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In the West today, over 90% of tea consumed is “Broken Black Tea”, from India, harvested from the native Camellia sinensis var. assamica plant. This is a direct connection to the early efforts of British growers in India trying to duplicate their favorite Chinese beverage using early Industrial Revolution methods of production. These early efforts contributed to the high profits that fueled the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries – and shaped world history in the process. For more information about Black Tea and its effect on history, see A Quick History of Chinese Black Tea.
Chinese tea from the Camelli a Sinensis var. sinensis plant has a lower yield than its Indian cousin, a more refined complexity, and lower caffeine levels. For information about caffeine levels in tea, see Chinese Tea and Health Benefits – Caffeine.
Manufacturing high-quality Chinese teas remains a laborious process of hand-picking and processing whole leaves to retain the full flavor of the tea leaf. Through the Song, Tang, Ming, and Qing dynasties and into the modern age, the Chinese love and respect for nature, combined with the continual development of new growing and processing techniques has given us the refined and high-quality teas we enjoy today.
With the resurgence of the Chinese economy and the growth of the Chinese tea industry, discerning tea drinkers in the West are re-discovering the New World of Chinese teas which provide high quality, variety, delicacy, depth, and complexity of flavor and aroma.
Believe it or not, all tea is made from one plant, known as Camellia sinensis. It is an evergreen shrub that can grow into a small tree. The Camellia sinensis sinensis sub-species is native to Southeast China. The plants can live for up to 100 years or more and the leaves are harvested year round. Another sub-species called Camellia sinensis assamica is native to India. All tea consumed in the world comes from these two plants.
Over the centuries, Chinese manufacturers have been able to produce thousands of varieties of tea from the Camellia sinensis sinensis plant, each having its own unique flavour. This has been achieved by controlling 4 basic elements:
- Region where the plant is located; soil and altitude are key factors
- Time of harvesting the leaves – early, middle or late in each season
- Method of harvesting – picking only buds or buds with leaves
- Processing – withering, rolling, oxidizing, drying and gradin
See a chart for a comparison of methods: How Chinese Tea Is Made.
The fifth element that affects the flavour of tea is how it is prepared just before drinking.
5. Preparation – type and quality of the teapot, temperature and quality of the water, brewing times
One thing that cannot be controlled is the weather and this has a major effect on tea plants and the flavour of the teas they produce. A tea manufacturer may produce the same type and grade of tea for decades but each year the tea may have a slightly different taste. Each spring, tea-lovers eagerly await the new picking of Tie Guan Yin (also known as Gun Yam, Iron Buddha, Buddha of Mercy, Chinese Oolong) to sample its fresh and fragrant flavour and aroma and compare it to last year’s pick.
Tea is the national drink in China. In addition to its prominence in Chinese culture, tea also claims many health benefits, making it a popular drink worldwide. There are several types of Chinese tea, which vary in degree of fermentation and processing.
The main classes of Chinese tea discussed below are green tea, yellow tea, white tea, oolong tea, black tea, dark tea or fermented tea and Pu’er tea.
1. Green Tea
Chinese green tea is the oldest and most popular type of tea; it has been enjoyed in China for several thousand years. Green tea is made from the new shoots of the tea plant, and the tea leaves are dried and processed according to the type of tea desired.
The techniques for processing green tea are sub-divided into three categories: water removing, rolling, and drying. Traditional green tea has a pale color and a sharp, astringent flavor. It is produced primarily in the provinces of Jiangxi, Anhui, and Zhejiang. The most famous green tea is West Lake Dragon Well Tea , which is produced in Hangzhou.
2. Yellow Tea
Yellow tea is produced by allowing damp tea leaves to dry naturally. It has a distinctive aroma, similar to red tea, but its flavor is closer to green and white teas. Yellow tea is also used to describe the high-quality tea that was served to the emperors, as yellow wsa the traditional imperial color.
Junshan Yinzhen is produced in China’s Hunan Province and is the country’s most popular yellow tea.
3. White Tea
White tea is unfermented, uncured green tea that has been quickly dried. It is indigenous to Fujan Province, and is lighter in color than other types of tea with a subtle, delicate flavor.
White tea got its name from the tradition of poor Chinese people offering plain boiled water to guests, if they had no tea, and calling it “white tea”.
Popular brands of white tea are White Peony and Silver Needle.
4. Oolong Tea
Oolong tea, also known as blue tea, is unfermented tea with unique characteristics. Made from a blend of green and red teas, oolong tea boasts the best flavors and aromatic qualities of both. Sometimes called “green leaves with a red edge”, oolong tea is thought to aid in fat decomposition and is widely regarded as a weight loss aid and a beauty enhancer.
Wenshan Baozhong Tea and Dongding Oolong Tea are two exemplary brands of this popular tea.
5. Black Tea
Black tea is the second largest category of Chinese tea. It is made from the new shoots of tea leaves, which are wilted, rolled, fermented, and dried. The resulting infusion yields a lovely red color and a subtle aromatic fragrance. Keemun is the most popular brand of black tea.
6. Dark Tea
Dark tea is a kind of post-fermented tea, which undergoes an actual fermentation process aided by bacteria. The whole process comprises six steps: water removing, first-time rolling, heaping, second rolling, baking, and drying.
It is generally acknowledged that dark tea originated in the 16th century in Anhua City, Hunan Province.
The most common dark tea brands are Anhua Dark Tea, Hubei Laobian Tea, Sichuan Tibetan tea, and Guangxi Liubao Tea. Dark tea is very popular in Hong Kong, Macao, Southeast Asia and Japan.
7. Pu’er Tea
Pu’er tea is actually a dark tea, but deserves a category on its own because of its distinguishing features.
