China has long been celebrated as the homeland of tea, where tea first grew, produced and people begin to drink tea. Chinese people like to drink tea, and often entertain guests and friends with it. Serving a cup of tea is more than a matter of politeness. It is a symbol of togetherness, a way of showing respect to visitors. Chinese are also good at drinking tea with a long, ritual boiling tea process and refined tea sets.
Tea Sage in ancient China
Lu Yu (733-804) in Song dynasty is known as “the Sage of Tea”, for his contribution to Chinese tea culture. his book Tea Scripture (or The Book of Tea) was based on first hand information he got from his own practice as well as his extensive study of related books, and experience from other people, and describes the processes of planting tea bushes, picking tea leaves and preparing leaves for brewing in detail. The seventh chapter, entitled “Tea Events” is an historic accomplishment, for recording incidents concerning tea for over thousands of years, from legendary times to Tang dynasty.
Tea types in China
Chinese tea can be classified into six types according to different methods by which it is processed.
1) Green tea keeps the original color of the tealeaves without fermentation during processing. Green Tea has the most medical value and the least caffeine content of all Chinese tea classes. This category mainly consists Longjiang, Maofeng and Biluochun.
2) Black tea, also known as “red tea” in China, is fermented before baking. It is a later variety developed on the basis of green tea. Black tea has a robust taste and is full-bodied enough to stand up to milk and sugar. It is the only kind of Chinese teas that can be drunk with milk or sugar.
3) Oolong tea represents a variety half way between the green tea and black tea, made after partial formation. Oolong Tea is the serious Chinese tea drinker’s tea. Beginners in Oolong Tea should be careful as even though flavor is only mild to medium, the tea could be very strong.
4) White tea is unfermented, undergoing minimal processing, simply air-dried and made from unopened silver buds and outer leaf tips. It is the rarest of teas having a very brief picking season when the climatic conditions are perfect.
5) Compressed tea is that kind of tea steamed and compressed into bricks, cakes, columns and other shapes. Compressed Tea has all the characteristics of Black Tea. It is good for transport and storage, originally for remote areas. The Pu-erh Tea belongs to compressed tea.
6) Scented Tea is made of mixing fragrant flowers (such as jasmine tea and magnolia) in the tea leaves in the course of processing. The different kinds of Scented Tea are named after the flower, with which the tea is scented, such as jasmine tea, chrysanthemum tea, litchi tea, etc.
Chinese tea ceremony
The first written record of tea ceremonies was during the Tang Dynasty. Broadly speaking tea ceremony rituals represent the spirit of the “Way of Tea” with four basic principles – thrifty, harmony, respect and beauty. The water and teaware are important aspects for tea ceremony. Pure, light and clean water can ensure a wonderful tasting tea. Different times have different tea sets in fashion. Lu Yu, in his The Book of Tea, recorded 24 kinds of apparatus and making methods, including wind stove for frying water, clips for clipping coal, bamboo clips for stirring water, etc. nowadays people pottery wares. And the best choice is the purple clay wares made in Yixing and Jingdezhen. Servers for different ceremony do not perform the ritual the same way. Each step is a sensory exploration and appreciation.
Tea is a healthy drink
Throughout the history, Chinese people always pay much attention to health care. And tea is a healthy drink. Tea is good for human digestive system and the brain. It helps to reduce tiredness and is also efficient in cooling people down. Moreover, it also helps to prevent cancer, various eye diseases and aging, as well as cure skin diseases. The criteria for deciding whether a tea is good or not are its color, smell and taste.