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Chinese Tea

Tea, in China, is more than just a drink; it is an indispensible part of life. It is used as a celebration of birth, in all major aspects of life, weddings, and at death. The culture of tea in China is colorful and full of traditions and history. There are six varieties of Chinese Tea; Green Tea, White Tea, Yellow Tea, Red Tea, Dark Tea, and Oolong Tea. These categories are separated by their processing techniques. All teas come from the same species of tree. A popular Chinese Expression says that tea is one of the seven necessities of life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar.

According to legend, Tea was first discovered by Yan Di. He traveled throughout China testing different plants to ascertain their medicinal values. He had eaten several poisonous plants one day and was on the verge of death. He asked his servants to boil some water for him. While the water was boiling, several leaves fell into the water. The smell of the water intrigued him and after drinking the water he felt invigorated and refreshed. Tea has been loved ever since.
Types of Chinese Tea:
China has six categories of tea. They are categorized by their processing techniques. All tea comes from the same species of tree and it is the processing techniques that create the thousands of varieties of Chinese Tea.
Green Tea:
The most popular type of Chinese Tea, Green Tea is known for its health benefits and fresh flavor and aroma. It is generally picked in the early spring, in the beginning of April. Green Tea retains more of the original taste of the leaf because it is not fermented and only slightly oxidized. The tea is picked in the early morning and then the tea is allowed to wither before being heated to remove moisture and stop oxidizing. The leaves are then shaped and finally dried again.
The most famous varieties of Green Tea are; Dragon Well Tea, Bi Luo Chun, Huangshan Mao Feng Tea, Liu An Gua Pian, Xin Yang Mao Jian Tea, and Tai Ping Hou Kui Tea. Each of these teas is famous for their flavor and aroma and health benefits.
Green Tea is famous for its health benefits. Because the tea leaves are closer to their original state, they have a large amount of antioxidants which are great cancer fighters. Recent studies have also shown that drinking Green Tea daily can reduce the severity of coronary heart disease in men.
White Tea:
One of the rarest categories of Chinese Tea, White Tea has traditionally only been enjoyed by the emperors and elite of China. The tea is rare not only for the fact that only the buds are used, but also for the complicated processing techniques. The leaves are picked in early spring and only the new leaf buds are picked. The tea is dried using only sunlight. The dried leaves are then roasted until they are completely dry. Each step must be carefully done to ensure that the white fuzz that covers the leaves, and gives the tea its name, is not rubbed off.
The most famous varieties of White Tea are; Bai Hao Yinzhen, Bai Mu Dan, and Longevity Eyebrow. These teas are hard to find, but they are worth the search for their complex flavors and health benefits.
White Tea has amazing health benefits. Studies have shown that White tea has antibacterial qualities which slow the growth of bacteria that causes Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and pneumonia. It has been discovered that White Tea is useful as anticarcinogen. Besides these health benefits, White Tea is filled with Antioxidants which help in the battle against cancer. Studies have also shown that White Tea is beneficial for the heart. It can lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduce the severity of heart attacks.
Yellow Tea:
The rarest of all Chinese Teas, Yellow Tea is fairly unknown and extremely difficult to find. Its processing techniques are extremely labor intensive and time consuming, making it less economically viable than other categories of tea. Like Green Tea and White Tea, Yellow Tea is picked in the early spring. Only the new leaf buds are used and then quickly fried to stop oxidation. The leaves are then wrapped in special paper and stored in wooden boxes. The leaves are periodically refried and then slowly roasted. This is done to remove some of the grassiness found in Green Tea.
There are only three varieties of Yellow Tea. Originally there were many more, but most of their processing techniques have been lost. The three varieties are; Mo Gan Huang Ya Tea, Meng Ding Huang Ya, and Junshan Yinzhen.
Yellow Tea is starting to attract interest due to its fantastic health benefits and wonderful flavor and aroma. According to recent studies, Yellow Tea is an effective cancer preventative and is excellent for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. It is also beneficial for the heart and circulatory system and can lower the effects of a stroke.
Oolong Tea:
The only category of Chinese Tea that is also a variety of tea, Oolong Tea is known for its unique processing and floral aromas and flavors. The tea is picked later in the season than other teas. It is picked in the end of April and beginning of May. This is done because larger leaves are used in the processing of Oolong Tea. The leaves are then left out in the sun to wither. Once sufficiently withered, the leaves are brought indoors to oxidize. When they have oxidized enough, they are heated to stop oxidation. The leaves are then bruised and shaped and roasted to dry the tea.
There most famous Oolong Teas are Anxi Oolong, Gaoshan Oolong, and Tieguanyin and all are known for their fantastic aromas and flavors.
Oolong Tea has a lot of wonderful health benefits. Recent studies have shown that Oolong Tea is an effective antioxidant which is beneficial in fighting cancer. The tea is also known to increase metabolism and block fat absorption, which helps the body lose weight. It has also been discovered that Oolong Tea can help reduce high blood pressure, fight certain skin diseases and also help in stress relief.
Red Tea:
Chinese Red Tea, which is commonly called Black Tea in the west, is a rich and flavorful Tea. A highly oxidized tea, it is the most widely produced and drunk tea in the world. The leaves are picked and allowed to wither in the sun to soften the leaves. The leaves are then bruised to help in oxidation. The leaves are placed in boxes to continue oxidizing. When the leaves are sufficiently oxidized, they have turned dark red and are then fried, rolled and shaped.
The most famous varieties of Chinese Red Tea are; Qi Men Red Tea, Yixing Red Tea, Dian Hong Tea. They are wonderfully rich and soothing teas.
Red Tea, like other Chinese Teas have many health benefits. It has lower caffeine content than coffee which allows the caffeine to promote blood flow to the brain without over stimulating the heart. It has also been discovered that Red Tea can help reduce the occurrence of strokes in men. Red Tea also lowers cholesterol, helps in the fight against bacteria which causes gum disease, helps the digestive track and can help prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
Dark Tea:
A unique category of tea, Dark Tea actually improves with age. This has made it a favorite with collectors and investors. Often misinterpreted as “Black Tea”, the tea is very different in both processing and flavor. Upon picking, the tea leaves are fried, kneaded and twisted. They leaves are not dried as Green, White, and Yellow Teas are, instead they are sprayed with water and left in huge piles to ferment. The resulting tea is rich and flavorful. The leaves are dark in color and the brewed liquid is thick and robust. The most famous variety of Dark Tea is Puer Tea. Recently interest in Puer has reached a surge in popularity with both collectors and drinkers.

Dark Tea is also beneficial to health, as other Chinese Tea categories are. It can help reduce cholesterol, promote blood flow to the brain, help digestion, and help prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

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