Topic: What is Sezhong? 色种

I noticed a post on another internet forum about Sezhong. The author had found lots of vendors selling this tea, but was not quite sure what exactly it was, besides that it was an Anxi Oolong.

A friend of mine came back with a Sezhong from Anxi that he liked quite a bit especially considering the price, 22 RMB or 3 USD per 500g. The farmer who sold it to him had made all sorts of claims about it. It came from old tea trees that were not fertilized and not sprayed with pesticides. It was completely organic, and for that reason it was served at The Great Hall of the People in Beijing (an important government building.)

But what is it?

A tea merchant from Anxi came to the same friend's shop today, so I took the opportunity to ask him. According to this Anxi native, Sezhong is a sort of catchall term for any Anxi oolong which is not Tieguanyin, or TGY mixed with other varietals. Tieguanyin is considered the best Anxi varietal, and all others are second rate.

I also checked baidu.com's baike, a sort of Chinese Wikipedia. The article is pretty good, if a bit long winded.

According to baike, In the 1950's Anxi oolong was divided into 3 categories. Tieguanyin, Sezhong, and Oolong. Sezhong is the second rate tea, and the oolong is the cheapest. Sezhong includes varietals such as Maoxie(毛蟹) Meizhan(梅占)Benshan(本山)and Qilan(奇兰). The processing of all these varietals is very similar to Tieguanyin, but some dry more quickly than TGY, other steps in the processing must be altered slightly to preserve the qualities and tastes of each varietal.

The Sezhong which I had this past week was certainly mixed. It had some TGY, but about half was a very round leaf the likes of which I had never had before. It was quite good for a 3 dollar/lb. tea, but certainly not exceptional

I would like to know what others know about Sezhong. What have you been told? How about taste? Does everyone agree that TGY is the best Anxi varietal, or are others worth drinking too?

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

2 (edited by houyu 2009-01-15 19:04:08)

Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

Hi LaoChaGui,

Here is an excerpt in Chinese which I hope answers your question.

"...

4   分类与分级

4.1  分类
安溪乌龙茶分为两大类,即:铁观音,色种。本山,黄金桂,毛蟹是色种类中的主要品种。
..."

4.1 Classification
Anxi Oolong is divided into two major categories, which are: Tie Guanyin and Sezhong.  Benshan, Huang Jingui, and Maoxie are the major varietals in the Sezhong category.

excerpt from: 福建省地方标准 : 安溪乌龙茶 / 福建省质量技术监督局  2000-07-24 批准,2000-10-01 实施

Over & out

得來無事閑工夫,坐看雲起笑紅塵

Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

Houyu, thanks for the definition from the new Anxi market standards. The names for many kinds of teas are becoming legally protected in China now, although probably still very hard to enforce.

I was also interested in historical meanings of the term.

When was the term 色种 first used, and did it mean the same thing then?

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

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Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

LaoChaGui wrote:

Houyu, thanks for the definition from the new Anxi market standards. The names for many kinds of teas are becoming legally protected in China now, although probably still very hard to enforce.

I was also interested in historical meanings of the term.

When was the term 色种 first used, and did it mean the same thing then?

I've heard different things about se zhong and I think in some sense they are all true.

The current use of the term An Xi Se Zhong started from 1950s, when teas were graded with TGY, Se Zhong and Oolong (here the oolong is a sub-category of oolong varieties - overlapping names for different category grades, very confusing...).

Nowadays, all varietals other than TGY are commonly called se zhong, very often with negative connotation (probably largely promoted by TGY farmers and merchants, heehee). In recent years, some Huang Jin Gui (黃金桂) advocates try to promote calling Huang Jin Gui by its name and separate it from the general category "se zhong". I predict in near future, some other farmers and merchants will also be against including their Ben Shan, Fo Shou... in the category "se zhong". Mao Xie, (hairy crab, 毛蟹), due to its mass production and rather plain quality, I guess, will stay in "se zhong" category, along with some others.

In ancient time, there was a time period when a few "good" varietals were famous, including Ben Shan, Fo Shou, Mei Zhan and Huang Jin Gui. All the other "less famous" varietals were called se zhong.

Besides, some people believe the term bao zhong is from se zhong. Their theory is, when bao zhong was first made, it was labeled se zhong, and often by mistake recognized as "bao zhong" because "se 色" and “bao 包" look very similar to each other, and "bao 包” just means "wrapped" - from the way it was written and the way the tea was wrapped, people tended to make the mistake and recognize "se zhong" label as "bao zhong". There is no hard evidence about this saying, but it makes some sense to me.

I also wonder if se zhong has any relation with the term "xiao zhong". In ancient time in northern Fu Jian, teas were put in 3 general grades, from high to low: qi zhong (wonderful varietals,奇種),ming zhong (famous varietals, 名種),xiao zhong (small/unknown varietals, 小種). Xiao Zhong is the "souchong" in "lapsang souchong", and xiao zhong is pronounced very closely to "se zhong". So I wonder if "se zhong" is directly from "xiao zhong" with slight change in pronunciation.

