“Rather go without salt for three days than without tea for a single day,” Chinese Proverb.
I’m in love with Chinese tea. I drink it every day and every time I come back to Europe I bring some nice tea packages to my family and friends. Most important, I bring a ton of tea for myself.
My favorite Chinese tea is the Long Jing, the green tea produced close to the West Lake of Hangzhou. I also like flower tea and Pu’er, the fermented tea from Yunnan Province.
If you do a quick search on the internet you’ll find a lot of information about Chinese tea.
So I decided to limit this first article to two topics that I found interesting: the different classes of Chinese tea and the most famous tea brands of China (for each class of tea there are many different brands, for instance you have the Long Jing green tea from Hangzhou, the Bi Luo Chun green tea from Tai Hu and so on).
I plan to follow up this article with another post (or maybe two) that introduces the main properties of Chinese tea, where to buy Chinese tea, how to select a good tea and how Chinese people drink their tea.
The different classes of Chinese tea
Chinese Green tea
The green tea is the most natural within the Chinese teas. He’s dried as soon as is picked from the field and then fried. This process blocks the activity of the leaf enzymes that otherwise would alter the composition and the properties of the tea leaves.
Even if it’s much more healthy than coffee and black tea, many people find it difficult to switch from these products, way more common in the West, to green tea, which has a very different taste.
In my opinion it’s just a matter of habit and, once you make the switch, you will probably enjoy green tea much more than black coffee.
Chinese Oolong tea
Oolong tea is half fermented and, in this sense, stands between green and black tea. The leaves of oolong tea are usually green on the middle and become red at the edge. The change on the leaves’ color is caused by the fact that this tea is fried, rolled and roasted.
Even if its taste is pretty mild you shouldn’t abuse with the consumption of oolong tea because it’s quite strong.
Chinese Black tea
Black tea is dried, fermented and then roasted. It’s more oxidized than white, green and oolong teas. It has a stronger flavor and contains more caffeine than any other class of Chinese tea.
While green tea loses its flavor within a year, the flavor of the black tea can last several years. This is the main reason for which it has been traded to Europe since centuries.
Chinese Red tea
Red tea got its name from the copper tint of its leaves and is often mistaken for black tea in the West. Even if at the beginning the Chinese red tea was similar to the Western black tea, with the time the flavor of the western black tea has changed.
Even if this is the most popular tea in the world, in China red tea never reached a global consumption.
As for black tea, the flavor of red tea can also last a long time.
Chinese White tea
White Chinese tea undergoes a similar process than green tea. Since it retains its anti-oxidation properties it’s considered one of the healthiest varieties of tea.
The white color comes from the hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant.
Even if the tradition of white tea production is very old this variety is quite rare and in the past only the emperor and is crew could enjoy it.
Chinese Yellow tea
The process to obtain yellow tea is similar to the one used for the green and the white tea. The difference lies on the fact that the tea leaves are let drying for a longer time so that they become yellow. According to some experts yellow tea may be more beneficial than green tea.
Chinese Flower tea
This variety of tea may be subdivided into flower and scented tea. Flower tea only involves dried flowers such as chrysanthemum, hibiscus, jasmine, lily and globe amaranth. Scented tea consists of a bundle of tea leaves wrapped around one or more dried flowers.
Pu’er tea (also spelled as Pu-erh)
Pu’er tea is a variety of post-fermented tea produced in Yunnan province. The leaves undergoes fermentation after being dried and rolled. Pu’er tea is pressed and sold in confections that remembers me a bun or a small cake.
This variety of tea should be stored at contact with the air so that the fermentation process can continue. As for good wine, the value of pu’er tea goes up with the time.
Even if it’s often classified as a black tea, being so characteristic I thought that pu’er deserved a category on its own.
The ten most famous Chinese tea
- The Long Jing (龙井, it means Dragon Well) is a variety of pan-fried green tea from the Xi Hu (West Lake) district of Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province. As I said, it’s my favorite tea.
- The Bi Luo Chun (碧螺春, Spring Snail) is also a green tea and comes from Tai Hu, in Jiangsu Province.
- The Tie Guan Yin (铁观音, Iron Goddess) is a oolong tea from Anxi, in Fujian Province.
- The Mao Feng (毛峰, Fur Peak) is a green tea from Huang Shan, the Yellow Mountain in Anhui Province.
- The Yin Zhen (银针, Silver Needle) is a yellow tea from Jun Mountain, in Fujian Province.
- The Qi Men Hong Cha (祁门红茶, Qimen Red Tea) is a red tea from Qimen County, in Anhui Province.
- The Da Hong Pao (大紅袍, Big Red Robe) is an oolong tea from Wiyi Mountain, at the border between Fujian and Jiangxi Province.
- The Gua Pian (瓜片, Gua Pian) is a green tea from Lu’An, in Anhui Province.
- The Bai Hao Yin Zhen (白毫银针, White Fur Silver Needle) is a white tea from Fu Ding, in Fujian Province.
- The Pu-erh (普洱, Pu’er Tea) is a post-fermented tea from the Simao County, in Yunnan Province.
Where to buy Chinese tea
Find quality Chinese tea at a reasonable price is quite difficult in most cities, after checking several online shops in my opinion one of the best sites is teavivre because they offer a several different teas (including organic tea), the prices are quite affordable (free shipping worldwide), they sell small amounts or wholesale and all teas come directly from China without intermediaries.
In order to gather all the information that I needed to write this article I checked at least twenty websites. Here my main references:
Can you find Chinese tea on your country? What’s your favorite cup of tea?