Tea has been used in China for thousands of years. Chinese tea was first used as a medicine, but by the time of the Chun Qiu Period (770 BC - 476 BC) Chinese tea leaves were chewed and enjoyed for their own flavor.
In early China, Chinese tea was eaten as a vegetable. It was cooked in a soup and the leaves were eaten. Tea leaves were also mixed with other food.
It was during the Qin, Han dynasty (221 BC – 8 AD) that the processing of tea leaves began. This marked the beginning of Chinese tea as a beverage, and also the time when tea became integrated into Chinese culture.
Chinese tea continued to evolve through the centuries. Today, there are many different types of Chinese tea, though they are all from the same plant - Camellia sinensis. The tea plant is native to south and south-eastern Asia. Although tea shrubs are cultivated into waist-high plants, wild tea trees can be as high as 30 meters.
Chinese tea can be divided into eight different classes:
- Chinese Green tea
- Chinese Oolong tea
- Chinese Black tea
- Chinese Red tea
- Chinese White tea
- Chinese Yellow tea
- Chinese Flower tea
- Chinese Compressed tea
All these types of Chinese tea are from the Camellia sinensis plant and it is only how they are processed that differentiates them one from the other. Each type of Chinese tea has a unique flavor.
Making Chinese Tea
Since Chinese tea has such a long history, many brewing methods were developed over the centuries. Some of the most common brewing vessels include Gong Fu, Gaiwan, Glass or porcelain tea pots, and a metal tea kettle. Some are better suited to particular types of tea – gong fu tea pots, for example, are most commonly used for oolong tea.
A Popular Drink
Chinese tea is popular around the world. There are many reasons for this – it tastes great, it’s a refreshing pick-me-up, and it’s healthy.
The many health benefits of Chinese tea include lowering blood pressure, preventing tooth decay, and increasing immunity. It’s no accident that the Chinese first started using tea as a medicine.
Drinking Chinese tea also provides psychological benefits. A tea break is integrated into many cultures, and workers will feel renewed energy after taking a few cups of tea in the middle of the day. Drinking Chinese tea provides an opportunity to socialize, unwind, and spend a few pleasant moments in quiet contemplation.