Chinese loose leaf tea has a rich and ancient history, being one of the earliest types of tea cultivated and consumed in the world. Renowned for its unique flavor and rich cultural significance, Chinese loose leaf tea has earned a distinguished place in the global tea landscape. When you aspire to explore higher-quality teas and seek the ultimate taste and aroma experience, you may find that Chinese loose leaf tea is the answer you've been looking for.
However, many people hesitate at the threshold of Chinese loose leaf tea due to the numerous varieties and vast knowledge associated with it. With a multitude of options and a wealth of tea-related information, it can be challenging to know where to begin. Here, we present a simple method to start your journey into the world of Chinese loose leaf tea.
About Chinese Loose Leaf Tea
China is the homeland of tea, and according to historical records, the origin of Chinese tea can be traced back to 2737 B.C. Legend has it that under the rule of an ancient Chinese emperor, tea was first discovered and used for consumption. Since then, the cultivation and craftsmanship of Chinese tea have gradually developed, becoming an indispensable part of Chinese life.
Chinese tea comes in a variety of types, and based on different production techniques and processing methods, it can be categorized into six major classes: loose leaf green tea, loose leaf black tea, loose leaf yellow tea, loose leaf white tea, loose leaf oolong tea, and loose leaf dark tea. Each class of tea has its unique characteristics and flavors.
For beginners, some types among the six may not be suitable to try right from the start. For example, loose leaf white tea and loose leaf dark tea require some tea-drinking experience to appreciate their beauty. Loose leaf yellow tea is relatively niche and not recommended for initial attempts.
Ideal choices for beginners are Chinese loose leaf black tea and Chinese loose leaf oolong tea. Chinese loose leaf black tea offers a diverse range of options, whether you prefer a robust taste or a smoky flavor, you can find well-crafted varieties. Chinese loose leaf oolong tea, known for its rich aroma, falls between the flavors of loose leaf black tea and loose leaf green tea, making it very friendly for newcomers. Of course, if you have a preference for a fresh taste, Chinese loose leaf green tea is also a good choice.
Chinese Loose Leaf Black Tea
Chinese loose leaf black tea originated in the mid-Ming Dynasty (around the 16th century) in the Tanyang region of Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province. The earliest variety was known as "Lapsang souchong." Based on the different manufacturing methods, black tea can be further categorized into small-leaf black tea, Gongfu black tea, and broken black tea. Named for its reddish dry leaves and the predominantly red color of its brewed tea, it is aptly called black tea.
Among the various types of Chinese loose leaf black tea, Lapsang souchong, Yingde Black Tea, and Jin Jun Mei are representative and widely appreciated.
1.Souchong Black Tea
Souchong Black Tea is a specialty of Fujian, known as the ancestor of all black teas worldwide. Depending on the production process, Souchong Black Tea can be classified into smoked and non-smoked versions.
The smoked version of Souchong Black Tea uses mature raw materials with plump and well-formed leaves, presenting a glossy dark color. The brewed tea has a rich and vibrant red hue, exuding the aroma of pine smoke. Its taste is mellow and thick, resembling longan soup with hints of sweet dates.
On the other hand, the non-smoked version of Souchong Black Tea has a taste reminiscent of honey water, with a smooth and velvety texture. It lacks caramel or sweet potato soup notes, offering a fragrance akin to honey and a subtle floral undertone.
2.Yingde Black Tea
Yingde, located in Guangdong, China, is the birthplace of black tea in the region and is renowned for producing a unique variety known as Yingde Black Tea, which is one of the five major types of black tea in China.
Yingde Black Tea has loose, somewhat scattered strips, resembling the appearance of individual leaves from loose leaf oolong tea. The tea leaves exhibit a dark, lustrous color. When brewed and consumed, Yingde Black Tea boasts a bright and vibrant red liquor, with a rich tea aroma and a sharp, elevated fragrance.
3.Yunnan Black Tea
Yunnan Black Tea, also known as Dian Hong, belongs to the large-leaf category of Gongfu tea and is mainly produced in regions such as Lincang and Baoshan in Yunnan. It is a rising star among Chinese Gongfu black teas.
The appearance of Yunnan Black Tea features tightly knotted, robust, and plump tea leaves with a glossy dark color, accentuated by golden tips. The brewed tea exhibits a bright and colorful liquor, characterized by a fresh, robust, and long-lasting aroma. The taste is thick, rich, and refreshing with a pronounced stimulating quality. The even, tender, and shiny red leaf bottom sets Yunnan Black Tea apart as a distinctive Gongfu black tea from China.
