What exactly is Chinese Tea
Though there are other regions around the world-famous for producing high-quality tea, China is almost indisputably the “King of the Hill” when it comes to tea options – with more varieties and choices grown in China than maybe anywhere else.
In fact, the most difficult challenge you might face when it comes time to try Chinese tea is settling on one, to begin with!
Green tea options, black tea options, and even “white tea” options are all grown in China pretty regularly. Inside each of those major categories, there are a bunch of individual choices to pick and choose from, too – which is why finding the right Chinese tea for your tastes and interests can prove to be a bit of a challenge.
But that’s why we have put together this quick guide!
By the time you’re done with the inside information we highlight below you’ll understand a lot more about the Chinese tea culture, the types of Chinese tea that are grown throughout this large nation, and how to brew Chinese tea properly so that you enjoy all of the special flavors and properties each of them individually bring to the table.
Let’s dive right in!
Chinese Tea Culture
While drinking tea is usually synonymous with the English and those throughout the United Kingdom, it’s important to remember that tea is such a huge cornerstone of Chinese tradition and heritage as well.
Not only do people in China love drinking tea at pretty much any and every opportunity, but tea itself played a huge role in their overall economic development. It’s a cultural, socioeconomic, and economic touchstone that is a huge part of Chinese life.
Generations and generations of Chinese tea farmers have worked the same land that their ancestors have, producing and growing the same varieties and strains of tea that have existed on that land for thousands of years.
The earliest history of Chinese tea goes back 5000 years when the legendary Emperor Shennong was holding court over China. Looking to help improve the health and hygiene of his citizens, the Emperor passed down an edict that required all drinking water be boiled before it was consumed.
This was in direct response to health epidemics that had popped up across China as a result of bacteria-infested drinking water causing illness and disease. According to Chinese history, the Emperor was traveling with his entourage to a far-flung region of the empire when he wanted to stop and take a rest.
Looking for a drink of water, his servants ran to the closest village and filled up containers with boiling water that they could return to the Emperor. Along the way a number of dried leaves fell into the boiling water and released a browned substance – a substance that the Emperor (and amateur scientist) was interested in trying and experimenting with.
He took his first drink of this tea somewhere around 2737 BC in the rest, as they say, is history!
Ever since then the Chinese have been almost fanatical in the focus and dedication they take to producing world-class tea at every opportunity. One of the largest commercial exporters of tea and tea leaves (ranking right up there with India), the odds are pretty good that if you’ve had green tea, black tea, or white tea in the last few years some of it was sourced from Chinese farms.
Highlighting the Different Types of Chinese Tea
In China, there are a number of distinct types and varieties of tea that you’ll have an opportunity to try, with the most common types broken down into a handful of specific classifications.
These classifications include, but are not limited to:
- Green tea
- Black tea
- White tea
- Yellow tea
- Dark tea and
- Oolong tea
Of all these different varieties, green tea is the most popular in all of China – as well as the oldest. People have been enjoying green tea in China for thousands of years (generations upon generations) and a big part of its popularity and its prevalence is the fact that it is so readily available and so easily grown throughout China.
Traditional green tea in the Chinese style has a very pale green color, a sharp and almost astringent flavor profile, and is made from the freshest tea leaves possible – leaves that are only just barely dried before they are used.
Yellow tea is also pretty popular in China, with its popularity increasing every day. In fact, throughout the Hunan province, yellow tea is the most popular tea option today – even more, popular than green tea – which was once thought to be almost impossible.
Yellow tea has a very distinct smell and aroma though it’s flavor profile is a bit of a mix between green and white tea options. Yellow tea also came to symbolize the emperors of China, as the color yellow was traditionally the official “Imperial color”.
White tea is simply green tea that is 100% unfermented and 100% uncured. These leaves go through a very quick drying process as well, with white tea having a very subtle, delicate, and unique flavor profile that is quite unlike anything else you’ll find on the market today.
Oolong tea (sometimes called blue tea) is completely unique to China and is made as a blending of green and red teas together – making the most of both of these types of tea and everything that they bring to the table. Beloved for its weight loss and health-boosting properties, this is one of the most popular Chinese tea options worldwide and a huge export for this nation.
Black tea is almost as popular as green tea, made from the shoots of tea leaves that are later wilted, rolled up into big bundles, slowly fermented, and then – and only then – allowed to be dried and turned into traditional tea leaves.
This delicate and tradition heavy production process results in a hot tea beverage unlike anything else you’ll find anywhere else on the planet. The fragrance is sweet and brash at the same time with a flavor pallet that is filled with different notes and sensations from the first sip to the last.
How to Best Prepare and Enjoy Chinese Tea
Regardless of the type of Chinese tea that you are looking to enjoy there are a couple of universal tips and tricks you want to keep in your back pocket to make the most of everything that tea from this part of the world has to offer.
For starters, you’re going to want to drink tea at a very hot temperature when it is made from Chinese tea leaves.
More so than tea produced in other parts of the world, Chinese tea options are going to oxidize very quickly after the brewing process has begun. Its nutrients are going to diminish faster than any other option, too, and that’s why you want to make sure that you are consuming the tea as close to brewing it and steeping it as possible – when it is still piping hot.
At the same time, you want to make sure that you aren’t consuming buckets and buckets of strong Chinese tea on a day-to-day basis.
Some of the more potent Chinese tea options (especially black tea options) have the potential to upset your stomach or even cause sleeping issues and insomnia because of their strength. It’s always a good idea to mix at least ¼ ounce of tea leaves with half a pint of water when you are looking to prepare a single cup – scaling things up from there depending on the number of cups you want to make.
When you’re talking about the more potent Chinese tea options, however, you want to add even a bit more water if you’re going to be drinking more than two glasses a day.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to try and get a team breaks in between each meal when you are drinking Chinese options.
If you end up drinking Chinese tea right before a meal (or right after) you may find yourself feeling even more full and your appetite satiated completely – which is great if you are looking to lose weight, but if you were excited about an upcoming meal or a special dinner you might find that your cup of tea ruins your appetite completely if you mistime its consumption.
At the end of the day, one of the most important things you want to do when drinking Chinese tea is purchased it from 100% reliable and reputable providers – ideally those that have connections to farmers in China so that they can source the best tea available.
As we made mention of earlier, the Chinese tea industry is absolutely gigantic. There are farmers all over the country producing different varieties and types of tea, all of them with different features, different flavors, and different qualities.
To make sure that you are getting the most out of your Chinese tea experience, however, you need to work only with top-tier providers and farmers that take their craft seriously. Order from reputable organizations and you’ll have nothing to worry about!