Picture: Chinese tea house.
Probably you are familiar with the Chinese saying, “Firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar, and tea are the seven necessities to begin a day.” Though tea is last on the list, we can still see how important the tea is for the Chinese.
There are actually thousand of Chinese tea varieties. These are usually classified by procedure, quality, and preparation methods and so on. However, if we will consider tea in terms of quality, there are actually eight classes of Chinese tea. These include green tea, oolong, black, red, white, yellow, flower, and compressed tea.
Now, let’s take a look at these classes one by one.
Green tea is said to be the most natural type of Chinese tea. It is usually picked, naturally dried and fried briefly to get rid of its grassy smell. Unlike the other types, green tea skipped fermentation process.
According to some experts, green tea has the most medicinal value and the least caffeine content of all Chinese tea classes. The aroma of this type of Chinese type range from medium to high, while the flavor is usually light to medium. Today, about 50% of China’s tea is green tea.
This type of Chinese tea is halfway between green tea and black tea in a sense that it is half fermented. Chinese also call it “Qing Cha” and its typical leaves are green in the middle and red on the edges as a result of the process to soften tea leaves.
Oolong tea leaves are basically withered and spread before undergoing a brief fermentation process. Then, it is fried, rolled and roasted.
The Chinese black tea produces full-bodied amber when brewed. Also, this type of Chinese tea undergoes withering, then left to ferment for a long while, and then roasted. The leaves of this variety become completely oxidized after processing.
As the name implies, this type of Chinese tea has red leaves and red tea color. This color is strongly highlighted during the fermentation process. It is also considered that red tea has low aroma and medium flavor and it is now divided into three subclasses: Kung Fu Red Tea, Ted Tea Bits, and Small Species Red Tea.
This type of Chinese tea is sometimes considered as subclass of green tea. Perhaps it is for the fact that it is only withered and then roasted. Just like green tea, white tea escaped fermentation process. And, it has low caffeine content.
Apparently, yellow tea has yellow leaves and yellow tea color. According to some experts, this type of Chinese tea is an uncommon class of Chinese tea. The flavor of yellow tea is usually mild and refreshing.
Here is a unique type of Chinese tea – the Flower tea. It actually subdivides into Flower Tea and Scented Tea. Well, the Flower Tea is just based on a simple concept that dried flowers are used, without much processing, to make tea. The Scented Tea, on the other hand, uses green tea and red tea as base and mix with scent of flowers. Generally, this class has light to medium flavor and medium to strong aroma.
The final type of Chinese tea is the compressed tea. This class uses black tea as base tea. It is steamed and compressed into bricks, cakes, columns, and other shapes. Also, compressed tea has all the characteristics of black tea. It can be stored for years and decades.