Tea

China is the homeland of tea. of the three major beverages of the world-- tea, coffee and cocoa-- tea is consumed by the largest number of people in the world. It is acknowledged the Chinese is the homeland of tea. Shen Nong is believed to be the legendary discover and cultivator of tea in about 3,000 years BC. One day, it is said, while he was boiling water, some leaves of a tree dropped into his pot. The tree is later known as the tea tree. Cha Jing (Canon of Tea) written by Lu Yu (a famous poet) in about the year 780 is the world’s first book on tea. The book has detailed account on how to grow, prepare and drink tea as well as on the classification of tea, studies of tea utensils, and analysis of water to make tea with and the custom of tea drinking. The book has had a far-reaching influence on the development of tea culture.

In China, there are customs about tea. A host will inject tea into teacup only 70% and it is said the other 30% will be filled with friendship and affection. Moreover, the teacup should be empty in three gulps. Tea plays an important role in Chinese emotional life. Tea is always offered immediately to a guest in Chinese home. Serving a cup of tea is more than a matter of mere politeness; it is a symbol of togetherness, a sharing of something enjoyable and a way of showing respect to visitors. To not take at least a sip might be considered rude in some areas. In previous time, if the host held his teacup and said "please have tea", the guest will take his conge upon the suggestion to leave.

The Chinese have a saying: "Firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and tea are the seven necessities to begin a day". Though tea is last on the list, we still can see the importance of tea in daily life. A simple meal in Chinese is Cu Cha Dan Fan( coarse tea and tasteless dinner). Even a simple meal is finished off with tea so its importance is obvious. For the Chinese, tea drinking and tea tasting are not the same. Tea drinking is for refreshment and tonic effect. Many studies from different resources have agreed that tea may contribute positively to a healthy lifestyle. Medically, the tea leaf contains a number of chemicals, of which 20-30% is tannic acid, known for its anti-inflammatory and germicidal properties. It also contains an alkaloid (5%, mainly caffeine), a stimulant for the nerve centre and the process of metabolism. Tea with the aromatics in it may help resolve meat and fat and thus promote digestion. It is, therefore, of special importance to people who live mainly on meat, like many of the ethnic minorities in China. A popular proverb among them says, "Rather go without salt for three days than without tea for a single day." Tea is also rich in various vitamins and, for smokers; it helps to discharge nicotine out of the system. After wining, strong tea may prove to be a sobering pick-me-up. It was found that green tea’s high concentrations of antioxidants significant increase metabolism. These compounds work with other chemicals to intensify levels of fat oxidation to burn fat naturally. Researchers have suggested various other benefits of tea - retarding the aging process, improving immune system, reducing bone fracture risk, etc. 

As the third largest tea export country, China is rich in different types of tea. According to the differences during processing, Chinese tea can be classified into six major categories. They are green tea, white tea, black tea, oolong tea, scented tea and brick tea, also known as compressed tea.
Green tea has the longest history and ranks first in output and varieties today. Because its processing is free of fermentation, the tea keeps its original freshness and natural fragrance. Among the best of the type is Longjing (dragong well tea) tea of Zhejiang province, Maofeng tea of Huangshan Mountain in Anhui province and Bi Luo Chun tea of Jiangsu province

Black tea is fermented tea. Unlike green tea, black tea does not lose its fragrance easily so it is suitable for long-distance transportation. This may explain why it was exported to the West. Black tea is believed to warm the stomach and is good in autumn and winter. The most famous black teas include Qi Hong (from Qimen in An hui province), Dian Hong (from Yunnan province) and Ying Hong (from Ying de in Gunagdong province). Hong means red; black tea is called Hong Cha (red tea in Chinese). Qi Hong originates from Qimen area, Anhui Province. It has been the favorite black tea among Chinese black tea connoisseurs since it was developed in 1876. By 1939 this type of tea accounted for one-third of black tea consumed in China. Qi Hong, Dar ji ling from India and Uva from Sri Lanka are the world's three major types of black tea. Dian Hong is from Yunnan province as Dian is the short name for Yunnan province. The area's favorable climate ensures the widespread production of black tea, especially in southern and western areas. Ying Hong is from Yingde, Guangdong province. The British royal family enjoyed its unique sweetness with the flavor of milk.

