As the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, tea (茶, Cha, Camellia Sinensis), is much more than just a drink. Having been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years, with an origin that is still steeped in a veil of mystery, there is just something about tea that continues to inspire and implore human beings to even just get up in the morning. The purpose of this guide is to provide to readers, tea lovers, tea haters, tea novices, anyone, everything about tea, and then some. This is not just a list of teas. This is not just a history of tea. This is a compendium of tea in all its glory, from its origins and cultural significance, to the economics and rituals of tea.
Fragrant leaves, delicate buds.
Admired by poets, loved by monks.
Crushed with white jade, filtered through red gauze.
Cauldron brewed to the color of gold, served in cups aswirl in bubbles.
Inviting the moon at night for company, facing alone the twilight before the sunrise.
Feeling energized in past or present, praise fully rinsing away drunkenness.”
Table of Contents
- What is Tea?
- History and Origins of Tea
- What are the different types of Tea?
- Camellia Sinensis in all its glory
- Camellia Sinensis Var. Sinensis
- Tea of (almost) every color
- Chinese teas
- Taiwanese Teas
- Tibetan Teas
- Korean Teas
- Japanese Teas
- Vietnamese Teas
- Thai Teas
- Cambodian Teas
- Laotian Teas
- Singaporean Teas
- Malaysian Teas
- Myanmar Teas
- Indonesian Teas
- Indian and South Asian Teas
- Nepalese Teas
- Russian Teas
- Central Asian Teas
- Iranian Teas
- Teas in the Middle East
- Turkish Teas
- African Teas
- European Teas
- Australian Teas
- Teas of the Americas
- Tea Preparations, ceremonies and tea ware
- Tea Traditions from around the world
- Health Benefits of Tea
- Economics of Tea
What is Tea?
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
It is difficult to go further without stating, what exactly is tea? Most simply put, it is a beverage usually prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. While simple sounding, this actually gives us two ideas of what tea is;
- A drink
- The Camellia sinensis plant
While obviously not contradictory or by any means concepts far removed from one another, they are distinctions to keep in mind. For example the magnificently spicy masala chai is tea. But it is not a plant. There are no “masala chai leaves”. Masala chai (“chai” means tea, more about that later!) is a drink using Black tea leaves as a base, with other spices, herbs and milk added in. So while tea as a drink can be pretty varied as we will soon see, “tea” the plant is not as diverse as one may suppose.
The tea plant itself is actually a type of evergreen tree or shrub. Its origins are located in the humid and semi-tropical area of southern China, Burma and India. The name Camellia is the Latin name of the flowering plant family the tea plant is classified in. Sinensis is the Latin term meaning “from China”. Meanwhile in Chinese the plant is known as “茶花/ Cháhuā/ Tea Flower”. While the list of tea leaves is extensive, Green tea, Yellow tea, Black tea, Oolong tea, Pu’er tea, all of them come from one of the two major types of tea plant
- Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, or, Chinese tea
- Camellia sinensis var. assamica, or, Indian and Nepalese tea
What sets the different types of tea leaves apart is the fashion in which they are harvested and prepared for consumption. It is possible to make beverages known as “tea” from other sources. For example, Yerba Mate is made from a type of holly plant also called, “Yerba Mate”, and is, strictly speaking not camellia sinensis. Yerba Mate and other non Camellia sinensis teas will be featured in later sections, but the main focus for this guide and the bulk of the subsequent teas will be the Camellia sinensis tea plant.
History and Origins of Tea
“Immortals, hear, said Jove, and cease to jar! Tea must succeed to Wine as Peace to War. Nor by the grape let man be set at odds, but share in Tea, the nectar of the Gods.”
Peter Antine Motteaux
Factual origins of Tea
“Camellia sinensis originated in southeast Asia, specifically around the intersection of latitude 29°N and longitude 98°E, the point of confluence of the lands of northeast India, north Burma, southwest China and Tibet. The plant was introduced to more than 52 countries, from this ‘centre of origin’.” (Mary Lou Heiss; Robert J. Heiss. The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide. citing Mondal (2007) p. 519)”
And it is here, we get a rather factual and specific answer to “where does tea come from”. In regards to when and where people first began to consume tea, the answer is usually somewhere in Yunnan province in China. The time, some 3000-5000 years ago most likely during China’s Shang dynasty. Some records state the drink was purely medicinal until it migrated to neighboring Sichuan province where it began to be consumed for pleasure, too.
Related Article: 30 Interesting Facts About Tea. #5 is Surprising!
