I’ve had the privilege of touring the Longjing Tea plantations in Hangzhou, China, some years ago. At the end of the visit, I was invited to drink hot tea made from freshly picked tea leaves, at noon, on that scorching August day.
It is the Chinese traditional way of greeting and treating visitors with respect. At that time I couldn’t fully appreciate the health benefits of Chinese tea.
Now that I do, I’d like to share this knowledge with you along with a glimpse at the different types of Chinese teas as well as the tea culture, ceremonies, and herbal teas used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
You don’t have to be Chinese to learn and enjoy the medicinal benefits of these teas. Nowadays, they are widely available online, so you can just order some and try them out at home.
Chinese Tea Tradition
The Chinese have deeply rooted traditions. Virtually everything is linked to history or an event that shaped what is done and how it is done.
Take the tea-drinking tradition, for example. The culture surrounding it is so strong that centuries later tea consumption remains a practice of daily life.
The Tale of Tea
The introduction of tea is credited to Emperor Shennong, also known as one of the founding fathers of Chinese culture. He lived over 5000 years ago.
According to the tale, one day he was boiling water, and wild leaves accidentally fell into it. As a scientist, he was eager to find out how that mixture would taste. So he drank it and realized it made him feel refreshed and energized.
And from that day (about 2737 BC), tea was invented according to legend.
Chinese Tea Culture and How Tea is Prepared
Today, the Chinese drink tea for relaxation, natural healing, and quenching thirst – even on a 100 degrees hot summer day!
Others may see it as just an act of sipping on a liquid brewed from leaves. However, it’s an integral part of life for the people.
Drinking tea is a way to re-energize, savor life, show kindness, humility, morality, strengthen relationships, connect with the inner self (spirituality), and attain the joy of the spirit.
There’s an old saying in China that tea, or “chá (茶),” is one of the seven necessities for starting one’s day.
Chinese tea culture refers to the different ways of preparing tea, the equipment used, and the occasions when tea is consumed in China. There even exists a Book of Tea describing the tea ceremony and the way and morality of drinking tea.
There are different types of Chinese teas based on the way the leaves are prepared, processed, and brewed.
Today, the standard or informal way to prepare tea is by adding loose tea leaves to a pot of piping hot water and allowing it to sit (brew) for a few minutes. Both fresh and quailed (dried) leaves can be used.
The two main formal methods of brewing Chinese tea are:
- Chaou brewing is generally used to prepare delicate and medicinal teas or for tea tastings. The tea is brewed in a chaou, which is a three-piece teaware set consisting of a lid, cup/bowl, and a saucer.
- Gongfucha brewing is tea brewed in a Yixing teapot for welcoming guests or private enjoyment. This formal method is used for making Oolong teas only, but people in some parts of China do Gongfucha brewing to make Pu’erh and other double-fermented teas.
Chinese tea ceremonies
The Chinese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is largely influenced by Taoism. The ceremony is an old Chinese art tradition and refers to a cultural event where tea leaf is ceremonially prepared and presented by tea masters.
Tea also plays an important role in both engagements and weddings for Chinese people.
The tea ceremonies depict harmony, spirituality, peace, purity, and the enjoyment of tea both in an informal and formal setting. The tools, such as the bamboo and the porcelain tea sets, are also important parts of the ceremonies.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tea
Tai chi, acupuncture, and teas are important parts of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Various studies on teas used in TCM suggest they can help address a range of health problems.
The Chinese believe that an imbalance of Qi, the vital force of life in the body, can cause diseases and illnesses. Like tai chi and acupuncture, Chinese herbal teas and remedies are used to regain the balance of Qi.
So what does western medicine say about Chinese teas?
Recent research indicates that these traditional remedies truly have some powerful health benefits. Continue reading to find out more about the benefits of each type of tea.
Types of Chinese Tea (from Tea Plant)
Do not underestimate the powerful potential of Chinese tea leaves. For one, they are rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents that are great for immune health.
Research shows that drinking Chinese tea is associated with multiple physical and emotional health benefits, from aiding in weight loss to reducing anxiety.
Let’s take a look at five types of teas made from tea leaves (Camellia sinensis), how to prepare them, and their potential health benefits.
