China is the only country in the world where all types of tea are produced. The tea types include green tea, black tea, post-fermented tea, yellow tea, white tea and blue-green (oolong) tea.
Tea production in China
Most Chinese green teas come from the Anhui region. However the Long Ching tea is harvested in the Zhejiang region, and many other teas are produced in the Fujian region.
The Chinese have created 3 categories of green tea, judging by the production techniques:
‘Gunpowder’ tea, whose leaves are rolled in the shape of small balls;
‘Chun Mee’ tea (‘Chun Mee’ translates as “an old man’s eyebrow”), whose leaves are rolled in length;
‘Long Ching’ tea (‘Long Ching’ translates as ‘the dragon’s wells’), whose leaves are dried in a frying pan, and afterwards they are folded in length.
Black tea (also referred to as ‘fermented tea’)
What is referred to as ‘black tea’ in the entire world, is in reality ‘fermented tea’. In China this type of tea is referred to as ‘red tea’, with the exception of Pu Erh, which is a post-fermented black tea.
The difference between green tea and red tea (or ‘black tea’) is in fermentation. Green tea leaves are not fermented after being harvested. They are immediately dried. However, fermented tea is prepared in several steps:
Withering: the tea
leaves are exposed to the sun so that they should lose half of the water that they contain.
Rolling: the tea
leaves are slightly rolled.
Fermentation: the leaves are kept in a room at a temperature of 27º C without any oxygen. Thus, the tea leaves are oxidized and transform from green into black colour.
Selection: the whole leaves are separated from the “damaged” ones.
Packing: the tea leaves are packed into bags or chests and placed into a cool and dry room.
There is also ‘smoked black tea’. The most famous tea in this category is the ‘Lapsang Souchong’
In China black tea also exists in the pressed form. This is very common for Pu Erh tea, and this method is used to facilitate the transport process.
White tea is much more rare than green or black tea, but it is one of the most refined types of tea. The first buds are harvested in early spring, then the tea leaves are exposed to the sun, and become silver in colour. It is for that reason that one of the most famous white teas is called Yin Zhen (the ‘Silver Needle’). Another quite well-known white tea is called ‘Pai Mu Tan’ (that translates from Chinese as ‘the White Peony’)
Little is known about yellow tea in Europe. This is a slightly fermented version of green tea. The tea leaves are placed under the sun in a closed basket, which allows them tea to become slightly yellowish in colour and gives the tea an unforgettable flavour.
Blue-green tea is semi-fermented, and it is most commonly referred to as Oolong. As well as white tea, oolong is a slightly fermented tea, but the technique of its fermentation is closer to that of black tea. The tea leaves are placed in an unoxidised room at the temperature of 27o C, but they do not remain there for as long as the black tea leaves. Therefore, their fermentation is only partial. There are different types of oolong, depending on the level of their fermentation and, the less fermented they are, the closer the taste is to green tea. On the other hand, if the tea leaves are fermented for longer, the taste will be more like that of black tea.
Usually the taste of oolong tea is rather light. What is more, this tea contains very little amounts of theine, and can therefore be drunk at any time of the day.