Us Brits love a brew, and whilst tea has been a steadfast part of our culture for many, many years, its origins lie elsewhere in the world. Tea plants are native to East Asia with its climate and humidity just two of the factors that ensure the highest quality crop. China along with India, Sri Lanka and Kenya currently produce 75% of the world’s tea, yet the tea produced extends far beyond the famous English Breakfast blend that’s favoured by so many tea enthusiasts worldwide.
China has been responsible for bringing a vast range of tea types into the mainstream. As well as tea drinking being a prominent part of Chinese culture, drinking Chinese tea unlocks several benefits. With this in mind, trying the numerous varieties available is a must on your upcoming trip to China. Here we reveal the types of Chinese tea you’ll encounter during your visit.
Any tea lover will know or will have tried green tea, but the green tea varieties available in China differ from the ones found on our supermarket shelves. Green tea takes the crown for the oldest type of tea yet it also remains the most popular.
During its long history, the processes used to make Chinese green tea have been perfected and many types of green tea created as a result. Whichever Chinese green tea you choose however, you can look forward to a refreshing and healthy taste as About Time details:
“The best greens from China tend to be delicate and sweet and many have a certain ‘vegetal’ quality, more a hint of fresh asparagus than overcooked broccoli. They can be fantastically fragrant when fresh and some types have a luxuriously silky mouthfeel. The new season versions of the more famous varieties, such as Dragon Well and Anji Bai Cha, can fetch extortionate prices.”
White tea shares many similarities with green tea thanks to the way it’s processed. It’s essentially an unfermented and uncured version of green tea. As the name suggests, the resulting brew is lighter in colour, and sports a delicate flavour that’s a great refreshment at any time of the day.
White tea is native to the Fujian province so you’ll taste the best white tea varieties there. Although its name has more impoverished roots – white tea was often a term used by poor Chinese people who would serve guests plain water as they couldn’t afford tea – a variety called White Hair Silver Needle is considered the most prized type of white tea.
Oolong or blue tea is another popular unfermented variety. Oolong tea is a unique blend of green and red tea. The combination of the two produces an aromatic flavour that’s loved in every part of China.
The smell of yellow tea is very distinctive, but don’t let its aroma deter you from giving it a try on your China trip. Its flavour is as delicate and refreshing as green and white tea.
Yellow tea has rather royal roots too. It was the tea of choice for emperors, who favoured its traditional imperial colour. Thanks to this history, many yellow tea varieties are rarer and more expensive than other Chinese tea types.
Black tea is often referred to as red tea in China, due to its colour after it has been brewed. Chinese black tea differs to the black tea we drink at home, with several production processes consolidating its unique taste.
Each black tea type differs in flavour and some are even produced with a few quirky extras. Lapsang Souchong is smoked over burning pine for instance to guarantee an unusual yet exceptional taste.
Now you know the main varieties of Chinese tea, find out how to serve them by reading our tea serving etiquette 101.