In China, Tea is the way of life.
It is close to a religion – China even has a ‘tea saint’ Lu Yu, who wrote a holy scripture all about the drink. It is called “The Classic of Tea”. This work was written in the Tang dynasty, and roughly marks the period when tea ceased to be just a drink, and became an important part of Chinese cultural heritage.
Like we say, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, the Chinese say ‘One day without tea will bring illnesses’. Today people from all walks of life carry flasks of tea that are topped up with hot water at regular intervals, and bottled tea drinks are a major industry. The first thing that any visitor or guest will be offered after they sit down is a cup of Chinese Tea. When drinking tea from a small cup, it is preferable to finish in three steps. The first is for tasting the tea, the second is drinking and the third is for savouring.
Types of Tea
Green Tea is the most widely-consumed variety of tea in China. It is also the freshest kind of tea – newly-picked leaves are heated and dried, but not fermented. This helps the leaves to retain their original colour.
In China, black tea is known as ‘Red Tea’ – due to the colour of the liquid. In this tea, black tea leaves are fully fermented, which gives them a strong flavour. This is the tea of the Western world.
Oolong Tea leaves are partially fermented, half way between fresh green tea leaves and the fully fermented leaves of black tea. Oolong Tea has a strong, long-lasting flavour.
Pu’er Tea is fully fermented black tea that has usually been aged. This gives it a full, musky flavour that is highly prized among connoisseurs. Pu’er Tea comes from the Pu’er region of Yunnan province, and is often sold compressed in to ‘tea bricks’.
Along with these, there is also a category known as “scented tea”, made by mixing various flowers and petals with green or oolong teas. The best known among these is jasmine tea. Also, white tea, made with un-ripened tea leaves that are still covered with a downy, silvery fuzz, is becoming quite popular.