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Types of Chinese Tea 2017-12-04T13:26:50+00:00

TYPES OF CHINESE TEA

All teas originally come from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The differences between types of Chinese tea are caused by variations in processing methods, as well as the geographic location of the tea plant and by the appearance and taste of the infused tea.

Chinese teas can be categorized into five different groups such as green tea, oolong tea, black tea, white tea and post-fermented tea. Often, scented teas and compressed teas are included in this list.

GREEN TEA

Green tea leaves are light to dark green in color and brew into a light green infusion. Green tea undergoes minimal oxidation during processing. Raw tea leaves are heated, rolled and dried without fermentation. This enables the leaves to keep their original color and retain their naturally occurring antioxidants, which according to recent research can help reduce the risk of cancer and slow down the aging process.

With a longer history than other varieties, green tea is the most popular variety of tea consumed domestically in China. China is the world’s largest green tea exporter, comprising more than 80 percent of the global market.

Green tea is produced all over China. Representative varieties include Dragon Well (Longjing) from Zhejiang, Biluochun from Jiangsu and Huangshan Maofeng from Anhui Province.

BLACK TEA

Black tea is made with tea leaves that have undergone full fermentation before baking. Known as “red tea” in China, the variety features brown to reddish-brown tea leaves which produce a light brown infusion. In comparison to other tea categories, black tea generally produces a more full-bodied flavor.

Although green tea has recently seen a revival due to its purported health benefits, black tea still accounts for over ninety percent of all tea sold in the West. It is also the most popular form of tea consumed in south Asia.

The best brands of black tea from China are Qimen Hong from Anhui, Dian Hong from Yunnan, Chuan Hong from Sichuan and Hu Hong from Hunan Province.

OOLONG TEA

Oolong tea is a specialty from southeastern China, originating from provinces of Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan. Oolong tea features a partial fermentation process, and thus has the characteristics of both green and black teas. It tastes as clear and fragrant as green tea and as strong and refreshing as black tea. Also, high quality oolong teas produce a long aftertaste that lingers in your mouth.

Being semi-fermented, Oolong tea is quite potent in breaking down protein and fat, aiding weight loss. It enjoys brisk sales in Japan.

Tieguanyin and WuYi Yancha from Fujian as well as Dongding oolong tea from Taiwan are among the most prized oolong teas.

WHITE TEA

White tea derives its name from the distinctive white-colored appearance of the dry tea. The variety is made with uncured buds and young leaves of some tea cultivars from southeast China’s Fujian Province. Those buds and leaves go through minimal processing so that they are kept closer to their natural state. Even the silvery-white hairs on the leaves are preserved, which gives the dry tea a whitish appearance.

Both green and white teas are among the most lightly oxidized teas, which increases the teas’ antioxidant properties. Young tea leaves contain higher caffeine than older ones, so the caffeine content of white tea may be higher than that of green tea. China’s white tea sells well in the United States because American scientists found that elements from white tea are beneficial to people’s health.

White tea is a specialty of Fujian Province. Well-known brands of white tea are Bai Hao Yinzhen, Bai Mu Dan, Gong Mei and Shou Mei.

POST FERMENTED TEA

Post-fermented tea, known in China as “hei cha,” is made with tea leaves that have undergone a long period of fermentation after they are fried and rolled. The fermentation process is extremely exacting. Only a Tea Master after decades of study is capable of producing this type of tea. After the unique process, which is kept a closely-guarded secret, the finished tea takes on a dark brown color.

Unlike most Chinese teas whose taste and aroma fade with age, post-fermented tea can actually be aged to improve its flavor. The fermented leaves last much longer than other types of tea. Aged tea, especially Pu-Er tea from southwest China’s Yunnan Province, is rare and extremely valuable. As a Chinese specialty, post-fermented tea is usually compressed into different shapes for storage and transport convenience. In the past, post-fermented tea was the most exported tea in China, which was shipped as far away as Russia. It is also the most popular tea in areas of China with large ethnic minority populations. People from Tibetan, Mongolian and Uyghur ethnic groups consider post-fermented tea an essential part of their daily lives.

The most famous brand of this variety is the Pu’er Tea from southwest China’s Yunnan Province. The large-leafed tea is gathered from trees that thrive in Yunnan’s varying climate and acidic soil. Famous as a medicinal tea, it is believed to aid digestion, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reinforce the immune system and help prevent cancer. The smooth, dark Pu’er tea has a rich and distinctively earthy flavor.

SCENTED TEAS

Scented teas, also known as ” Flower teas ” are made by mixing a base tea — most commonly a green tea, and sometimes a black or oolong tea — with flower petals or blossoms which lend their fragrant essence to tea leaves during processing. Flowers used include jasmine, osmanthus, chrysanthemum, lotus and rose.

Jasmine tea, among others, is the most popular type of scented tea in northern China. When it is infused, Jasmine tea produces a bright yellow-green liquid with a strong, long-lasting floral fragrance.

COMPRESSED TEA

Compressed tea is a tea variety developed from green, black or post-fermented tea. Crude tea is steamed, compressed and hardened into various shapes such as bricks, discs or bowls. Convenient for transport and storage, this form is mainly supplied to ethnic minorities living in the border areas of China. In Tibet, people break pieces of tea from tea bricks, boil them overnight in water, and then mix the tea infusion with yak butter and salt to make yak butter tea, a staple of Tibetan cuisine.