With over 8,000 varieties of tea in China, clients can find it
baffling choosing one to drink while dining and shopping during a
stay in the People’s Republic.
Tea is the beloved national beverage and a way to immortality a
drink for the mind, body and soul, according to poet and scholar Lu
Yu from the Tang Dynasty. Each tea has its special qualities and
attributes: green tea calms the inner fire; Beijingers drink
jasmine-infused Longjing, which aids digestion; Oolong, a favorite
of the Cantonese, is even stronger; and the elusive white teas
sustain Buddhists during their fasts and path to enlightenment.
Here’s a guide for your China-bound clients looking to learn
more about tea time.
A Longing for Longjing
The founder of Taoism describes Longjing tea as “the froth of the
Smooth emerald leaves resembling pine needles brewed into a
bright green elixir are one of the most sought after teas in China
and the world over for its medicinal properties. Used to deter food
poisoning, stop cavities, prolong life and prevent cancer, it’s no
wonder that a 9th-century emperor wrote sonnets of love for this
particular green tea.
Longjing, known as “Dragon Well,” is grown in the lush mountains
of Hangzhou in the southeast Zhejiang province of China. True
Longjing is only harvested between April 5-21, plucked by young
girls with long fingernails hardly bruising the delicate leaves and
The leaves are then briefly steamed to prevent fermentation and
pan-roasted in a large wok until they are crisp. This refreshing,
palate-cleansing, after-dinner tea has a bold crisp aftertaste of
grapefruit, and if you buy the Emperor’s tea, it will set you back
a small fortune.
Compressed for Tea Time
Packed into easy-to-carry bricks, Pu-erh tea, the favorite diet
tea of the Tibetan people, promotes digestion and eliminates grease
from the body. People of the Song Dynasty, 1,000 years ago, touted
this delightfully flavored tea to the meat- eating Tibetans,
leading to the Ancient Tea-Horse Road where solid bricks of tea
were bartered for Tibetan horses.
But Pu-erh is not just for nomads anymore. With its distinctive
earthy-mellow flavor, the tea has come into fashion among the
working class in major cities.
Bold and Beautiful
Lapsang the rich, dark, dominating queen of black tea was created
accidentally. A pine fire smoked the first batch of Lapsang
Souchong, creating a Qing-dynasty taste sensation of smooth, woody,
char-grilled smoked tea. This heady tea grows in the thick forests
of the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian and is pan-fried, then
smoke-infused in bamboo baskets over crackling pine-wood fires.
Like a fine cigar, this tea was known as a man’s tea, but more
and more women are picking up this smoking beauty and calling it
You Say Oolong, I Say Wulong
Besides mediators solving feuds, old men with bird cages playing
chess and industry captains doing business, some teahouses have
theatrical performances, such as storytelling, Sichuan opera and
Kung fu. Not fighting, Kung fu is a tea ceremony typically using
Wulong tea, 27 utensils and considerable effort.
Wulong also known as Oolong tea is half fermented, thus not as
grassy tasting as green tea and a bit sweeter than bitter black
teas. Meaning “Black Dragon” in Chinese, Wulong has a curly black
leaf, is commonly served in Chinese restaurants and reputed for
being slimming like its green tea cousin.
‘White Hairy Monkey’
Thankfully, “White Hairy Monkey” tea is also known as White Peony
because of its gentle floral aroma. White teas are grown by
Buddhist monks in the central high mountainous Fukanese part of
China and are the second most expensive. Only the top two leaves
and bud are picked in early April and never when it rains nor if
there is frost on the ground.
This lightweight golden tea keeps the mind alert and calms the
soul and sometimes inspires 17 hours of meditation a day in
Commonly known as Yinzhen, these unfermented white teas
delicately linger in your mouth and can lead to enlightenment, as
well as good health.
Bai Cao Yuan Teahouse
22a Gaoliangqiaoxie St.
Haidian District, Beijing
In Pursuit of Tea
Tea Museum of Hangzhou
Admission is free.
Wenshu Monastery Tea House
Chengdu, Sichuan Province
For more information on tea ceremonies, browse the tea reference
Cha Ching (Classic of Tea) written by Lu Yu.