A Crash Course on the Different Types of Chinese Tea
Tea has existed in ancient Chinese culture since several thousand years ago. With the development of Chinese civilization, people started planting and brewing different types of teas in different parts of the country.
Because there are so many different types of tea, it can be quite daunting to try and learn more about them. The aim of this article is to break down the differences between each type of tea in a simple manner.
Tea Processing – How different processes create different colored teas
The differences between the various types of tea are brought about by the way in which they are processed. White Tea is wilted and unoxidized, Green Tea is unwilted and unoxidized, Yellow Tea is unwilted and unoxidized but allowed to yellow. Oolong Tea is wilted, bruised and partially oxidized, Black Tea is wilted and sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized, while Pu’Er Tea is green tea that is allowed to ferment.
Health Benefits – Good Reasons for Drinking Tea
The health benefits between the various types of tea are fairly similar, with most of them having anti-oxidants which reduce the risk of cancer. The various types of tea also tend to have metabolic boosting properties which increase fat burn, improve cardiovascular health, and improve brain function.
Westerners tend to favor the taste of the more oxidized teas (Black Tea) which tend to have a stronger taste, whereas the lighter teas such as Green Tea and White Tea are more popular in Asia.
Milk Tea – Adding a Sweet Twist to Ordinary Tea
All around the world, many different cultures enjoy the popular beverage of milk tea. There are many variants of this popular drink such as
– Taiwanese Bubble Tea
– Hong Kong Style Milk Tea
– Teh Tarik
– Masala Chai
– Irani Chai
– Thai Tea
– Royal Milk Tea
– Tea With Milk (British)
Most of these milk teas tend to favor the use of Black Tea, although other types of tea may be used instead.
I have created a simple infographic (attached below to this article).
An Introduction to Tea
All different types of tea, including white, green, oolong, black and even pu-er, come from the same plant – Camellia Sinensis. It is an evergreen bush indigenous to China and India. Over the centuries, different cultures have learned to cultivate different hybrids of the same Camellia Sinensis plant and process them differently, resulting eventually in the type of tea that resides in your cup at the end of the day.
The main differentiator between the various teas is the level of oxidation that they undergo, that is, how long the teas are exposed to oxygen after they have been harvested. The longer the oxidation process, the darker the tea leaves become, resulting in a deeper and richer flavor. Many other processes are also used to process the tea, including rolling, shaping, steaming and roasting the leaves.
We are going to be walking you through the Six Major of Chinese Tea.
- White Tea
Popular varieties of White Tea include:
- Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle)
- Bai Mudan (White Peony)
- Monkey Picked White Tea
- Darjeeling White Tea
White tea also tends to be lower in caffeine content, which makes it more suitable that other varieties of tea if you are looking for a late-night drink.
- Green Tea
Green tea is made from unoxidized leaves and are one of the less processed types of tea. They therefore contain the most antioxidants and beneficial polyphenols. Green tea has also been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries.
Green tea leaves are harvested and then quickly heated either by pan firing or steaming. This drying process is done to prevent too much oxidation from occurring which will alter their flavor profile.
Green tea tends to be green, yellow or light brown in color after it is brewed, and tends to have a grassy or vegetal flavor associated with it.
Anji bai cha (Chinese: 安吉白茶) is a green tea and one of the most delicate tea varieties
Anji Bai Cha is the green tea of a specific tea cultivar native to Anji county in China’s Zhejiang province. Actually, “Bai Cha” literally means “white tea” (安吉白茶 = “Anji White Tea”. In fact, though, it’s a proper green tea in regard to all relevant picking and processing features.
Bai Cha is quickly harvested before the tea plant’s leaves open fully. The tea leaves are not exposed to an artificial heat, which is why they tend to have the rawest taste. They are often described as floral, grassy and subtle in taste.
Popular varieties of Green Tea include:
- Yellow Tea
Yellow tea is similar to green tea with a primary difference – The yellow tea leaves are encased and steamed during the drying process. This difference in tea processing is aimed at removing the grassy smell of green tea while preserving the associated health benefits of it. This results in a tea that has a mellower flavor compared to that of green tea. The tea leaves also turn a light yellow color.
Popular varieties of Yellow Tea include:
- Junshan Yinzhen
- Huoshan Huangya
- Meng Ding Huangya
- Mogan Huangya
- Da Ye Qing
- Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized Chinese tea
Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized Chinese tea that is produced after withering, oxidation, curling and twisting. It is especially popular in South China and Overseas Chinese residing in Southeast Asia. They can vary widely in flavor, with sweet and fruity tastes, or thick and roasty aromas.
Popular varieties of Oolong Tea include:
- Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe)
- Shui Jin Gui (Golden Water Turtle)
- Tie Luo Han (Iron Arhat)
- Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess of Mercy)
- Huangjin Gui (Golden Osmanthus)
- Black Tea
Black tea is a type of tea that is more oxidized than the other variants. The degree of fermentation that the tea leaves undergo is in the 80-90% range. Black tea is able to retain its flavor for several years due to the oxidation process. As a result, it has often been used as an article of trade, serving as a form of de facto currency in certain countries during the 19th century.
Black tea accounts for >90% of tea sold in the West.
Popular varieties of Black Tea include:
- Sun Moon Lake
Black tea is also often blended and mixed with other stuff to obtain a different sort of beverage. This includes Milk tea, Earl Grey tea, English Breakfast tea and Masala Chai Indian spiced tea.
Pu’er is a variety of fermented tea produced in the Yunnan province of China. The fermentation process includes microbial fermentation and oxidation of the tea leaves after they have been dried and rolled.
Pu’er can be classified into two main categories – Raw Pu’er and Ripened Pu’er. Raw Pu’er tends to have an astringent taste. On the other hand, Ripened Pu’er tends to have an earthy flavor, reminiscent of the smell of soil or autumn leaves due to oxidation and other microbial processes.