Cover Image via: OISHII Magazine
Tea-drinking culture has long existed in Chinese tradition, and is something that we can’t live without. Be it breakfast, lunch, or prayer’s time, tea is always present. Tie Guan Yin for mind refreshment, Oolong for improving alertness and Pu Er for health nourishment. Which tea is actually suitable for us? Are we drinking it the right way?
Types of Chinese Tea:
Though legend has it that tea was first discovered by the legendary Chinese emperor and herbalist, Shenong, in 2737 BCE., it is generally believed that China’s tea drinking culture started in the Han Dynasty. That is about 2200 years of tea drinking culture to date. Of all the years of development, we are now blessed with unlimited choices of tea variations to choose from, with approximately 6000 variations to choose from the category of Chinese tea itself.
Among all these tea variations, we can generally categorize Chinese tea into 6 categories:
- Green tea – tea leaves processed using either by Sun-drying, basket or charcoal firing, or pan-firing. Xihu Longjing and Biluochun fall under this category.
- Dark green tea – i.e. Oolong tea. Traditional Chinese tea produced through a unique process including withering the plant under strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. In Malaysia, popular tea like Tie Guan Yin, Da Hong Pao, Shui Xian, Dong Ding Oolong fall under this category.
- Black tea – a fully fermented type of tea, with the most famous being Qimen black tea. This is usually sold to the Europe countries and hence, is rarely seen in the Asian market.
- White tea – a type of slightly fermented tea. In spite of its name, brewed white tea is pale yellow. It is named after the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which give the plant a whitish appearance.
- Yellow tea – produced similarly togreen tea, but with an added step of being steamed under a damp cloth afteroxidation, giving the leaves a slightly yellow colouring. The most famous tea in this category is weishanmaojian tea.
- Dark tea – fermented tea produced by fermenting with piled method. The tea leaves and the liquor made from them become darker with oxidation, thus its name “dark tea”. Liu an, Liu bao and Pu er are the commonly consumed tea among the dark tea.
The right way of drinking tea for health nourishment
Among the six categories mentioned above, green tea, dark green tea and dark tea are the top 3 categories of tea in our Malaysian tea drinking culture . Longjing, Tie Guan Yin and Pu Er are the “best-sellers” of tea types in Malaysia. While different tea types have different effects on our bodies, how do we time our tea drinking for different types of tea leaves?
While we are barely awake in the morning, our blood pressure is normally low. At this point, a good cup of hot robust black tea is the perfect choice to warm up our body. Of course, British breakfast tea would be just as good if we do not have Qimen black tea at home.
In the afternoon, green tea such as Longjing and Tie Guan Yin is best for removing the greasiness and added calories from our lunch. Green tea or dark green tea functions as powerful antioxidant, is good for preventing cancer and fighting bacteria. Oolong tea is even regarded as the “beauty tea”. A cup of green tea after lunch is good for fighting off post-lunch fatigue too.
While it is usually not recommended to drink tea after dinner, Pu Er would be a suitable choice if you really need one. The theanine and flavoids found within pu-erh just so happen to aid in digestion after meals by acting as a sponge and accelerator for fat burning. Long term drinking is said to aid in reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol. Pu Er is best drink at night.
Do China practice Chado (the Way of Tea)?
Though tea drinking started with China, the Way of Tea (Chado) was developed in Japan and was documented with complete record in Japan. With over 6000 varieties of tea in China, don’t Chinese practise Chado too? The Japanese Chado includes not only knowledge about tea leaves and tea brewing, but also the development of human characters and the art of its performance. Whereas for Chinese, despite having great brewing skill, the tea presentation seems to be lack of the luxury and artsy touch of Japanese Chado.
It is also interesting to note that Chinese has a different conceptual idea about “道”(“do” in “Chado”) from the Japanese. Japanese’s “道” is almost akin meditation, while Chinese Confucians opine that “道” is what commoner use and not know. Well, if this were the case, drinking tea without knowing what is it shall be considered a part of “Chado” too, isn’t it?
Translated from: 绿茶、红茶还是白茶？挑对茶叶 + 喝对时间才能帮你减肥、提神、防癌！