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Chinese Tea

Chinese Tea Origins

Chinese Tea was accidently discovered around 2737 B.C according to Chinese legend.  Leaves from the Camellia sinensis fell into the water which was boiled for Emperor Shenong.  He drank it and loved the taste which led to the birth of Chinese Tea.

By the fourth century A.D., tea was established in Chinese culture. Teahouses were opened in centuries that followed to serve the Chinese social culture evolving around Chinese Tea.  The drink was thought to have medicinal qualities.  The southwestern region of China is the birthplace of wild Chinese tea trees.  In addition to Taiwan, China has sixteen provinces that produce tea including the northern provinces of Shandong, Shaanxi and Henan.

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Import from China - Chinese Tea

Chinese Tea has gone international for several centuries dating back as far as the mid-16th century when European explorers and missionaries landed in China.  The Dutch began importing tea from China in 1610 with the Portuguese following closely behind.  Originally imported as a health drink, Chinese Tea became popular with the Dutch and Portuguese aristocrats by 1640.  Chinese Tea was expensive back those days and only the wealthy could afford to drink it.

Even though the British is famous for drinking tea, Chinese Tea actually was imported from China to the United States two years before it appeared in Great Britain.  The popularity of Chinese Tea in Britain was driven by the marriage of King Charles II to Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza in 1662.  She brought Chinese Tea and porcelain teapots and cups with her to England.  As the royalty began to drink Chinese Tea, the ritual began to spread amongst the general public.

Chinese Tea Rituals

Traditionally, Chinese Tea is made in porcelain teapots and drank from porcelain cups without handles.  Chinese Tea is always drunk "black"; no sugar, milk or cream please!  When drinking Chinese Tea, there are customs or formalized rituals to follow.

In the presence of company, it is considered polite to top off the teacup of others before your own.  If someone is courteous to do this for you, the gesture for thank you is lightly tapping on the table with your first two fingers.   If you had enough tea, just leave your cup full to signal that you do not wish to have anymore.  In a restaurant situation, if you want the waiter to refill your Chinese Teapot, simply take the lid off.

Other Chinese Tea Customs

Chinese Tea Origins

The Chinese word for tea is "cha".  The majority of Chinese Tea falls into these 5 major categories:

  1. Green Tea

    This is the most famous of all the Chinese Teas.  Green Tea is thought to have health benefits.  Consequently, Green Tea drinks and Green Tea flavored foods have invaded the western culture. Green Tea is made from unfermented tea leaves which are dried after picking.  This prevents oxidation and leaves the chemical compounds of the tea intact.  The natural emerald green color of the leaves is unaltered.
  2. Oolong Tea

    This type of Chinese Tea is made from larger tea leaves.  The leaves are partially fermented to prevent full oxidation of the tea leaves.  The leaves are dried in the sun and heated to stop the oxidation process.  A greenish-black color takes hold in the Oolong tea.  Taste varies depending on when fermentation was stopped during tea processing.  Oolong Tea combines the taste and aroma of Black and Green Teas.
  3. Black Tea

    Black Tea is made from tea leaves which have been rolled out and totally dried and fermented.  This process produces tea leaves that are dark in color.
  4. Scented Tea

    This tea is made from Green Tea leaves.  By adding flowers such as Jasmine or Chrysanthemum to the tea leaves during the fermenting process, scented leaves are produced.  Other scented flowers added include orange bud and rose bud.  The Scented Tea is usually named after the flower.
  5. White Tea

    Similar to Green Tea, White Tea is not fermented.  While Green Tea leaves are steam dried, White Tea leaves are dried naturally in the sun.  The name, White Tea is derived from the silvery white color of the leaves.  White Tea is believed to have even more health benefits than Green Tea.