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Chinese Tea

Tea Culture
Tea History
Tea Classification
Tea Wares and Tea House


Tea Culture
Tea drinking was popular in ancient China as tea was regarded as one of the seven daily necessities along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce, and vinegar. It is important in people¡¯s daily life.
In China tea is a symbol of earthly purity. It has been pointed out that tea resembles the recluse and is for quit company. It can only be enjoyed in an atmosphere where there is no loudness or noises. For more than a thousand years tea drinking has given the greatest pleasure in Chinese life. It is not just quenching of thirst but for relaxation in quiet environment.
For the Chinese, tea drinking and tea tasting are not the same. Tea drinking is for refreshment and tonic effect. Tea tasting has moral meaning, while drinking should match surrounding views like breeze, moonlight, pines, bamboo, or snow. All these show the ultimate world of Chinese culture: the harmonious unity of human beings with nature.
Tea is also cooperated with personal character. The fragrance of tea is pleasant and lasting. A friendship between gentlemen is also like a cup of tea. With a cup of tea in hand, you will feel quiet and comfortable. You will never care about fame, wealth and other earthly affairs.
In China, there are customs about tea. A host will inject tea into teacup only seven tenth, and it is said the other three tenth 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.
Whatever sayings are of Chinese tea, it is a life time of enjoyment! If you are new to China, Chinese tea is one of the drinks that you should certainly have a taste!

Tea History
God of Agriculture (GoA), one of the prehistoric representatives of Chinese people, was known to have invented agriculture, medicine. And he was said to be the one who found tea. In (GoA's Book of Herb), it says "GoA personally tasted hundreds of herb. In a single day, he was hit by 72 poisons. But he discovered the tea tree and used the tea leaves to neutralize all poisons." This is probably the earliest record of tea among Chinese people.
It is believed that China has tea-shrubs as early as five to six thousand years ago, and human cultivation of tea-plants dates back two thousand years. Tea from China, along with her silk and porcelain, began famous to the world over more than a thousand years ago and has since always been an important Chinese export. Tea as a drink prospered during the Tang Dynasty, and tea shops became popular. A major event of this time was the completion of Tea Classics, the cornerstone of Chinese tea culture, by Lu Yu, Tea Sage of China. This little book are detailed concerning various aspects of tea, such as growth areas for tea trees, wares and skills for processing tea.
At present more than forty countries in the world grow tea with Asian countries producing 90% of the world's total output. All tea trees in other countries have their origin directly or indirectly in China. The word¡¯ tea ¡®as a drink in many countries is derivatives from the Chinese character "cha." Now, it is impossible to know how many people are drinking tea in the world, it must be a huge number and will go on increased.

Tea Classification
Chinese tea usually be classified into five types according to the different methods by which it is processed.
Green tea
Green Tea is the most popular in most places in China. About 50% of China's teas are Green tea. It is the most natural of all Chinese tea classes which keeps the original colour of the tea leaves without fermentation during processing. This category consists mainly of Longjing tea of Zhejiang Province, Maofeng of Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province and Biluochun produced in Jiangsu.
The tonic effect of green tea has earlier been known. Its radiation-resistance effect makes it a top choice for people who sit before computers for long hours.
The temperature of water should be varied according to the type of green tea. Generally, water temperature of 85 Celsius degree is the best.
Black tea
Black tea, known as "red tea" (hong cha) in China, is the category which is fermented before baking; it is a later variety developed on the basis of the green tea. However, unlike green tea, black tea does not lose its fragrance easily so it is suitable for long-distance transportation. The best brands of black tea are Qihong of Anhui , Dianhong of Yunnan, Suhong of Jiangsu, Chuanhong of Sichuan and Huhong of Hunan.
Oolong tea
Oolong Tea is half way between green tea and black tea in a sense that it is half- fermented. It's also called "Qing Cha" (grass tea). It is a specialty from the provinces on China's southeast coast: Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan.
Oolong Tea is the chosen tea for the famous Kung Fu Cha brewing process. It's the serious Chinese tea drinker's tea. Aroma ranges from light to medium. Beginners in Oolong Tea should be careful as even though flavor is only mild to medium, the tea could be very strong.
Compressed tea
Most Chinese Compressed Tea uses Black Tea as base tea. This is the kind of tea which is compressed and hardened into a certain shape like bricks, cakes, columns and other shapes. It is mainly produced in Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
Compressed Tea has all the characteristics of Black Tea. It can be stored for years and decades and mainly supplied to the ethnic minorities living in the border areas of the country. Aged Compressed Tea has a tamed flavor that Compressed Tea fans would pay huge price for.
Scented tea
It is a mixture of fragrant flowers with green tea, black tea or oolong tea in the course of processing. The flowers include jasmine, orchid, plum, gardenia, roses, etc. Jasmine tea is a well-known favorite with the northerners of China and with a growing number of foreigners. 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.


Tea Wares and Tea House
There is a saying, ¡°China has the best tea wares and teahouses in the world." It really has a well-deserved reputation, not only because of the numerous tea wares and teahouses, but also because the special way of serving and drinking tea.

Tea wares consist of tea rollers, teapots, cups, tea bowls, and trays and so on. Nowadays with the development of tea procedure, we can make a cup of tea with a single porcelain cup. In traditional china people call it gaiwan. A gaiwan dated back to the 30's. It looks very close to a modern gaiwan except that the cup part is more bowl-shaped, and the plate has a big hole in the middle to hold the cup. The cups which look like antiques have covers and saucers. The cup sitting on the saucer looks like a boat floating on the water, hence the name of " the tea-boat " . The cover keeps the water warm and also adjusts the steeping speed of the tea. If you want to drink it immediately after the tea has been made, you can use the cover to strain the tea. So the tea can be soaked well quickly and then it can be drunk. Or the tea can be drunk with the cover on the cup. In this way the tea leaves won't go into the mouth. 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.
People who go to the teahouses are not really thirsty. Retired people pay little money to go to the teahouse and sit there all day long to chat with each other. Sometimes, people bring guests to the teahouses. They eat melon or sunflower seeds while they chat and return home when they are tired of sitting there. Normally, teahouses are the ideal places to kill time, especially for old people. For young people and businessman, it is a good place to make friends, do business and relax yourself. To some extent, it is something like the pub in western countries.

One important reason why is the teahouse gathering still booming after hundred and thousand years of history is that since the ancient times, teahouses have played the role as an important occasion for normal people to exchange information and handle with public affairs. Today, although almost every family has possessed radio, TV and computer and a lot of coffee bars and ballrooms are opened to public, many people, especially the elderly people, still like to go to teahouses, because they believe that teahouse is a good place which makes a harmonious atmosphere to meet old friends and to communicate with each other.

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