Pu’er tea, originating from Yunnan Province, has an ancient history over of 2,000 years. According to Yunnan government’s definition, Puer tea must be tea that is made from a large-leaf variety of a plant growing in a defined area, which is then processed into compressed tea or brick tea with a specified technology.
Pu’er tea was listed as a geographical indication product’ by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine on August 5, 2008. It stipulates that only tea produced in Yunnan’s 639 towns in 11 prefectures and cities, including Pu’er and Dali, can be called Pu’er tea.
There are two distinct types of Pu’er tea: sheng Pu’er (the raw or green Pu’er) and shu Pu’er (the ripened or black Pu’er).
Touring Tea Plantation with China Highlights
We have designed a tour specially for tea fans to experience tea culture at Meijiawu Tea Plantation 1-Day Dragon Well Tea Culture Tour
What You Will Experience in this Tour:
- Step into a tea plantation at Meijiawu Village and pick tea leaves by hand.
- Learn from a local tea specialist the process of stir-frying tea and the art of making tea.
- Visit the China National Tea Museum to glean a general idea of Chinese tea classification and history.
- Sample a local tea snacks banquet.
Our tours are customizable— tell us your interests and requirements and we will help you to tailor-make a Hangzhou tour.
We are able to help arrange tickets to attractions, your preferred mode of transportation, and our recommended accommodation, as well as a top guide to help you have the best China experience with China Highlights.
Chinese tea contains some special substances like tea polyphenol and theine, which are beneficial in our body health. What magic benefits this indispensable drinking can do to our body on earth? Below are 7 wonderful Chinese tea benefits, let’s check out.
1. Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
For some elders and over-weight people, hypertension, cholesterol, and stroke may always trouble them. Tea polyphenols are one of the main components of tea, which can be a helper in reducing hypertension, cholesterol, stroke, and keeping a normal sugar level in the blood. According to the latest Britain research, a day with more than 3 cups of tea can reduce the 70% risk of getting myocardial infarction. Researches from Finland and France also show that if you have 2~3 cups of tea a day, you will get a much lower probability of being trapped by stroke. Here is an advice for tea drinking: 5~6 cups of green tea a day can get the best use of the cardiovascular disease-reducing function of tea.
2. Reduce the Risk of Diabetes
Chinese tea can help you in the remission of diabetes and other discomforts in your life. A long-term follow-up of 17,000 males and females aged 40 to 65 found that those who drank more than six cups of green tea a day enjoyed a 33% lower risk of developing diabetes than those who drank less than one cup a week. Containing more tea polyphenols, tea polysaccharides, and microelement, green tea, black tea, and white tea are the best for diabetes-attacking people. But they should not drink heavy tea.
3. Lose Weight
Theine is the main factor in this weight-losing Chinese herbal tea benefit because it can promote gastric juice secretion, help digestion, and enhance fat-decomposing ability. Foreign studies have shown that a regular tea-drinking habit can make your waistline slimmer and BMI lower. If you are on the way to keeping fit, these types of tea can do you a great favor: black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and Pu’er tea.
4. Improve Memory
In accordance with researches, this Chinese tea benefit of improving memory also comes from tea polyphenols. It can improve your brain condition partly, making the faculty of your memory better and enhancing learning and working efficiency. The central nervous system is the major basis of human memory and learning ability; the whole conceptual activity lies in it. Tea can play the role of a stimulator to make this system exciting and help keep your mind fresh and clear in your daily studies or work schedule. A new British study found that drinking peppermint tea, green tea, and black tea regularly can improve memory.
5. Resist Radiation
We can see this Chinese tea health benefit from some official studies that tea polyphenols are able to absorb the radiation from the outside, defending damage from radiation and relieving impaired cells. Clinical studies have shown that tea extract can cure mild radiation sickness caused by radiation therapy in tumor patients, and it has a good effect on the decreasing of blood cells and leucocytes caused by radiation therapy. If you need to sit in front of a computer or work outdoor frequently, give a try on green tea, dark tea, and oolong tea to help your body resist radiation.
6. Improve Bone Density
Thanks to another three elements in tea, fluorine, plant estrogens, and potassium, we can also keep a dense bone condition and avoid some illnesses resulted from the loss of sclerotin. Research from Taiwan told us that tea-lovers enjoy a more dense bone and lower risk of hip fracture. Green tea is the best choice here.
7. Improve Muscle Endurance
Tea can also do a favor on our muscle endurance. Due to an antioxidant called catechin, your body can burn fat automatically in a quicker way, relieve the feeling of fatigue and stand the longtime physical exercise. The more often you drink green tea, the more remarkable the effect is.
Types of Chinese Tea and Benefits
Green Tea: Refreshing mind, cooling, weight-losing, palate-cleansing, thirst-quenching, and dysentery-remising are advantages green tea can bring to you.
Black Tea: Chinese red tea benefits include increasing appetite, eliminating edema, and strengthening cardiac function.
Oolong Tea: Washing the face with oolong tea cannot only remove facial greasy and infection, narrow pores, resist skin-aging effects, but also act like a natural “sunscreen” to protect your skin from UV damage in areas with strong ultraviolet rays.
Pu Erh Tea: Pu erh tea, also written a pu’er (普洱茶 in Chinese), is a special type of tea that originates from China’s Yunnan province. This tea category is named after the city of puer. It was around 1000 years ago when the people and horses carried lots of tea bricks and cakes from pu’er to nearby regions including Bengal, Burma, Tibet, and Central China. This trade link is also called the ‘Ancient Tea Route’ or ‘Tea Horse Road’.
Herbal Tea: It can help you increase digestion, build up an appetite, clear heat, promote the secretion of saliva or body fluid, and resist radiation.