Chinese Loose Leaf Oolong Tea
Chinese loose leaf oolong tea was created during the Ming and Qing dynasties. As a semi-fermented tea, loose leaf oolong tea stands out as a distinctive category among China's six major types of tea. This tea is mainly produced in the provinces of northern and southern Fujian, as well as Guangdong and Taiwan.
Due to its unique production process, Chinese loose leaf oolong tea combines the rich and robust flavor of loose leaf black tea with the fresh and aromatic qualities of loose leaf green tea. After tasting, it leaves a lingering fragrance on the palate, offering a sweet and refreshing aftertaste. The most outstanding feature of oolong tea is its rich aroma. Oolong tea aromas can be categorized into several major types, including floral, fruity, honey, fresh, and charcoal fire fragrances, with numerous subcategories worth exploring.
1.Da Hong Pao
Da Hong Pao, originating from Wuyi Mountain in Fujian, is a special and famous Chinese tea. Its tightly twisted appearance features a fresh green-brown color, and when brewed, the tea produces a bright orange-yellow liquor. The leaves exhibit a combination of red and green, with a distinct "rock rhyme."
Tie Guanyin was created by local tea farmers in Anxi, Fujian, between 1725 and 1735 and is among China's top ten famous teas. Tie Guanyin has a unique aroma with hints of "orchid fragrance" and "osmanthus fragrance." The brewed tea has a bright golden-yellow color and a rich, mellow, and sweet taste. Tie Guanyin is divided into three types: Qing Xiang (light fragrance), Nong Xiang (heavy fragrance), and Chen Xiang (aged fragrance).
Minnan Shuixian tea is characterized by tightly twisted and robust tea leaves, displaying a sandy green color with a lustrous hint of honey yellow. It emanates a clear and elevated fragrance, reminiscent of orchid, while the brewed tea exhibits a clear orange-yellow liquor. The taste is sweet, mellow, and refreshing, with a bright yellow and evenly thick leaf bottom. Even after multiple infusions, the aroma continues to overflow from the cup, leaving a lingering sweetness.
Fenghuang Dancong tea is produced in Fenghuang Town, Chaozhou City, Guangdong, and is renowned for the Fenghuang Mountain. During the Tongzhi and Guangxu reigns, tea farmers aimed to enhance the quality of tea leaves. They introduced a method involving single-plant picking, single-plant tea frying, and individual plant marketing. Outstanding single plants were separated and cultivated as distinct trees, earning the name Fenghuang Dancong tea. At that time, over ten thousand excellent ancient tea trees were processed using the single-plant harvesting method, hence the name Fenghuang Dancong tea.
Brewing Chinese Loose Leaf Tea
It is recommended to use a gaiwan (lidded bowl) for brewing Chinese loose leaf tea, as this brewing method can unlock the full potential of loose leaf tea, allowing you to experience the flavor of the best loose leaf tea.
- Preheat the teaware: Before brewing with the gaiwan, rinse the teaware with boiling water to warm it up.
- Add tea leaves: Based on the capacity of the gaiwan, add an appropriate amount of tea leaves. For example, a standard gaiwan with a capacity of 110 milliliters can accommodate 5 grams of tea leaves. The right proportion is crucial for bringing out the best flavor of the tea.
- Brewing: Pour boiling water into the gaiwan in a circular motion, allowing the water to interact with the tea leaves. Use the lid to gently stir the leaves, ensuring they fully expand. Cover the gaiwan and wait for 10-15 seconds to brew.
- Pouring: Pour the tea liquor from the gaiwan into a fairness pitcher, then evenly distribute the tea from the pitcher into small tea cups, ensuring each cup is about seventy percent full.
High-quality loose leaf black tea and loose leaf oolong tea can be brewed up to 7 times or more. In subsequent infusions, you may extend the steeping time slightly.
Chinese tea is renowned worldwide for its rich varieties, intricate craftsmanship, and unique cultural significance. Whether it's loose leaf green tea, loose leaf black tea, loose leaf yellow tea, loose leaf white tea, loose leaf oolong tea, or loose leaf dark tea, each type of tea has its unique flavor and mouthfeel.
With a long and storied history, Chinese tea, tea ceremonies, and tea culture are treasures of the Chinese people. Whether enjoyed at home, in business settings, or during gatherings, Chinese tea is a beloved beverage. Through savoring Chinese tea, we not only experience the aroma and taste of tea leaves but also gain insight into China's ancient cultural traditions and wisdom.