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Chinese tea classification

According to Lu Yu, the writer of the book Tea Classics in the Tang dynasty, Chinese tea enjoyed a more than 4000 years history.

Tea was used as offerings in the West Zhou, vegetables in the Spring and Autumn period, and medicine in the Warring period. Later in the West Han dynasty, it became a main commodity. During 300 years between the Three Kingdoms period and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, especially latter, Buddhism was popular and Buddhists applied tea to relieve sleep in Za-zen, so tea trees spreaded along valleys around temples. That is why people say tea and Buddhism accompanied each other in their development. Till the Tang dynasty tea became popular in ordinary people. In the Ming dynasty, tea trade began to play an important role in the government economy, the "Tea and Horse Bureau" was set up to supervise the tea trade.

In the 6th century, a Buddhist monk introduced tea to Japan and in the 16th century to Europe by a Portuguese missionary. And tea became an international drink.

Now in China, tea family not only consists of traditional tea, but also tea beverage, tea food, tea medicine and other tea products.

Here under tea classification gives you a silhouette of tea categories.

Tea wares exhibits various artistic tea wares.

Tea culture explains Chinese people's attitudes and customs.

Last you will get some useful hints on how to select excellent tea.

Best Ten Chinese teas

Tea Classification

Although there are hundreds of varieties of Chinese tea, they can be mainly classified into five categories, that is, green tea, black tea, brick tea, scented tea, and Oolong tea.

With its natural fragrance, green tea, as the oldest kind of tea, is widely welcomed by different people. It is baked immediately after picking. According to the different ways of processing, it can be divided to many kinds. Among various green tea, Longjing (Dragon Well) Tea around the West Lake in Hangzhou, HuangshanMaofeng Tea from Mt. Huangshan, Yinzhen (Silver Needle) Tea from Mt. Junshan and Yunwu (Cloud and Mist) Tea from Mt. Lushan are most famous.

Black tea is much more favored by foreigners. Different from green tea, black tea is a kind of fermented tea. After the fermentation, its color changes from green to black. The most famous black teas in China are " Qi Hong (originated in Anhui), "Dian Hong"(originated in Yunnan), and "Ying Hong" (originated in Guangdong).

Oolong tea, with an excellent combination of the freshness of green tea and the fragrance of black tea, become popular with more and more people. It has a good function in helping body building and dieting. Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan are the major producing areas of this kind of tea. Oolong tea grows on cliffs, the hard picking process make it the most precious tea.

Scented tea, which is very popular in Northern China, in fact is a mixture of green tea with flower petals of rose, jasmine, orchid and plum through an elaborate process. Among this type, jasmine tea is common.

Brick tea, usually pressed into brick shape, is mainly produced in Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Brick tea is made from black tea or green tea and is pressed into blocks. This kind of tea is popular with minority people in border regions. The most famous one is "Pu'er Tea" made in Yunnan province.

There are other kinds of tea. Among them white tea is special and is not very familiar to most people. Just as its name suggests, this kind of tea is as white as silver. It is mainly produced in Zhenhe and Fuding in Fujian Province, but popular in Southeast Asia. Famous varieties include "Silver Needle" and "White Peony".

Tea Wares

In China, people think different teas prefer different tea wares. Green tea prefers glass tea ware, scented tea porcelain ware while Oolong tea performs best in purple clay tea ware.

In its long history, tea wares not only improve tea quality but also by-produce a tea art. Skilled artisans bestow them artistic beauty.

Tea wares consist of mainly teapots, cups, tea bowls and trays etc. Tea wares had been used for a long time in China. The unglazed earthenware, used in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces for baking tea today, reminds us the earliest utensils used in ancient China. Tea drinking became more popular in the Tang dynasty when tea wares made of metals were served for noblesse and civilians commonly used porcelain ware and earthenware. In the Song dynasty tea bowls, like upturned bell, became common. They were glazed in black, dark-brown, gray, gray/white and white colors. Gray/white porcelain tea wares predominated in the Yuan dynasty and white glazed tea wares became popular in the Ming dynasty. Teapots made of porcelain and purple clay were very much in vogue during the middle of the Ming dynasty. Gilded multicolored porcelain produced in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province and the bodiless lacquer wares of Fujian Province emerged in the Qing dynasty. Among various kinds of tea wares, porcelain wares made in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province and purple clay wares made in Yixing, Jiangsu Province occupied the top places.

Nowadays, tea wares made of gold, silver, copper, purple clay, porcelain, glass, lacquer and other materials are available.

Tea Culture

Just as coffee in the West, tea became a part of daily life in China. You can see teahouses scattered on streets like cafes in the west. It has such a close relationship with Chinese that in recent years, a new branch of culture related to tea is rising up in China, which has a pleasant name of "Tea Culture". It includes the articles, poems, pictures about tea, the art of making and drinking tea, and some customs about tea.

