Hops A-Z; T is for Tsingdao Flower

It's a variety that's produced in a greater quantity than all the hops in the Czech Republic. It's found in many of the beers brewed by the country that produces more beer than any other in the world. You may not have heard of it until now. And I may be spelling it wrongly.

There's precious little information available about China's number one hop variety. That may be down to the fact that the multiple spellings I've encountered which have hampered my research. It could be Qindao, Qintao or Tsingtao but I'll plump for Tsingdao - what's good enough for the Barth-Hass group is good enough for me. An aromatic and bitter hop - essentially dual purpose - Tsingdao Flower has been grown in China since the mid-1960s. Cultivated in the key hop producing North West provinces of Gansu and Xinjiang, it dominates the Chinese hop industry with over two-thirds of total acreage and production.

The Chinese are making a lot of beer, too. In 2008 they were the largest producer in the world and, at the same time, recorded the highest output increase year-on-year. 22 percent of the world's beer was brewed in China - more than the USA and Germany combined. So with a booming market, Tsingdao Flower ought to be running rampant to meet demand. Right?

Wrong. For starters, Chinese beers aren't hugely hopped. Secondly, beer output may have risen but not by the incredible estimates suggested. Brewers were therefore able to brew less beer with even fewer hops than usual. At the end of 2008, hop traders had agreed a buying price for Tsingdao Flower from the growers - but hadn't secured a selling price to the breweries. When demand fell, so did the market price and the traders only recouped around 75% of their outlay. As the Barth-Hass Hop Report 2008 states, "the resulting losses on the part of the hop traders must have been stunningly high".

Some farms have ripped out Tsingdao Flower in response to the retreating hop market and planted other non-hop crops instead. The Xinjiang region has already reduced acreage by 20%. As the original root crop ages, becoming further prone to infection and reducing yields, China is faced with revitalising the variety in the face of declining market demand.

The answer may be to shift the balance of the Chinese hop portfolio and stimulate an export market of quality aroma hops. Tsingdao Flower may not disappear completely, but it may have to be out-blossomed by new varieties if the industry is to be sustained.


  1. Det finns tre etablerade sätt att transkribera kinesiska ortsnamn, kejserliga postens system från början av 1900-talet, Wade-Giles system som användes av utländska sinologer till dess folkrepubliken Kina introducerade det nu officiella systemet pinyin. Staden i Shantung/Shandong skrivs på de olika sätten
    Annars spännande att läsa om kinesisk humle.

  2. Oops, very sorry, I thought I was reading a Swedish blog...
    There are three established transcriptions of Chinese place names: the imperial postal system from early 20th century, the Wade-Giles system used by foreign sinologists until the PRC introduced the current Pinyin romanization. The Shantung/Shandong city in question is transcribed in those three systems as
    - Tsingtao
    - Ch'ing-tau
    - Qingdao
    Apart from that it was very interesting to read about Chinese hops.