5 Chinese Teas You Didn’t Know Of

Chinese is rightly thought of as the tea producing and drinking capital of the world with most modern-day teas being able to trace their roots back to the Qing Dynasty in 1796 and the Chinese themselves being aware of and indulging in the brew for thousands of years past. Here, we bring you a collection of five teas that most of us would find new to our mind and palates.

Golden Dian Hong is fairly recent tea that first started production in the first quarter of the 20th century, its name being derived from ‘Di?n’ (an abbreviated name for the Yunnan region) and ‘hóng’, which means ‘red’ (tea), with ‘Yunnan red/black’ being acceptable monikers for the variety’. A black tea that is considered to be a fairly high-end tea that is occasionally blended with other teas as well, the primary difference between other Chinese dark teas and Dianhong is the number of leaf buds, the tip of the tea plant, present in this tea. The name ‘Golden Dianhong’ comes from this distinction as those leaf buds are also known as ‘golden tips’. Dianhong is typically fermented with longan, rose and lychee, producing a light copper colored brew that exudes a mild, sweet aroma without any astringency, with low-cost variants resulting in darker brews, leaning towards the brownish in color and possibly bitter.

Gunpowder tea gets its name from the small, round pellets that the tea is rolled into, the cheaper teas by machine and the highest grades, by hand. Produced in the Zhejiang province, this rolling method is usually applied to green or oolong tea and is meant to help the tea retain its flavor and aroma for longer durations of time, besides making the physical tea hardier than usual, to survive the long rides export markets. If you’re buying Gunpowder tea, remember to take a good look at the pellets. Smaller pellets are usually indicative of higher quality tea with the degree of shininess relating to the freshness of the tea – the shinier the better. The three primary varieties of Gunpowder tea are Pingshui (original and most available, larger pellets, better color, more aroma), Formosa (grown in Taiwan, its own peculiar aroma, usually fresh or roasted oolong) and Ceylon (grown in Sri Lanka).

Pu’er tea or Pu-erh, as it is also known as is a dark tea produced in the Yunnan province, that also undergoes fermentation as of it’s treatments. In this method of tea production, first the tea is dried and rolled, and then subjected to microbial fermentation and oxidation, a Chinese specialty, where the output teas are classified as ‘Hei Cha’, that can be translated as ‘dark/black tea’. Note that what the West calls dark/black tea, which is the completely dried version of tea and most oxidised is called ‘red tea’ in China and different from the Chinese version of ‘black tea’. Pu’er tea is the most well known variety of tea in this category and is named for the place where dark tea was traded hundreds of years ago.

Shoumei is a white, fourth-grade tea, being a by product of Bai Hao Yinzhen tea that uses Da Bai or ‘large white’ leaves. The primary constituent of this tea are the upper leaves and tips that have naturally withered, which results in a flavor that’s stronger than that usually found in white teas and which will remind the experienced tea drinker of lighter varieties of Oolong teas. Due to this tea being separated from the bush later than Bai Mudan, the final leaves can be darker than usual in color though still retaining shades of green. Contrary to Golden Dianhong, where the gold color is characteristic of the tea, the presence of gold alongside black and red leaves indicates a lower quality Shoumei tea.

Da Hong Pao tea is the most premium and prestigious tea in China and also the most expensive in the world. Discovered when a cluster of bushes cured the mother of a Ming Dynasty Emperor, this variety of Oolong tea costs up to 1,250,000 (one point two five million) US dollars. As a matter of fact, three of the four original bushes, which were draped in rich, red cloaks by a grateful Emperor, still survive today on Mount Wuyi and are the subject of much veneration. Based on the original legend of a peasant farmer who reached enlightenment, drinking 10 re-steeps of this tea is believe to increase the wisdom of the drinker as well as impart a glowing blue aura.

Ed: Featured image is Jasmine Green Tea at Oriental Pavilion, Gurgaon. Photo by Sid Khullar. All other photos from Wikimedia Commons.

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.