market for most products in the Far East.
In an effort to reach this market, a tea grower at the time living in Hunan
Province decided to create what might be considered the first "luxury" tea
developed for Western tastes. The tea maker knew that the Tai-pans had
tastes for the finer things in life
and therefore had highly refined palates. So, he was determined to make a
tea which was sweet and smooth. He also surmised, based on their apparent
appreciation for Eastern art, that the Tai-pans must have an eye for beauty
and understood that the leaf style would need to be very fine and evenly graded.
It was named "Chun Mee," meaning "precious eyebrow"
to describe its lovely shape.
The Tai-pan businessmen loved the tea and quickly added it to their steady diet
of Cuban cigars, caviar, Cognac, and the like.
The days of the old Tai-pan may be over, but this fantastic tea remains. Still
manufactured according to the old techniques, Chun Mee Tai Pan Superior Tea
has a very fine, emerald
leaf that infuses to produce a mild yellow-green liquor. The cup is sweet, with hints
of an almost Sencha-like clover butteriness, grassy notes, and a long
exceptionally smooth finish. Use one to two teaspoons per cup and steep about
3 minutes in 180-degree water.
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