門前塵土三千丈,不到薰爐茗碗旁

Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

About taste, I like Huang Jin Gui and Fo Shou very much. With same price, I believe you can usually get much better Huang Jin Gui or Fo Shou or Ben Shan than TGY.

I like TGY too, but don't like to see it gets so huge and kind of drives some other varietals out of stage.

門前塵土三千丈,不到薰爐茗碗旁

Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

I thought qizhong was a new varietal that came from seed instead of from cloning of famous bushes.

Probably lots of meanings.

The 色种/包种 confusion looks plausible to me, the characters could easily be mistaken depending on handwriting, etc. Interesting.

红焙浅瓯新火活,龙团小碾斗晴窗

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Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

biloba wrote:

About taste, I like Huang Jin Gui and Fo Shou very much. With same price, I believe you can usually get much better Huang Jin Gui or Fo Shou or Ben Shan than TGY.

I assume Anxi Fo Shou is the same varietal used for Taiwan-grown "Fo Shou", right?


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Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

william wrote:
biloba wrote:

About taste, I like Huang Jin Gui and Fo Shou very much. With same price, I believe you can usually get much better Huang Jin Gui or Fo Shou or Ben Shan than TGY.

I assume Anxi Fo Shou is the same varietal used for Taiwan-grown "Fo Shou", right?

I believe so. I heard once they held some ceremony when some Taiwanese tea people went to Fujian to visit the "original" Fo Shou tree. But I've never had Taiwan Fo Shou. I wonder if it's common in Taiwan and if it's expensive in Taiwan.

門前塵土三千丈,不到薰爐茗碗旁

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Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

biloba wrote:

I believe so. I heard once they held some ceremony when some Taiwanese tea people went to Fujian to visit the "original" Fo Shou tree. But I've never had Taiwan Fo Shou. I wonder if it's common in Taiwan and if it's expensive in Taiwan.

Hou De used to sell one (a higher roast version) that I think was quite nice. Fairly middle of the road price for Taiwanese oolong, but it doesn't seem to be on their site anymore. I have seen a few other vendors carry one as well.

Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

Yup, Taiwan Fo Shou is the same varietal as the mainland one, but I've yet to see the Taiwanese one grow leaves that are as large as mainland ones I've seen (which can be huge).

I've noticed a few retailers that sell a variety of teas get Fo Shou confused with Fu Sou, which is a type of high mtn tea from the Lishan area, and vice versa.

Floating Leaves has a new Winter Fo Shou, but I haven't tried it yet so I can't comment.  If I remember correctly, this one is not a heavy roast.


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Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

I absolutely love the se chung(色种) oolongs, and I think they represent a under-appreciated realm of oolongs that tea connoisseurs would do well to explore.  There are so many of them and I have not sampled a large enough number of them to say with much confidence which ones I enjoy the most, but by and large I have found them to offer outstanding value.  I'm a bit of a price-conscious shopper, and there is a degree to which Tie Guan Yin can be overpriced.  But more importantly, I just find these teas to be interesting.

I've heard that Ben Shan(本山) is the variety that most closely resembles Tie Guan Yin, and from my experience, this has been true.  At the same time, I have found that it's not as enjoyable as the better Tie Guan Yin that I've tried.  It is the only se chung oolong that I have been less than enthusiastic about.  I prefer the varieties that are more distinct from Tie Guan Yin.  I have enjoyed huang jin gui(黃金桂) and qi lan(奇兰).  Rishi Tea has a very dark Qi Lan (as dark as many black teas), which was very interesting.  I have not yet tried Mao Xie(毛蟹) but from reading descriptions of it, I am very eager to try it.  I also tried one fo shou(佛手), and really liked it--and found it very different from Tie Guan Yin.  Most of the se chungs I've tried have been samples I received from Life in Teacup, although there are a number of other ones that I tried from other sources.

It's interesting to me how there's some affinity between some of these oolongs and the fragrance of osmanthus flowers--and not just huang jin gui.  Upton Tea Imports offers an unspecified Se Chung oolong which is scented with osmanthus flowers; I found it to be outstanding, and it was fascinating because it was impossible for me to tell where the tea ended and the floral scenting began.

12 (edited by Hydron Gao 2014-04-09 16:43:05)

Re: What is Sezhong? 色种

Se chung, it comes from the old  State-owned tea company and CIQ, and it is a series for export to the Chinese overseas at the old time.
Now, some export factory insist the same name. We call Se chung first grade"S101" ...,also, Tikuanyin first grade named "K101"...
Se chung is blended by Hairy Crab, more is Hairy Crab, some Anxi or Min nan oolongs.

New autumn Oolong tea arrival(Se Chung, Ti kuan yin,Huang Jin Gui, Ben shan, Maoxie Etc.)
Xiamen Hengli Tea Enterprise Ltd.
[contact info removed by mod]