Chinese tea classification
Tea’s Wonderful History
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
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 wares exhibits various artistic tea wares.
Tea culture explains Chinese people's attitudes and
Last you will get some useful hints on how to select
Best Ten Chinese teas
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
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
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".
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
Nowadays, tea wares made of gold, silver, copper,
purple clay, porcelain, glass, lacquer and other
materials are available.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
The Chinese Art of Tea Drinking:
The History of Tea, compiled by The Tea Council
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
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
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.