The Mythic Origin of Tea
Call me a romantic, but it is the two mythical origin stories of tea that I prefer the most. There may be some deals of truth in these tales. So their retelling, while certainly entertaining, may give us some ideas on the origins, or at least the significance of tea in antiquity.
The first, and the most ancient, is the story of its discovery by China’s Emperor Shennong. China’s semi-mythical emperor, Shennong (神農) translated humbly as, “Divine Farmer/Peasant” or alternatively “Agriculture God”, is said to have lived about 5000 years ago and taught the people of prehistoric China all sorts of governing and agricultural techniques.
He is also said to have not only written an extensive treaty on medicinal plants and herbs, but to have tried all of them individually himself. By tasting them. One day, he was sitting outside with a bowl of hot water to drink. Leaves from a nearby tree, perhaps the first wild camellia sinensis plant, was blown by the wind, into the bowl. He drank the water that had been infused with the leaves. Noticing it had a pleasant taste and effect on his mind and body, he spread knowledge of tea to the people. He also used it as an antidote while tasting potentially harmful plants.
Depictions in art of Emperor Shennong are incredible, with him alternatively looking like an old human ruler, or adorned with horns, claws a flowing beard and wearing the clothes of a mountain ascetic or Daoist Immortal. Draped in leaves and vines like a truly wild man, reminiscent of Dionysus/Bacchus, albeit probably far more socially responsible. And interested in all medicinal herbs and tea, rather than just grapes or the plants used to compile the thyrsus.
Bodhidharma, when he came from the West
Another legend attributes the creation of tea to Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma was an Indian, Sri Lankan or Persian Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century. Like Shennong, there is a great deal of mystery whether he was real or not, too. Tales about his life are ripe with epic exploits, like crossing the ocean by balancing one foot on a leaf. He is also credited with introducing Chan (禅, 선, Zen, jhāna ) Buddhism to China and introducing martial arts to the Shaolin monastery.
Among other things, Bodhidharma was known for his intense temper and physicality. One story says that while meditating in a cave by staring at a wall for years on end, he fell asleep. When he woke up he was in such a furious rage at himself that he began tearing and clawing at his eyes until he ripped his eyelids clear off. After hurling them to the ground the first tea plant sprung up. He grabbed the leaves and began to chew on them. Feeling refreshed and awake after consuming the leaves, it became tradition for monks to consume tea while they also took part in their mentally, spiritually and physically grueling lifestyles. This also explains the image of Bodhidharma in Buddhist art where he is portrayed with enormously wide, piercing eyes.
Both these stories, like many other myths and legends, convey some truths. Certainly, according to historical records and archeological evidence, tea was a widely consumed beverage even for rulers. This tradition may have predated some written records even for the time and so while the origins are lost, tea’s legacy as a medicinal drink is conveyed in the tale of Shennong.
The story of Bodhidharma is significant, too. Tea became incredibly closely tied to Buddhism in Asia. Similar to viticulture during Christianities spread in Europe, so too did tea become a beverage associated with the Buddhism religious structure. Tea plants were introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks, and most tea plantations in Korea were situated and cultivated by Buddhist monks. And tea was not only a medicinal or energy boosting drink in the Buddhist religious world, it was also used for ritual purposes as well. The story of Bodhidharma conveys this close association, too.
What are the different types of Tea?
The Way of Tea
“A friend presented me
With tender leaves of Oolong tea,
For which I chose a kettle
Of ivory-mounted gold,
A mixing-bowl of snow-white earth.
With its clear bright froth and fragrance,
It was like the nectar of Immortals.
The first bowl washed the cobwebs from my mind –
The whole world seemed to sparkle.
A second cleansed my spirit
Like purifying showers of rain,
A third and I was one of the Immortals –
What need now for austerities
To purge our human sorrows?
Worldly people, by going in for wine,
Sadly deceive themselves.
For now I know the Way of Tea is real.”
Chio Jen (Tang Dynasty)
So now we move into the real bones and marrow of the subject matter, the different types of tea that there are. This may be one of the most important subjects presented in the Dao De Cha for the simple reason that it presents information that will be sought by anyone on the tea lover spectrum.
Camellia sinensis in all its glory
We’ve mentioned the camellia sinensis ad nauseum. But I’d like to reiterate it in regards to breaking down the different types of tea, because the most primordial of dissections between all teas occurs between the state of drying and post-picking care, but also which of the two main different types of camellia sinensis each of the leaves comes from.
