Chinese tea

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Green tea leaves steeping in a gaiwan

Chinese tea is a beverage made from the leaves of tea plants (Camellia sinensis) and boiled water. Tea leaves are processed using traditional Chinese methods. Chinese tea is drunk throughout the day, including during meals, as a substitute for plain water, for health, or for simple pleasure.

History[edit]

Tasting Tea
See also: History of tea

The practice of drinking tea has a long history in China, having originated there. Although tea originated in China, during the Tang Dynasty, Chinese tea generally represents tea leaves which have been processed using methods inherited from ancient China. According to popular legend, tea was discovered by Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BCE when a leaf from a nearby shrub fell into water the emperor was boiling.[1] Tea is deeply woven into the history and culture of China. The beverage is considered one of the seven necessities of Chinese life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar.[2]

Chinese tea can be classified into five distinctive categories: white, green, oolong, black and post-fermented. Others add categories for scented and compressed teas. All of these come from varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant. Most Chinese teas are consumed in China and are not exported, except to Chinese-speaking communities in other countries. Green tea is the most popular type of tea consumed in China.

Within these main categories of tea are vast varieties of individual beverages. Some researchers have counted more than 700 of these beverages. Others put the number at more than 1,000. Some of the variations are due to different strains of the Camillia plant. The popular Tieguanyin, for example, is traced back to a single plant discovered in Anxi in Fujian province. Other teas draw some of their characteristics from local growing conditions. However, the largest factor in the wide variations comes from differences in tea processing after the tea leaves are harvested. White and green teas are heat-treated (simplified Chinese: 杀青; traditional Chinese: 殺青) soon after picking to prevent oxidization, often called fermentation, caused by natural enzymes in the leaves. Oolong teas are partially oxidized. Black and red teas are fully oxidized. Other differences come from variations in the processing steps.

Song Dynasty[edit]

Tea was an important crop during the Song Dynasty. Tea farms covered 242 counties during this time. This included expensive tribute tea, which was tea from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces that was exported to Southeast Asian and Arab countries.

In the Song Dynasty, tea started to be pressed into tea cakes. Some were embossed with patterns of the Chinese dragon and the Fenghuang, and were called exotic names including:

Large dragon tea cake

Large Dragon tea cake, Small Dragon tea cake, Surpassing Snow Dragon ball cake, Fine Silver Sprout, Cloud Leaf, Gold Money, Jade Flower, Inch of Gold, Longevity Sprout, Eternal Spring Jade Leaf, Dragon in the Clouds, Longevity Dragon Sprout, Dragon Phoenix and Flower, and Eternal Spring Silver Sprout.

Ming Dynasty[edit]

The Ming Dynasty scholar Wen Zhenheng's encyclopedic book Zhang Wu Zhi (simplified Chinese: 长物志; traditional Chinese: 長物志; Treatise on Superfluous Things), volume 12, contains the following descriptions of several famous Ming Dynasty teas:

Huqiu and Tianchi tea[edit]

During this time, Huqiu tea (Chinese: 虎丘茶; lit. "Tiger Hill tea"), not to be confused with the black tea of the same name from the Nilgiris District in what is now Tamil Nadu, India) was purportedly developed as the finest tea in the world; however, the production quantity was rather small, and the production is regulated by the Chinese government. Some, however, consider its taste to be second to Tianchi tea (Chinese: 天池茶; lit. "Heaven Pool").[citation needed]

Jie tea[edit]

Jie tea Chinese: 岕茶 from Changxing County in Zhejiang Province is regarded highly by connoisseurs, although it is rather expensive.

NB: Jie is the short name for Luo Jie (simplified Chinese: 罗岕; traditional Chinese: 羅岕). Luo Jie is the name of a mountain bordering Zhejiang and Jing Qi where, during the Ming dynasty, jie meant boundary. Chang Xin lay to the south of Luo Jie mountain while Jing Qi lay to the north of it. Chang Xin still retains its name today.

Luo Jie tea from Gu Chu Mountain in Changxing County in Zhejiang Province was also known as Gu Chu Violet Shoot. Gu Zhu Violet Shoot had been an imperial tribute tea since the Tang dynasty for nearly nine hundred years until the middle of the Qin dynasty.[clarification needed] Gu Zhu Violet Shoot was revived again in the 1970s as a top grade tea in China.

NB. Jin Qi is now called Yi Xin township. Jin Qi tea was also known as Yang Xian tea. Ruo leaves are leaves from Indocalamus tessellatus bamboo. The leaf is about 45 cm long.

Liu'an tea[edit]

Liu'an tea (Chinese: 六安茶) is used for Chinese medicine. It cannot release its aroma and has a bitter taste if it is not baked right. The inherent quality of this tea is considered quite good.[citation needed] This type of tea is especially suitable for people who are suffering from gastric problems.[citation needed]

Liu'an tea is still produced in China, Anhui Province, China. The Liu'an tea from the Bat Cave of Jinzhai County is considered of superior quality, as thousand of bats in the cave can provide an ideal fertilizer for the tea plants.

Songluo tea[edit]

Songluo tea is manufactured at Songluo Mountain located north of Xiuning County in Anhui Province, China. The tea plantations are scattered at an elevation of six to seven hundred meters on the mountain.

There is no real Songluo tea grown outside an area of a dozen mu (one mu = 667 square meters) and only few families possess the refined full to prepare Songluo tea. The tea hand-baked recently by mountain monks is even better.