In the Song dynasty, Lu You, who is known as "Tea Sage" wrote Tea Scripture, and detailedly described the process of planting, harvesting, preparing, and making tea. Other famous poets such as Li Bai, Du Fu and Bai Juyi once created large number of poems about tea. Tang Bohu and Wen Zhengming even drew many pictures about tea.

Chinese are very critical about tea. People have high requirements about tea quality, water and tea wares. Normally, the finest tea is grown at altitudes of 3,000 to 7,000 feet (910 to 2,124m). People often use spring water, rain and snow water to make tea, among them the spring water and the rainwater in autumn are considered to be the best, besides rainwater in rain seasons is also perfect. Usually, Chinese will emphasis on water quality and water taste. Fine water must feature pure, sweet, cool, clean and flowing.

Chinese prefer pottery wares to others. The purple clay wares made from the Yixing, Jiangsu province and Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province are the best choice.

In China, there are customs about tea. A host will inject tea into teacup only seven tenth, and it is said the other three tenth will be filled with friendship and affection. Moreover, the teacup should be empty in three gulps. Tea plays an important role in Chinese emotional life.

Tea is always offered immediately to a guest in Chinese home. Serving a cup of tea is more than a matter of mere politeness; it is a symbol of togetherness, a sharing of something enjoyable and a way of showing respect to visitors. To not take at least a sip might be considered rude in some areas. In previous time, if the host held his teacup and said "please have tea", the guest will take his conge upon the suggestion to leave.

How to Select Excellent Tea

Selecting tea is a subject of knowledge.

Aside from the variety, tea is classified into grades. Generally, appraisement of tea is based on five principles, namely, shape of the leaf, color of the liquid, aroma, taste and appearance of the infused leaf.

Speaking of the shape of the leaf, there are flat, needle-like, flower-like, and so on. The judgment is usually made according to the artistic tastes of the tea tasters.

The evenness and transparency of the leaf will decide the color of the liquid. Excellent liquid should not contain rough burnt red leaves or red stems.

Aroma is the most important factor in judging the quality of a kind of tea. Putting 3 grams leaves into 100 milliliters boiled water, people can judge the quality of the tea by the smell from the liquid.

The judgment should be completed through the taste of the liquid and the appearance of the infused leaves.

Best Ten Chinese teas

Longjing (Dragon Well): Produced at Longjing village near the West Lake, Hangzhou, Zhejiang.

Biluochun: Produced at Wu County, Jiangsu.

Huangshanmaofeng: Produced at Mt. Huangshan in Anhui.

Junshan Silver Needle: Produced at Qingluo Island on Dongting Lake.

Qimen Black Tea: Produced at Qimen County in Anhui.

Liuan Guapian: Produced at Liuan County in Henan.

Xinyang Maojian: Produced at Xinyang, Henan.

Duyun Maojian: Produced at Duyun Mountain, Guizhou.

Wuyi Rock Tea: Produced at Wuyi Mountain, Fujian.

Tieguanyin: Produced at Anxi County, Fujian.

Adapted from:


Tea’s Wonderful History

Tea is among the world’s oldest and most revered beverages. It is today’s most popular beverage in the world, next to water. Tea drinking has long been an important aspect of Chinese culture. A Chinese saying identifies the seven basic daily necessities as fuel, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea. According to Chinese legend, tea was invented accidentally by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 B.C. Emperor Shen Nong was a scholar and herbalist, as well as a creative scientist and patron of the arts. Among other things, the emperor believed that drinking boiled water contributed to good health. By his decree, his subjects and servants had to boil their water before drinking it as a hygiene precaution. On one summer day while he was visiting a distant region, he and his entourage stopped to rest. The servants began to boil water for the skilled ruler and his subjects to drink. Dried leaves from a nearby camellia bush fell into the boiling water. The emperor was interested in the new liquid because it had a pleasing aroma in this new brew interested the emperor, so he drank the infusion and discovered that it was very refreshing and had a delightful flavor. He declared that tea gives vigor to the body, thus. That was when tea was invented, but it was considered as a medicinal beverage. It was around 300 A.D. when, tea became a daily drink.

It was not until the Tang and Song Dynasties when tea showed some significance in Chinese tradition. During the mid-Tang Dynasty (780 A.D.), a scholar named Lu Yu published the first definitive book, Cha Ching or The Tea Classic, on tea after he spent over twenty years studying the subject. This documentation included his knowledge of planting, processing, tasting, and brewing tea. His research helped to elevate tea drinking to a high status throughout China. This was when the art of tea drinking was born.

