Tea is China’s national drink. Certainly, it is a vital part of Chinese tradition and culture. In many Chinese homes, they serve tea as a refreshment. It is a sign of respect and appreciation to serve tea to guests. Likewise, restaurants offer tea as a dessert. When patrons have finished their meals, they get tea as dessert. Most noteworthy, the tea is free of charge. When you go to teach English in China, tea could be the first thing you will consume in China!
History of tea in China
Emperor Shennong discovered tea. He was a divine farmer who moved around with his crew. As custom would have it, they always boiled their drinking water. As one of his boiled drinking water, a leaf fell into the pot and changed the colour of the water. Out of curiosity, Emperor Shennong decided to taste. It refreshed his body! He liked it.
As a result of that day, tea has become a popular beverage all over the world. It is the second most consumed beverage after water. The original Chinese tea plant is what is grown around the world. Originally, the Chinese consumed tea as a vegetable and for medicinal purposes. Later, people realized that heat and moisture combined could bring a complex and great taste out of tea leaves. There are as many ways of preparing tea as there are cultures across the globe.
Chinese tea varieties
Tea grows extensively in southern China. The area has a tropical climate and fertile soils required for growth of tea. Tea varieties depend on the area it grows, soil, climate and microclimate as well as the methods of production. Let us have a look at the broad tea varieties used in China:
This is the least processed tea. It comes from tea buds that are yet to open. It does not go through any processes. The buds wither naturally, then crushed and packaged. Thus, white tea lets you enjoy tea in its purest form.
This tea comes from young buds and leaves of tea trees. The leaves do not undergo any fermentation. Once picked, the leaves are pan-fried to dryness or steamed under high heat. This helps to prevent oxidization. They are then crushed and packaged. Green tea is largely consumed in China.
Yellow tea is an improved version of green tea. It comes from young buds and leaves. The leaves dry up after picking. However, they are then moisturized and steamed to dry them. They are then crushed and packaged. In China, yellow tea is imperial. It is mainly used by the elites and dignitaries.
Oolong tea comes from semi-fermented tea leaves. Mature leaves get plucked and then allowed to ferment partially. They are then dried and crushed. This tea has a wide flavour profile because fermentation levels per batch differ.
This tea comes from fully fermented mature tea leaves. Once picked, the leaves are rolled and crushed to ensure maximum oxidation. This tea is the darkest and has the strongest flavour. Also, milk tea is made using this tea variety.
Pu Er tea
Pu Er tea is post-fermented tea. This is a tea that continues with the fermentation process. Pu Er tea comes from mature tea leaves. They get picked and crushed to ensure maximum fermentation. They are then dried and rolled into pellets. Over time, with favourable conditions, microorganisms act on the pellets. The pellets restart the fermentation process. The longer a pellet stays, the more it ferments and the darker it becomes. Like wine, the oldest pellet makes the sweetest tea.
These are just regular teas with added flower flavours. The most commonly used flowers are jasmine, hibiscus, Osmanthus, roses, orchids, lotus and chrysanthemum
Benefits of tea
Tea has become one of the worlds popular beverages. Coupled with that, it has a myriad of health benefits. First, the value of tea is high because of its soothing and medical benefits.
A cup of tea will help deal with stress or anxiety. Secondly, tea boosts digestion. This explains why most people will ask for a cup of tea after a meal. Tea aids in digestion and breakdown of food in our bodies. Thirdly, tea detoxifies. It helps to get rid of waste and irritants in the body.
In addition to that, tea hastens the healing process. Tea contains components that help to heal wounds faster. Drink more tea and your wound will heal faster. Fifth, tea improves concentration and focus. Tea helps a person to pay attention for longer hours.
Also, tea improves blood circulation in our bodies. Heart and brain functions are highly enhanced by tea. Subsequently, our body muscles relax when the blood circulation is good. Finally, tea will elevate your moods. When we feel anxious, stressed or irritable, a cup of tea helps to lift our spirits and we bounce back.
As a resident teacher in China, tea probably becomes part of you. Take your time to explore the beauty of tea. Its varieties, flavours, methods of brewing and much more. After all, any sip of tea means an added health benefit to your body.