The Teas of China
The phrase “Chinese Tea” is misleading. There are many types of Chinese tea, and they are each distinct from the others. The differences in Chinese teas come from the region they are grown, the varietal of tea plant, and the method of processing the raw tea leaves.
There are five main types of Chinese tea with many variations on each type. The five types are categorized by how the tea leaves are processed.
Chinese Green Tea
Green tea is made from a varietal that maintains the original color of the tea leaves during processing. Green tea is classified as an “unfermented” (more accurately “un-oxidized”) tea because the leaves are fried or steamed shortly after picking to prevent them from oxidizing. Chinese green tea includes Longjing tea of Zhejiang Province, Maofeng of Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province and Biluochun of Jiangsu Province.
Chinese Black Tea
Black tea is known as "red tea" (hong cha) in China. Black tea is a fully fermented (oxidized) tea. It became the most popular type of Chinese tea in the west because it held up better to sea transport than green tea. Chinese black tea includes Qihong of Anhui Province, Dianhong of Yunnan Province, Suhong of Jiangsu Province, Chuanhong of Sichuan Province and Huhong of Hunan Province.
Chinese Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is a partially oxidized tea so it has properties of both green and black tea. It originates in the mountains of Fujian province and is also grown in Guangdong Province. Chinese immigrants to Taiwan brought with them oolong tea production techniques, and now some of the world’s finest oolong tea comes from Taiwan.
Chinese Compressed Tea
As an early trade commodity, tea was compressed and hardened to make it better suited for transport and storage. Compressed tea is also known as "black tea" (because of its dark color) or "brick tea" (because of its shape). The most famous of the compressed teas is Puer tea from Yunnan province which is the only tea which improves with age. Compressed tea is also produced in Hubei, Hunan, and Sichuan provinces.
Chinese Scented Tea
Tea is sometimes scented by mixing fragrant flowers with the tea leaves while they are being processed. The most famous scented tea is Jasmine tea but other types of flowers such as magnolia and rose can also be used. Scented tea is produced in most of the 18 tea provinces of China.
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