The Chinese Tea Culture

Who discovered the Chinese tea

Chinese were the first to discover tea

In the early 17th century, the Dutch East India Company introduced Chinese tea for the first time to Europe. By the mid-17th century, afternoon tea had become a standard ritual of the British nobility. It is interesting to note that the two different pronunciations for “tea” most common in languages that borrowed the word from Chinese-cha and tee-originate from different dialects of Chinese.

Chinese people are believed to have enjoyed tea drinking for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that Yan Di, one of three rulers in ancient times, tasted all kinds of herbs to find medical cures. One day,as he was being poisoned by some herb he had ingested; a drop of water from a tea tree dripped into his mouth and he was saved. For a long time, tea was used as an herbal medicine. During the Western Zhou Dynasty, tea was a religious offering. During the Spring and Autumn Period, people ate fresh tea leaves as vegetables. With the popularization of Buddhism from the Three Kingdoms to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, tea’s refreshing effect made it a favorite among monks in Za-Zen meditation.

Chinese tea as a drink prospered during the Tang Dynasty, and tea shops became popular. A major event of this time was the completion of Tea Classics, the cornerstone of Chinese tea culture, by Lu Yu, Tea Sage of China,. This little book details rules concerning various aspects of tea, such as growth areas for tea trees, wares and skills for processing tea, tea tasting, the history of Chinese tea and quotations from other records, comments on tea from various places, and notes on what occasions tea wares should be complete and when some wares could be omitted.

How Chinese tea is made

Tea is made from the young, tender leaves of the tea tree. The differences among the many kinds of tea available are based on the particular methods used to process the leaves. The key to the whole process is the roasting and fermentation. Through fermentation, the originally deep green leaves become reddish-brown in color. The longer the fermentation, the darker the color. Depending on the length of the roasting and degree of fermentation, the fragrance can range from floral, to fruity, to malty.

Cultivating teapots

The proportion of tea leaves to water also depends on the kind of tea leaves used. The teapot may be filled from one-quarter to three-quarters full with tea leaves, depending mainly on how tightly curled the tea leaves are as a result of the rolling and roasting processes. The teapot is then filled with water. Steeping time starts at one minute, but varies from tea to tea. The time required for subsequent brews from the same leaves must be proportionally lengthened. The best kind of teapot to use for most fermented teas is a purple clay ceramic pot. The size of the pot should be in correct proportion to the size of the cups. Ideally, the cups should have white interiors, to facilitate accurate assessment of the color of the tea.

Types of  tea

Chinese tea may be classified into five types of teas according to the different methods by which it is processed.

Green tea

Green tea is the variety which keeps the original colour of the tea leaves without fermentation during processing. This category consists mainly of Longjing tea of Zhejiang Province, Maofeng of Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province and Biluochun produced in Jiangsu.

Black tea

Black tea, known as “red tea” (hong cha) in China, is the category which is fermented before baking; it is a later variety developed on the basis of the green tea. The best brands of black tea are Qihong of Anhui , Dianhong of Yunnan, Suhong of Jiangsu, Chuanhong of Sichuan and Huhong of Hunan.

Oolong tea

This represents a variety half way between the green and the black teas, being made after partial fermentation. It is a specialty from the provinces on China’s southeast coast: Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan.

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About the Author

Hi there!, My name is Norm. I am a college grad, a veteran, a pet owner and a family man. I started writing articles both to make a little extra money, and to share my knowledge with others. I currently work in the IT department of a major NY hospital.
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