The origin of tea in China is as vast as it is unclear. References to tea drinking cultures in Chinese literature can take us back approximately 5,000 years in time. Ancient folklore places its creation at around 2700 BC, when a camellia blossom drifted into a cup of boiled drinking water belonging to an emperor.
The simple act of brewing tea and sipping a cup of this beverage was elevated to an art form in the 8th century, with the publication of Lu Yu’s “The Classic Art of Tea”. The poet and former Buddhist priest had strict rules about the proper procedure for brewing, steeping, and serving tea. In the centuries following Yu’s work, tea’s popularity spread rapidly through China. Emperors bestowed gifts of tea upon grateful recipients. Later, teahouses mushroomed across the landscape. While the Chinese have never developed a ritualistic ceremony around tea-drinking resembling the Japanese tea ceremony, they do have a healthy respect for its role in their daily lives.
There are hundreds of varieties of Chinese teas, most of which fall into six basic categories. Reputed to provide the most health benefits and aromas, Chinese teas have gained popularity across the globe.
Xihu Longjing, DongTing Biluochin, Huangshan Maofeng. Tea aficionados will recognize these as the most common types of green tea, which belong to the category of unfermented tea. This type of tea goes through the pan-firing process right after the leaves have been plucked. It is now the most common type of tea in China.
Unlike green tea, black tea belongs to the category of fully-fermented tea. Its bright reddish infusion has a rich, aromatic flavour and comprises integral tea leaves or buds. It is called Gongfu Hongcha to make it distinguishable from chopped black tea grown in India and Sri Lanka.
Neither fully fermented, nor unfermented tea, oolong tea belongs to the category of partially-fermented tea. The bright yellowish infusion has a fresh, rich flavour and a long-lasting aroma.
Succulent, whitish, and hairy leaf-buds with a slight greenish tinge – these characterise the beautiful infusion that is white tea. It is slightly fermented, with a mild and mellow flavour which makes it an enjoyable brew.
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Similar to white tea, yellow tea is slightly fermented. The manufacturing of yellow tea includes a smothering process that results in this unique type of tea, bearing the characteristics of yellow leaves with a yellow infusion.
Practically unheard of outside of a tea-tasting, pu’erh-type tea is a post-fermented tea which is made of green, oolong or black tea. This infusion has a brownish red colour, and its flavour is mellow. It has an intoxicating aroma which is both unique and long-lasting, which has it ranked as the third best type of tea by Chinese tea lovers.
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