Genuine Songluo tea is produced at the foot of the Dongshan (Cave Hill) and on top of the Tianchi (Chinese: 天池; lit. "Heaven Pool"), highly treasured by people in Xin'an County. It is also a favorite for the people of Nandu and Quzong counties, due to its ease in brewing and intense aroma.

Longjing and Tianmu tea[edit]

Longjing tea and Tianmu tea may match Heaven Pool tea due to the weather in their growing regions. Because the cold season comes earlier to the mountains, there is abundant snow in the winter, hence the tea plants germinate later. [Wen Zhenheng]

Longjing tea is manufactured in the West Lake district of Hangzhou, China. The Longjing, literally "Dragon Well", is located at Fenghuang Mountain. Tianmu Mountain is located at Lin'an County in the north west of Zhejiang Province. There are two 1500-meter peaks, each with a pond on top filled with crystal clear water looking like an eye, hence the name Tianmu (Chinese: 天目, lit. "heaven eye").

Culture[edit]

Chinese tea utensil including three gaiwan
Main article: Chinese tea culture
See also: Tea culture

Customs and etiquette[edit]

Throughout China, in restaurants, it is common for customers to clean their bowls and utensils at the table by rinsing them with tea from the pot. Tea may be poured over utensils into one of their bowls, or a larger bowl is may be provided as a waste receptacle for tea used to rinse bowls.

Tea ceremony[edit]

Further information: Chinese tea ceremony
See also: Tea ceremony

Utensils[edit]

Location[edit]

Tea garden[edit]

See also: Chinese garden

Tea house[edit]

See also: Tea house

Tea restaurant[edit]

Main article: Cha chaan teng

Literature[edit]

See also: Tea classics

Symbolism and significance[edit]

The China famous tea (Chinese: 中國名茶) or The Ten Great Chinese Teas (Chinese: 中國十大名茶) are the ten most notable Chinese teas. Below is a list of ten popular teas of China.[3]

Chinese English Region Type
西湖龙井 Lungching Tea/ Longjing Tea Hangzhou, Zhejiang Green tea
洞庭碧螺春 Biluochun Tea/ Pi Lou Chun/ Dongding Green Spiral Suzhou, Jiangsu Green tea
安溪铁观音 Anxi Tat-Kuan-Yin Tea/ Tie Guan Yin Tea Anxi, Fujian Oolong tea
黄山毛峰 Maofeng Tea Huangshan, Anhui Green tea
武夷岩茶/大红袍 Wuyi Mountain Rock Tea (Red Robe)/ Dahongpao Tea Wuyi, Fujian Oolong tea
君山银针 Jun Mountain Silver Needle Yueyang, Hunan Yellow tea
祁门红茶 Keemun Black Tea Qimen, Anhui Black tea
六安瓜片 Liuan Leaf Jinzhai, Anhui Green tea
云南普洱 Yunnan Puer Puer (Simao), Yunnan Post-fermented tea Puer
白毫银针 White Tip Silver Needle Fuding, Fujian White tea

Economics[edit]

Production[edit]

Green tea cultivation in China
Primary tea processing (no roasting, scenting, or spicing)

The highest grades of white tea, yellow tea, and green tea are made from tender tea shoots picked early spring. These young tea shoots may consist of a single terminal bud, a bud with an adjacent leaf or a bud with two adjacent slightly unfurled leaves. It is generally required that the leaves are equal in length or shorter than the buds.

The more-oxidized tea—such as red or oolong tea—are made from more mature leaves. The Anxi Tieguanyin, for example, is made from one bud with two to four leaves.

Not all high grade green tea is made from tender tea shoots. The highly regarded green tea Liu An Gua Pian is made from more matured leaves.

Traditionally these tender tea shoots are picked before 5 April, or Qingming Festival.[clarification needed] The standard practice is to start picking when 5% of the garden is ready, or when the tea buds reach certain size. In some tea gardens, tea shoots are picked daily, or every 2 days.[4]

Trade[edit]

Consumption[edit]

Varieties[edit]

Spelling of varieties often reflects English usage, and historical or southern-Chinese pronunciation rather than official modern pinyin, for example; Bohea (武夷茶 wǔyí chá), Congou (工夫 gōngfu), Hyson (熙春茶), Souchong (拉普山小種 lāpǔshān xiǎozhǒng), Chunmee (珍眉 zhēnméi), Sowmee (秀眉 xiùméi), Pekoe (白毫 báiháo), Keemun (祁門紅茶 qímén hóngchá).[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tea and the Chinese way of life". radio86.com. Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Notes on Chinese Culture - Food and Drinks (08) – Chinese Tea". dict.cn. Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  3. ^ "list". Retrieved March 18, 2011. 
  4. ^ Amazing-Green-Tea.com, "The Chinese Green Tea Crown Jewel". , www.amazing-green-tea.com
  5. ^ Kit Boey Chow, Ione Kramer All Teas in China Page 179 1990 "It should be noted that for promotion purposes, many non-Chinese companies borrow names from Chinese teas, such as Bohea, Congou, Hyson, Souchong, Chunmee, Sowmee, Pekoe, Keemun, etc. Such labels may contain little or no tea of ..."

Further reading[edit]

  • Evans, John C., Tea in China: The History of China's National Drink. Contributions to the Study of World History, Number 33. Greenwood Press: New York; Westport, Connecticut; London, 1992. ISSN: 0885-9159, ISBN 0-313-28049-5.
  • Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2011). China's Ancient Tea Horse Road. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B005DQV7Q2