Later, a Song Dynasty emperor helped the spread of tea consumption further by indulging in this wonderful custom. He enjoyed tea drinking so much, that he bestowed tea as gifts only to those who were worthy. During this e same time, tea was the inspirationinspired many of books, poems, songs, and paintings. This not only popularized tea, it also elevated tea’s value which drew tea-growers to the capital.

Between the Yuan and Qing Dynasties, the technology of tea production continuously advanced to become more simplified and to improve the methods of enhancing tea flavor. During this period, tea houses and other tea-drinking establishments were opening up all over China. By 900 A.D., tea drinking spread from China to Japan where the Japanese Tea Ceremony or Chanoyu, was created. In Japan, tea was elevated to an art form which requires years of dedicated studying. Unlike the Japanese people, the Chinese people tend to view tea drinking as a form of enjoyment: to have after a meal or to serve when guests visit.

Tea was introduced to Europe in the 1600s; it was introduced to England in 1669. At that time, the drink was enjoyed only by the aristocracy because a pound of tea cost an average British laborer the equivalent of nine months in wages. The British began to import tea in larger qualities to satisfy the rapidly expanding market. Tea became Britain’s most important item of trade from China. All classes were able to drink tea as the tea trade increased and became less of a luxury. Now, tea is low in price and readily available.

The word “tea” was derived from ancient Chinese dialects. Such words as “Tchai“,"Cha,” and “Tay” were used to describe the tea leaf as well as the beverage. The tea plant’s scientific name is Camellia sinensis (which is from the The aceae family of the Theales order), and it is indigenous to China and parts of India. The tea plant is an evergreen shrub that develops fragrant white, five-petaled flowers, and; it is related to the magnolia. Tea is made from young leaves and leaf buds from the tea tree. Two main varieties are cultivated: C. sinensis sinensis, a Chinese plant with small leaves, and C. sinensis assamica, an Indian plant with large leaves. Hybrids of these two varieties are also cultivated. What we call “herbal tea” is technically not tea because it does not come from the tea plant but consists a mixture of flowers, fruit, herbs or spices from other plants.

Today, there are more than 1,500 types of teas to choose from because over 25 countries cultivate tea as a plantation crop. China is one of the main producers of tea, and tea remains China’s national drink.

By L. K. Yee


All The Tea In China by Kit Chow and Ione Kramer:

Britannica Online: “tea”, by Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

The Chinese Art of Tea Drinking:

The History of Tea, compiled by The Tea Council Limted:

Tea, by The Stash Tea Company:

The Way of Tea, by Sundance Natural Foods, Inc.:

Adapted from :


Tea Types For All Tastes

Canadians drink over 7 billion cups of tea each year.

From the hills of Sri Lanka and India to the mountains and valleys of Kenya, tea is grown in some of the world's most exotic places.

Three basic types of tea are produced and enjoyed worldwide: black, green and oolong teas. They all come from the Camellia Sinensis bush which in the wild can grow 90 feet and higher. In the past, in some countries, monkeys were trained to pick the tea leaves and toss them to the ground. Today the Camellia Sinensis bush is grown as an important plantation crop and is kept to a height of three feet for easy cultivation.

From these three types over 3000 varieties of tea are available and depending on the time of day and personal preferences, there is a blend to suit everyone's taste.

The tea types include:

Black Tea: Most commonly used in North American tea bags, black tea is made from leaves that have been fully oxidized, producing a hearty deep rich flavour in a coloured amber brew. It is the oxidation process, oxygen coming into contact with the enzymes in the tea leaf, that distinguishes black teas from green. The oxidation process is also known as fermentation.

Green Tea: Most popular in Asia, green tea is not oxidized. It is withered, immediately steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried. It is characterized by a delicate taste, light green colour and is very refreshing.

Oolong Tea: The name oolong literally translates as "Black Dragon" and is very popular in China. Oolong refers to partly oxidized leaves, combining the taste and colour qualities of black and green tea. Oolong teas are consumed without milk or sugar and are extremely flavourful and highly aromatic.

Flavoured Teas: These are real teas (Camellia Sinensis), blended with fruit, spices or herbs. Fruit flavoured tea such as apple or blackcurrant, is real tea blended with fruit peel or treated with the natural oil or essence. Spiced and scented teas using cinnamon, nutmeg, jasmine or mint, are also real teas blended with spices, flowers or other plants.

Herbal/Tisanes: Herbal infusions or tisanes such as Camomile, peppermint or nettle, do not contain any real tea leaf. The term "herbal tea" is somewhat of a misnomer, since these products are not really tea at all. Herbal beverages or infusions can be derived from a single ingredient or a blend of flowers, herbs, spices, fruits, berries and other plants.

Adapted from:


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