What many of us know about Chinese tea fits in the small teapot served to us at our nearby Chinese restaurant. What many may not know is that this hardly encapsulates the variety of Chinese teas available. In fact, Chinese tea includes a bold and flavorful variety of many different combinations of tea – the history of which goes back nearly 4,000 years.
Traditionally used primarily for medicinal purposes, Chinese tea has a long and complex history of experimentally combining herbs to find just the right balance that would a yield cure for an illness. As the centuries passed, the drinking of Chinese tea gradually changed, being used more and more for enjoyment and less for medicinal purposes.
In the early days, Chinese tea was also the beverage around which many of the culture’s social rituals were centered. Today, Chinese tea is enjoyed all over the world for the same reasons it was so enjoyed in China all those years ago. It still includes the unique depth of flavor the ancestors experienced.
When referring to Chinese tea, there are six different classifications including: green, white, yellow, oolong, dark or fermented, and black. The classification is based on the color of the brew, which is determined by the degree of fermentation. Green tea is the least fermented while black tea has the highest degree of fermentation. Within each of these classifications there are still dozens of different types of tea.
Given the variety of Chinese teas available, just about everyone has at least one flavor of tea that they enjoy drinking. However, the advantages of drinking Chinese tea go beyond the flavor; Chinese tea has been shown to have significant health benefits including the lowering of blood pressure and increased immunity.
Originally, Chinese tea was only available in loose leaf format but is now sold loosely or in processed packets, depending on the level of convenience required, and can be found in most stores around the world. If you choose loose leaf tea, you’ll want to invest in a tea strainer or infuser. These handy devices let you control the amount of tea leaves used and keep the tea leaves corralled so you can easily remove them all after steeping the tea. Nowadays, they come in a variety of sizes and fun shapes.
Regardless of the type or packaging, and type of tea you select, just remember that Chinese tea has been used for thousands of years to heal the body, relax the mind, and calm the soul. It has also been enjoyed for what it is – a delicious, flavorful beverage that should bring respite to an otherwise busy day. So, grab your favorite flavor, brew it up in your favorite pot or cup, and take a moment to connect to the past and present in the ancient tradition of sipping a cup of tea.
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