White tea (‘bai cha’) is allowed to wither and dry before use. Two of the best white teas are White Hair Silver Needle and White Peony and are produced in Fujian province.
Chinese believe white tea can aid in clearing toxic heat and reducing fatigue.
The potential health benefits of white tea have been studied as well, and include reduced risk of heart and neurodegenerative diseases, healthier skin, and reduced risk of cancer. It can also help with weight loss and supporting healthy bones.
White teas are known for their unique aromas and delicate floral-fruity flavors.
To prepare some white tea, brew it in a glass vessel or teapot of boiling water (212°F or 100°C) for about 1-2 minutes.
Green tea (‘lu cha’) is one of the oldest and most popular types of Chinese tea. The leaves are processed by steaming, frying, and sun-drying to extract the moisture and bring out the aroma, green color, and lingering aftertaste.
Some of the most famous green teas are West Lake Longjing tea, Maojian tea, and Sweet Dew of Mengding.
Green tea is often considered the healthiest tea because it is rich in antioxidants and nutrients that are good for the body.
Studies suggest that it can help clear toxic heat, reduce inflammation, help in fat loss, improve brain function, and lower the risk of cancer.
Green tea leaves are usually brewed in hot water (80°C or 176°F) for about 40 seconds and re-brewed if needed.
If you want to try some high-quality Chinese green tea, I can recommend this Organic Longjing West Lake Dragon Well Green Tea available on Amazon.
Oolong tea (‘qing cha’ or ‘wu long cha’) is a semi-fermented tea that falls somewhere between green and black tea. It is grown mainly in Fujian, Guangdong, and Taiwan.
Before use, it is wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized. Wuyi rock tea, Tie Guan Yin, and Red robe are among the famous types of oolong tea.
It is believed that Oolong tea can help in weight loss, lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, and prevent bone loss because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body.
Brew the leaves for about 2 minutes in hot water and enjoy the fresh green tea flavored intertwined with the strong, luscious fragrance of black tea.
Go ahead and try this smooth tasting and organic Tie Guan Yin Tea that you can order from Amazon.
Black tea (‘hong cha’, red tea) is widely produced and drunk tea in Chinese culture and is also popular in England and America.
The tea leaves are wilted, crushed, and allowed to oxidize until they turn black. The process helps give the tea its red color, bold, nutty taste, and deep aroma.
The Chinese specialty Gongfu black tea is one of the most important representations of black tea. Black tea is valued because of its potential health effects such as increasing appetite, eliminating water from the body, boosting heart health and reducing blood pressure sugar, and cholesterol.
We all have tasted black tea, but if you want to try a traditional Chinese one, you can order some Yunnan Gongfu Black Tea from Amazon.
Pu-erh is a post-fermented tea produced in Yunnan, China, and is well-known worldwide.
It is produced from the sun-dried leaves of large-leaf tea species and goes through two fermentation processes after being dried and rolled. The second is a microbial fermentation that can last for a year.
Pu-erh tea can be darker than black tea but with a mellow, smooth, sweet taste that gets better as the tea ages.
Revered for its medicinal benefits, which include reducing cholesterol levels and relieving hangovers, Pu-erh tea can also quench thirst and aid digestion.
The Pu-erh leaves are rinsed in hot water for a few seconds, then infused in boiling hot water (212 °F / 100 °C) for 10-20 seconds. The Chinese do a teapot brew or Gongfu Style brew using a (Yixing) Clay Tea Pot and Gaiwan.
If you want to try some high-quality Pu-erh tea, get this Yunnan Longrun Pu-erh Tea from Amazon.
Here is an infographic that summarizes the facts about these 5 different Chinese teas:
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Chinese Herbal Teas and Their Benefits
The health benefits of Chinese teas extend to herbal teas as well. The people of China use herbal teas, or tisanes, as a natural medicine for preventing and treating many health issues.
In TCM, herbs are grouped according to their energetic properties instead of their chemical makeup. Several herbs can be mixed together or teas and herbs (“yao chao cha” or “hua chao cha”) are prepared for medicinal purposes.
Here are some of the most important and potent Chinese herbal teas that you should definitely try!
Reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is another potent medicinal herbal tea. The plant is grown plentiful in Jiangxi and Zhejiang and is primarily used in traditional Chinese medicine to balance Qi (vital energy).
It contains beta-glucans (polysaccharides) that helps support immune function and overall wellness.
Reishi is a functional mushroom that also has analgesic, antioxidant, anti-tumor, and other important health effects. It is thought to be good for the heart spleen, lungs, and digestive system.
It is also often used for cough, indigestion, poor appetite, general weakness, trouble breathing, forgetfulness, and insomnia.
I can recommend this excellent Organic Reishi Mushroom Blend available on Buddha Teas Online Store.
Ginger, yang, is one of the most common herbs used to flavor Chinese food but is also used for making tea. Freshly brewed ginger tea has a lovely, slightly spicy flavor that awakens your senses.
In China, ginger is a popular natural remedy for cough and flu. It is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a widely used plant for treating other health conditions including, nausea, upset stomach, high blood sugar, and arthritis.
There is a lot of scientific evidence that confirms the health benefits of ginger and its potential as a natural medicine to fight cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
You can find my favorite ginger tea products in this guide.
Ginseng (ren shen cha) is cultivated in Northeast China and is loaded with amino acids and anti-cancer elements. The Chinese consider it the best tonic and have used it for centuries to help relieve fatigue and to slow aging.
It is believed that ginseng tea is nourishing to the body and can help improve heart health, metabolism, eyesight, and soothe the nerves. Some people also use it to detox the body. There is also plenty of research to back the health benefits of this herbal root tea.
Make your own tea with dried or fresh ginseng root. Just steep the sliced or grated ginseng in freshly boiled water for about 10 minutes. You can add ginger and licorice root to make a super healthy and delicious herbal tea!
Jujube (hong zao cha), also called red dates, are grown mainly in Shandong, Xinjiang, Hebei, Shaanxi, and Shanxi. The herb is rich in vitamins A, B, and C, proteins, and organic acids. It is usually dried and sliced before brewing into a sweet, spicy, gingery tea.
According to Chinese herbal medicinal theory, jujube helps relieve mental tension, calms the nerves, and improves memory.
Clinically, jujube is prescribed as a single herb or in sedatives combined with other herbal medicines, for the treatment of poor memory and insomnia. Jujube is also thought to enrich the blood, regulate menstruation, increase appetite, and boost immunity.
Want to try making some traditional Chinese jujube tea with ginger and black sugar? Here is an excellent recipe you can follow.
Chrysanthemum, “ju hua,” blooms in different colors and are not just pretty, but the Chinese have been using the floral plant for centuries to relieve various conditions. The dried flowers are brewed to make a tea that boasts a mild, flowery flavor similar to chamomile.
Fans of “ju hua,” say it is good for cold, fever, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, respiratory problems, and high blood pressure, calming the nerves and fighting inflammation.
There is also a study found that Chrysanthemum has compounds that can reduce inflammation.
You can find some Crysanthemum tea on Amazon and just steep the dried buds in hot water for 3 minutes to make a healthy infusion.
Honeysuckle seeds, leaves, and flowers have a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine for cooling and detoxifying the body.
It has a slightly sweet yet bold medicinal taste. Some people blend it with other herbs to mellow out the strong medicinal flavor.
Honeysuckle, also called “woodbine,” is thought to help alleviate respiratory infections such as cold and flu. Some use honeysuckle tea to soothe and prevent sore throats.
In TCM, honeysuckle is combined with Chrysanthemum flowers to treat high blood pressure. In addition, it has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a good natural herb for fighting acute bronchitis and influenza A viruses (IVAs).
If you want to make some, you can order superb quality Organic Honeysuckle Flowers from Amazon. Use 1 teaspoon per cup of boiling water and steep 3-4 minutes to make a tea. Throw some peppermint and licorice root in the mix to make it tastier!
Don’t Miss Out on the Health Benefits of Chinese Teas!
Chinese tea drinking is more than just a tradition. It is a way of life for all peoples, from the mansions to the mud huts.
One good reason to drink these teas is their wide range of health benefits.
Please post a comment below and tell me about your experiences related to Chinese teas.
Enjoy your tea!
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