What is Chinese Tea?
China is the birth place of tea. Tea, botanically known as Camellia sinensis, is native to China and has been grown and cultivated in China for close to five millenniums. Today there are six basic types of Chinese tea-White Tea, Green Tea, Yellow Tea, Oolong Tea, Black Tea (sometimes called Hong Cha or Red Tea), and Pu'er Tea.
In China, the most popular tea is Green Tea. There are several thousand types of Green Tea produced throughout China. The Chinese are famous for scenting their teas with flowers. Jasmine Tea is by far the most famous scented Green Tea. Recently, the Chinese have introduced handcrafted and flowering teas where teas are tied into beautiful shapes or combined with beautiful flowers. The most famous handcrafted and flowering teas are produced in Huang Shan of the Anhui province and Fuding of the Fujian province.
The mythology related to Chinese Tea:
Legend has it that Chinese tea was discovered by the Emperor Shennong (Shen Nung, Shen Nong). Tea leaves from a nearby tea tree supposedly fell into Shennong's boiling water. Along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce and vinegar, tea was considered as a basic necessity of Chinese life. Chinese monks were the early producers of Chinese teas. Early teas were processed into compressed forms for storage and trading. Emperors' throughout China's history were given tea as a tribute by their subjects. Many of China's famous teas are sanctified by mystical stories and legends about their discovery. These legends often focus on the spiritual aspects of the tea, its fragrance, taste and health.
What part of the tea plant is used to make tea?
The highest grades of Green, White and Black tea are often handpicked from tender buds or tea shoots and tender unfurled leaves during the early spring. Many Oolongs are produced from plump large tender leaves with high oil content.
How are teas processed?
After a tea leaf or tea bud has been picked it must be dried. It is the method of drying and the amount of time before drying that largely determines the type of tea made.
• White Teas are naturally withered and dried at low temperatures. The withering and slow drying causes White Tea to be slightly oxidized.
• Green Teas are slightly withered, and then pan fired or baked to arrest oxidation. Then depending on the type of green tea, the tea then will undergo various baking or pan firing and rolling or shaping steps before it is refined, graded and packed.
• Oolong Tea leaves are withered until they have lost a percentage of their moisture. At this point, the oxidation process has already begun. The tea leaves are then hand rubbed or rolled to cause the desired level of oxidation. Green oolongs are less oxidized and dark oolongs are generally more oxidized. When the tea master has achieved the desired level of oxidation, the leaves are fired or baked. This step arrests oxidation by neutralizing the tea leaves natural enzymes. Oolong Tea then undergoes several baking/firing and rolling or shaping steps before it is refined, graded and packed.
• Black Tea is withered and then the leaves are bruised by rolling or rubbing. The tea is fully-oxidized before it undergoes baking or pan firing and shaping. After the tea is dried, it is refined, graded and packed.
What are the benefits of Chinese Tea?
Since the time of Shennong, tea has been a continuous ingredient in ancient Chinese medicine and depending on its type Chinese Tea:
• provides varied, pleasant taste sensations;
• unique invigorating fragrances;
• promotes a sense of well being and calmness;
• is one of the best antioxidants in any diet;
• is a natural anti-inflammatory; and
• reduces the symptoms of many chronic diseases.
What is in the future for tea?
Tea research is being funded by governments, universities and businesses all over the world. Scientific findings are proving tea should be a part of a normal diet for hydration, antioxidants, stimulants and other unstudied positive effects. As the study of tea continues, its popularity in Western society has increased.
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