Tea, that most elegant of restoratives. Forget coffee and its all caffeinated edginess; it is he who drinks tea that will truly find greatness. As the masterful Chinese writer, Lin Yutang said, “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” And with that in mind, we here at the The World of Chinese bring you 10 of the best, classic teas:
[ Note: According to fermentation-based qualification there are five types of tea: white, green, yellow, turquoise (oolong), red and black. In this list you will find them all.]
Ti Kuan Yin
(铁观音 – tiě guān yīn)
Iron Goddess. It is perhaps the most famous of oolong teas. Originating in the 19th century and harvested in North Fujian, the tea has a subtle floral bouquet and is widely known for its significant health benefits; it increases energy levels in the body; it is a a great antioxidant, serving to boost the immune system, while fighting cancer and heart diseases; it increases bone mineral density, providing stronger bones; and finally, it provides anti-fungal support, meaning it can re-balance the body after taking antibiotics. If the health benefits aren’t your thing, well, we think it tastes pretty damn fine. The tea should be steeped at a relatively high temperature of 185 – 205 F degrees for 3-5 minutes.
via Wikimedia Commons
Da Hong Pao
(大红袍 – dàhóng páo)
The Big Red Robe. This is another famous oolong tea from North Fujian. The origins of this tea date back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It also has a pleasant floral fragrance and is known for being very costly. The benefits of Da Hong Pao are countless. Assisting with weight loss, strengthening teeth, curing skin disease, improving vitality, increasing brain power and lowering sugar blood levels, to name just a few. The best steeping temperature for this tea is 195 – 205 F degree; it shouldn’t be steeped for more than 3 minutes.
via Wikimedia Commons
(普洱茶 – pǔ’ěr chá)
Pu Erh is the most renowned of black teas. Originated in Yunnan province, in a village called, funnily enough, Pu Erh, it has been drunk for at least 1,700 years. It is also made in Sichuan, Hunan and Guangdong. Pu Erh got famous for one particular distinctive feature: like a fine wine it gets better with the age, for other, more mortal teas, age is an enemy. In total, there are 120 types of Pu Erh Cha, including green and white varieties. The main health benefit of the tea is as a digestion aid. As a result, many use the tea as to help with weight loss; the tea can also significantly lower cholesterol levels and, in the long term, is as effective as many medicines. The tea should be steeped at a temperature of 200 – 210 F degrees for 3-4 minutes.
(茉莉花茶 – Mòlìhuā chá)
Jasmine tea is extremely popular both in and outside China. It can be of any kind: white, green and black. The base is formed from almost any type of tea leaves, which are then stored with jasmine leaves to impart that delicate flavor. The best jasmine teas are manufactured in Fujian and Sichuan. And while it is often claimed that Beijingers are the main consumers of jasmine tea, there is little evidence to support this claim. The tea increases body temperature, which is especially good for cold regions and cleanses the body of toxins, which suits people living in polluted areas (is this a clue to its claimed popularity amongst Beijingers?). Apart from that the tea is a great stress reliever and fights cold and cancer. The tea should be brewed at 175 – 190 F degrees for 2-4 minutes.
via Wikimedia Commons
Bai Hao Yin Zhen
(白毫银针 – bái háo yín zhēn)
Silver Needles. This one is a legendary and most expensive white tea. The manufacturing tea is believed to have started during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The tea is manufactured in Fujian and is believed to assist in preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis and various infections. It should be steeped at a temperature of 167 – 176 F degrees for 1-2 minutes, however, some suggest that the steeping for Silver Needles tea should be slightly longer than for other white teas – up to 5 minutes.
Jun Shan Yin Zhen
(君山银针 – Jùn shān yìn zhēn)
Gentleman Mountain Silver Needles. The tea originates from Hunan province and is considered the most famous yellow tea or the King of Yellow teas. It is also called ‘three climb-downs, three climb-ups’ due to the funny dance that tea leaves make during the brewing process. The taste, according to TeaSpring, is “smooth, light and sweet at first sip but finishes with a fleeting smoky taste. This smokiness is only apparent in the first infusion and is not offensive at all.” The tea belongs to a group of Chinese ancient teas revered for their long history and has been produced since the Tang Dynasty and is famous for being the Chairman Mao’s favorite. As to the health benefits, apart from slowing the process of ageing it helps to prevent heart disease, liver disorders and the appearance of tumors; it regulates sugar levels, improves digestion and fights headaches and depression. The best steeping temperature here is 176 F degrees, and the tea should be steeped for approximately 5 minutes.
(滇红 – diānhóng)
Dark Tea. This type of red tea has been produced since the beginning of the 20th century in Yunnan province. It has a beautiful golden color and lacks bitter aftertaste some teas have. Apart from being a good refreshment during the hot summer times, Dianhong tea is famous for its ability to normalize blood pressure. It should be steeped at a temperature of 194 – 212 F degrees for 3-4 minutes.
(拉普山小種/正山小种 – lāpǔshān xiǎozhǒng)
This is a sub-Variety from Lapu Mountain and is a type of red tea. It is popular among westerners, especially, in the UK. It is produced in Fujian and is famous for its deep smoky flavor, which is a result of the way it is produced – it is dried over pinewood fires. The tea helps fight inflammation and cardiovascular disease and helps to strengthen the immune system. Some sources suggest that it can also help in maintaining the liver. It is better brewed at a temperature of 200 F degrees for approximately 2 minutes.
Qi Men Hong
(祁门红茶 – qímén hóngchá)
Great Gate Red Tea comes from Anhui province. It is a relatively young tea – less than 200 years. It is also a popular tea in the west and is a base for English breakfast tea. The taste is a heady mixture of orchid, pine and dried plum. This type of tea improves digestion and helps fighting inflammation. It also helps fighting urethral deseases. The best steeping temperature for this tea is 195 – 205 F degrees for 1-2 minutes.
(龙井茶 – lóngjǐng chá)
Dragon Well Tea. This is the most desirable of green teas and belongs to the roasted green tea group. “The aroma of the genuine product is warm, fresh, complex and with a note of baked mung beans, or chestnut, and a distinctive accent of bouquet,” according to the Tea Guardian. Long Jing originated in 15th century Hangzhou and currently is produced in Zhejiang province. Apart from being a favorite tea of many emperors, it is currently widespread among both Chinese and foreigners alike. It is effective in deterring food poisoning, preventing cavities, fighting viruses and has many more beneficial effects. 176 F degrees is considered to be the best temperature for steeping Long Jing– as if too high – it can kill the aroma and nutrients. The tea should be steeped for 1-2 minutes.
And there you are, 10 of the finest teas in China; go forth and drink, think, and be at one with the world…
All images courtesy of Mary Kalenyuk