Tea comes second after water as the world's most consumed drink/beverage. A survey found that approximately 83% of Chinese people consume fresh tea regularly. Tea has been a prominent beverage and part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. Notably, Chinese tea has been regarded to have many health benefits. However, each Chinese tea is unique and appeals to different drinkers.
This post explores the various Chinese tea types, including green, white, yellow, and Oolong teas. It also discusses the different categories of Chinese teas, which depends on the method of oxidation used.
What is Chinese Tea Anyway?
Chinese tea is a beverage made from dried and fermented leaves of tea plants (specifically the Camellia sinensis). It’s the most commonly grown tea variety in China. Various Chinese teas have different flavors and tastes, which is influenced by the region where the tea is grown in China. Above all, the complex processing methods of different Chinese teas also give each one of them a unique characteristic, including taste.
What are the Different Categories of Chinese Tea?
Chinese teas are classified into 4 main categories, depending on the oxidation method used. Oxidation is a simple process of exposing tea leaves to air in order to dry and darken them. Consequently, oxidation is one of the factors besides the cultivar that impacts the aroma and flavor of teas. They include:
Leaves of non-oxidized tea were picked, dried, and then packaged. However, they may be steamed or passed through oxidization slightly.
Example of non-oxidized teas is Chinese green and white teas.
Fully oxidized teas
Leaves of oxidized teas are exposed to air for hours (or longer) until they turn black or brown due to the chemical breakdown. Notably, the oxidation process is accelerated by crushing or rolling the leaves.
An example of a fully oxidized tea is black tea.
Semi-oxidized teas go through a similar process as oxidized teas. However, the period of oxidation is reduced. Generally, semi-oxidized teas have characteristics that are in between non-oxidized and fully oxidized teas.
An example of a semi-oxidized tea is Oolong tea (oxidation level is about 5% to 80%).
Post-fermented (aged) tea
Post-fermented tea is usually fully oxidized but allowed to age. Usually, after processing, it’s compressed and stored in a cool, dry cellar for as long periods, even years, to enable it to develop complex flavors.
An example of post-fermented tea is the famous Pu-Erh tea.
Types of Chinese Teas
Chinese green tea is one of the most popular and oldest types of tea in China. It’s considered one of the healthiest tea because of its rich nutrients and antioxidant properties. Additionally, it’s known to contain less caffeine than coffee.
Chinese green tea is a non-oxidized tea; therefore, its processing starts immediately after harvesting, whereby it’s steamed or pan-fried to stop the oxidation process. It is then rolled and dried.
Popular types of Chinese green teas: Longjing, Biluochun, Maofeng, & Liu’an guapian.
White tea is another type of Chinese tea whose origin is in the Fujian province. It’s made from immature and dried tea leaves from the same family as green teas. White tea is harvested from the very first tips and buds of a tea plant before it completes forming entire leaves.
Notably, it’s the least processed type of tea. Besides, its presumed health benefits include anti-aging and skin-soothing properties and enhancing oral health.
Popular types of Chinese white teas: Bai Hao Yin Zhen, Bai Mudan & Yuan Guang Bai.
Yellow tea is one of the rarest types of Chinese tea. It shares some similarities with green tea: it’s lightly fermented and non-oxidized. It also tends to have a close flavor to that of green tea. Chinese yellow tea originates from Anhui province.
Often it’s hard to find yellow tea outside of China because it’s pretty rare, especially high-grade Chinese yellow tea. Its health benefits include enhancing liver health, reducing inflammation, and boosting digestion.
Popular types of Chinese yellow teas: Juan Mountain Yinzhen, Mengding mountain Huangya & Junshan jin Zhen.
Black tea is a fully oxidized type of Chinese tea. It’s what in Europe is referred to as red tea. Unlike other black tea produced in India, Kenya, and other regions, Chinese black tea is less malty, has a strong note, and has a ripe fruit flavor. Its health benefits include boosting immunity and inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria in the gut.
Chinese black tea has a light and mellow flavor. Besides, it can be consumed on its own or added with milk and sweeteners.
Popular types of Chinese black teas: Golden Yunnan black tea, Gongfu-style black tea, Dianhong black tea & China Keemun.
Oolong tea (popularly known as black dragon tea) is a partially oxidized type of Chinese tea. It originates from Fujian province, China, and is also cultivated in Guangdong province and Wuyi mountains. Oolong teas are of two types depending on the types of leaves, i.e., semi-ball-shaped and twisted leaves.
Oolong leaves are harvested, wilted, and then partially oxidized. It tends to have a bright fruit and floral aroma. It’s known to be a helpful tea to those on a weight journey due to its high amount of fat-burning polyphenols. Additionally, it helps decrease inflammation.
Popular types of Chinese Oolong teas: Da Hong Pao, Mi Lan Dancong, Tieluohan & Qi Hong Pao
Dark tea is a post-fermented and often aged tea. It’s usually compressed in bricks or cakes, but you can still find it as loose tea. Additionally, you get it in two forms, i.e., ripe and raw.
Unlike other Chinese teas, Dark tea has lower antioxidant content but is high in amino acids, caffeine, vitamins, and phospholipids.
It’s famous for its unique production method, taste, and odor.
Popular types of Chinese dark teas: Pu’er tea
Above are the six types of Chinese teas. Each has a unique taste and flavor, usually resulting from the production process from cultivation and harvesting of the tea leaves to packages and storage. Notably, the above teas fall under any of the four categories depending on the production, i.e., oxidized, semi-oxidized, fully oxidized, or post-fermented.
Above all, these teas come in different forms, from loose leaves and tea bags to powders. For instance, matcha is a powder made from green tea leaves that have been shaded 2-3 weeks before harvest to increase nutrient content. Check out Blueseatea’s organic matcha powder; you can drink it hot or cold or use it to make matcha lattes.