A taste of China
China has a long history of tea planting and tea culture. People all across China drink tea on a daily basis. Myth has it that the emperor, Shen Nung, found some tea plants way back when. But, certainly since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Chinese tea, and silk and porcelain, began to make their way around the world and have since been an important export. Different places grow different types of tea depending on topography and climate. So, let’s take a further look at Chinese tea culture.
Tea can be classified as non-fermented, semi-fermented, fully fermented, or post-fermented tea, with the common classifications being Green, Oolong, Black, White, Yellow, or Dark tea, depending on the processing.
Stretched green tea leaves. [Photo/China Daily]
This is a non-fermented tea that takes on a yellow-green color after brewing with an aroma of flower, plant, or bean. Green tea often gets its name from place of origin, such as Taiping Houkui and Yellow Mountain Maofeng. Other famous ones include Hangzhou’s Lungching, Anji White Flake, the Putuo Buddha, Dongting’s Li Lo Chun, Nanjing’s Yuhua, Lushan Mountain’s Frost Tea, Xinyang Maojian, Emei Bamboo Leaf Green, and Liu’an Leaf.
Curly Oolong tea leaves. [Photo/China Daily]
Oolong tea is a kind of semi-fermented tea named after the tea plant and includes Dahongpao tea of northern Fujian, Tat-Kuan-Yin tea from southern Fujian, Huangjinggui, Benshan, Maoxie, Baxian and Foshou, and Jinxuan and Cuiyu from Taiwan. Other teas get their name from their origin or species, such as the Wenshan Paochong, Wuyi Mountain Rock Tea, and the Bajiaoting Longxu Tea.
Sparse black tea leaves. [Photo/China Daily]
This is a fully fermented tea that comes in three types. Souchong, the earliest black tea known, originated in the Tongmuguan Nature Reserve in Fujian’s Wuyi Mountain, and which takes on a strong smoky flavor as well as a sweet scent of dried longan. Then there is Congou, mainly Keemun, Yunnan, and Zhenghe congou black tea. And finally, broken black tea. Other newer species include Hangzhou’s Curly Red Plum, Guangdong’s Yingde, Guizhou’s Plateau Redness, Fujian’s Golden Junmei and Silver Junmei, and Anhui’s Red Fragrant Snail.
White tea leaves with small white hair. [Photo/China Daily]
This is a micro-fermented type of tea with a slight scent of soymilk or nuts. When brewed, it takes on a pale yellow gloss. Only tea plants with fat buds covered in white hair, including Fuding Big white, Fuding Big white bud, Zhenghe Big white, and Water Lily, can be used for mellow white tea, which is mainly produced in Fujian province, and which has become quite popular in recent years because of its excellent antioxidant effect.
Flat and compressed yellow tea leaves. [Photo/China Daily]
This is a post-fermented type whose famous species include Jun Mountain Silver Needle, Mengding Huangya, Wenzhou Huangtang, Huoshan Yellow, and the Beigang Maojian. It was quite popular among the public for its affordable price and infusion endurance.
Fried curled dark tea leaves. [Photo/China Daily]
This is a post-fermented tea, with several famous species, such as Yunnan’s Pu’er tea, Guangxi’s Liupu, Anhua’s Fuzhuan, Dark Brick, Huazhuan, Tianjian, Gongjian, Qianliang in Hunan, Hubei’s Laoqin, Sichuan’s Bian, and Jingyang’s Fuzhuang in Shaanxi. It is a soft tea that can help keep the weight down and the body healthy.
A Yixing purple clay teapot. [Photo/China Daily]
A teapot is used for making the tea. The best ones are made of porcelain or boccaro.
A gai-wan, which is used to put the tea soup. [Photo/China Daily]
There is also the Gai-wan, a tea tureen with a lid, cup and saucer.
Tea trays are used to carry the tea set. [Photo/China Daily]
Tea trays are used to carry the tea set and prevent the tea from spilling out onto the table.
Serving mugs are used for serving the tea equally. [Photo/China Daily]
Serving mugs are for serving the tea in equal amounts.
Teacups are used for having a taste of the tea. [Photo/China Daily]
Teacups are for drinking it, and cup holders for holding it.
Other tea accessories are a water boiler, filter, tea appreciation dish and cleaning cloth.
Masters make different kinds of tea in different ways, but there’s generally something in common:
Take a bit of tea from the tea caddy and put it in the tea appreciation dish. You can ask your guests to observe and appreciate the process and aroma of the leaves before placing them in the teapot. When adding water to the teapot, increase the water flow by holding the kettle well above the teapot. At the same time, move the kettle in a circular motion so that all the leaves are heated thoroughly.
Rinsing removes the first brew, while retaining the leaves a few seconds after adding water to the teapot. For a tender tea, rinsing is not necessary because the first brew has the best quality. For other tea types, rinsing helps bring out the best in the leaves as they will have expanded and they brew better after rinsing. The leaves can expand to 90 percent of the volume of the teapot after being fully immersed.
The infusion time is determined by the amount of tea, the type and the container. For example, when brewing Oolong tea with a small teapot, the proper amount of the dry tea leaves should be around 25-33 percent. After it is brewed, pour the tea into the serving mug and transfer it to teacups so that everyone gets a bit of the same flavor. Then place the cup on a cup holder and offer it to each person.
By Xinyuan Zhong and edited by Roger Bradshaw