Oolong tea, a half-fermented tea, is featured by the freshness of green tea and strong fragrance of black tea. It has won the popularity among more people in recent years in that it proves a helpful way to lose weight and keep fit. Oolong tea comes exclusively from China’s southeastern coast: Fu jian, Guangdong and Taiwan provinces.

Scented tea (Hua Cha in Chinese) is a mixture of flowers with green tea, black tea or oolong tea. The flowers include jasmine, orchid, plum, gardenia, rose, and sweet-scented osmanthus with jasmine being the most popular. There are strict rules about the proportion of flowers to tea. If there are too many flowers, the scent of flowers will dilute that of tea; if too few, the tea is not perfect. Scented tea is sweet, pleasant and delightful to the palate. Fuzhou in Fujian Province and Suzhou in Jiangsu Province have long been famous for jasmine tea.

Compressed tea is compressed and hardened into a certain shape. It is good for transport and storage and is mainly supplied to the ethnic minorities living in the border areas of the country. As compressed tea is black in color in its commercial form, so it is also known in China as "black tea". Most of the compressed tea is in the form of bricks; it is, therefore, generally called "brick tea", though it is sometimes also in the form of cakes and bowls. It is mainly produced in Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

In China, people think different teas prefer different tea wares. Green tea prefers glass tea ware, scented tea porcelain ware while Oolong tea performs best in purple clay tea ware. In its long history, tea wares not only improve tea quality but also by-produce a tea art. Skilled artisans bestow them artistic beauty. Tea wares consist of mainly teapots, cups, tea bowls and trays etc. Tea wares had been used for a long time in China. The unglazed earthenware, used in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces for baking tea today, reminds us the earliest utensils used in ancient China. Tea drinking became more popular in the Tang dynasty when tea wares made of metals were served for noblesse and civilians commonly used porcelain ware and earthenware. In the Song dynasty tea bowls, like upturned bell, became common. They were glazed in black, dark-brown, gray, gray/white and white colors. Gray/white porcelain tea wares predominated in the Yuan dynasty and white glazed tea wares became popular in the Ming dynasty. Teapots made of porcelain and purple clay were very much in vogue during the middle of the Ming dynasty. Gilded multicolored porcelain produced in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province and the bodiless lacquer wares of Fujian Province emerged in the Qing dynasty. Among various kinds of tea wares, porcelain wares made in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province and purple clay wares made in Yixing, Jiangsu Province occupied the top places. Nowadays, tea wares made of gold, silver, copper, purple clay, porcelain, glass, lacquer and other materials are available.

Tea is produced in vast areas of China from Hainan Island down in the extreme south to Shan dong Province in the north, from Tibet in the southwest to Taiwan across the Straits, totaling more than 20 provinces. These may be divided into four major areas:
The Jiangnan area
It lies south of the middle and lower reaches of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River, and is the most prolific of China's tea-growing areas. Most of its output is the green variety; some black tea is also produced.

The Jiangbei area

This refers to a large area north of the same river, where the average temperature is 2-3 Centigrade degrees lower than in the Jiangnan area. Green tea is the principal variety turned out there, but Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, which are also parts of this area. produce compressed tea for supply to the minority areas in the Northwest.

The Southwest area

This embraces Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou provinces and Tibet, producing black, green as well as compressed teas. Pu'er tea in Yunnan Province enjoys a good sale in China and abroad.

The Lingnan area

This area, consisting of the southern provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian and Taiwan provinces, produces Wulong tea, which is renowned both at home and abroad.

Tea has become one of the daily necessities in Chinese households, although other beverages like coffee and cola can also be found in a growing number of Chinese homes. A Chinese saying goes that "Rather go without salt for three days than without tea for a single day", and many people agree a cup of tea after the meal gives one the best feel. We believe that tea drinking is such a time-honored practice in China that no other beverage could truly replace it in a country with thousands of years tea-drinking tradition.