While I will mainly discuss the two larger variants of the camellia sinensis, it should be noted there is a “third” variant, too. The “third” variant is a actually a kind of “hybrid” breed between the Chinese and Assam varieties. The different types are differentiated by the size of their leaves as well as their geography. The Chinese variety has smaller leaves, is typically cultivated on mountains and has a milder and sweeter taste than its Assam cousin. Chinese tea plants are usually used to make green, white, yellow and Oolong teas. The Assam variant has large leaves, enjoys more tropical growing conditions and is used to make black tea and fermented teas like pu’erh. The third hybrid variant exists that has a leaf size between the two main variants as well. But instead we will mainly focus on the Chinese and Assam varieties. An extra section will also be provided for non Camellia sinensis based teas like our South American friend, Yerba Mate, which is too delightful to ever ethically ignore!
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis
To reduce the risk of making this guide seem too much like a Harry Potter spell book by throwing around Latin names (Chinese and other native names will be used to differentiate different types of teas), from now on, “Chinese tea plant” and “Assam tea plant” will be used instead. So let us take a look at the Chinese tea plant, leaf by marvelous leaf, starting by country. And beginning with, you guessed it, China.
Tea of (almost) every color
I believe now is a good time to describe the various types of tea. By which I mean green, white, Oolong, black, yellow, fermented/dark/pu’erh, herbal/floral/infused and what I’ll call other. Some reading may ask, “why is pu’erh its own category but Jasmine isn’t?” That’s a great question, actually. I have added pu’erh to the dark/fermented category to make describing that section easier. Many people in the West especially have heard of pu’erh but maybe not the other dark and fermented teas (we have heard of dark beer, but that’s a section and discussion for another time). Jasmine is one of my personal favorites, especially the variety found in Okinawa. However, Jasmine is not its own leaf type, but rather a floral infusion of green, white or sometimes black tea. Jasmine will not be left out of Dao De Cha of course, however! Teas such as Rooibos and Honeybush will be in the “other/exceptional” category. This is for the same reason poor Yerba Mate will not be featured more heavily. For the fact they are not produced from the Camellia sinensis plant we all know and love. But these are still superb teas and also have a place in the Dao De Cha! The listing below is also on a scale from the least to the most oxidized teas. From the least oxidized white to the most oxidized fermented/dark tea.
White Tea (白茶/ Baicha)
Some debate surrounds white tea and what designates a tea as white rather than a different category of tea. Generally white tea is made from young and unopened tea leaves, twigs and buds. It is not oxidized or prepared as much as the other teas and the flavor is generally considered much “lighter” in comparison to other teas.
Related Article: What is White Tea? Origins, Taste And More
Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
Green tea, the classic tea we all know and love. How is it different from the other teas listed below? Mainly that it does not go through the same withering, fermentation and oxidation process that would convert it into an Oolong, black or pu’erh.
Related Article: What is Green Tea? Origins, Taste And More
Yellow Tea (黄茶/ Huang Cha)
Yellow tea is often grouped under the same category as green tea. But it does differ with an additional step in the preparation of the leaves. The leaves are encased and steamed to let the leaves oxidize more slowly. The benefits of this additional step of preparation provides the tea with a milder taste and smell.
Related Article: What is Yellow Tea? Origins, Taste And More
Oolong Tea (烏龍)
The Oolong is a semi-oxidized tea. The name means “black dragon tea” with the character used for “black” meaning “black like a raven or crow”. This tea is less oxidized than black tea.
Related Article: What is Oolong Tea? Origins, Taste And More
Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
What sets black apart from its brothers and sisters of the white, green and other varieties is the amount of oxidation used to prepare these teas. Oxidation is when the leaves of tea are converted into dried leaves. There are scores of styles and techniques for this, and the result with black tea is a stronger taste and much darker color. Black tea’s name in Chinese and most other Asian languages is actually, “red tea”. The name confusion comes from Dutch traders, who, seeing the tea bricks and leaves as black, called the tea “black tea”.
Related Article: What is Black Tea? Origins, Taste And More
Fermented/Dark/Pu’erh tea (黑茶/ Heicha)
Translated from the Chinese as “black tea”, but called in English as “fermented/dark” tea. The fermented teas are left to oxidize and ferment from months to many years. This causes many changes to occur in the tea even down to a microbial level. The color gets darker, the taste and aroma change a great deal. The mouth feel and experience of drinking the tea also changes. The microbes in the tea may even contribute to additional health benefits, especially ones having to do with feelings of satiation and digestion. The rock n’roll bad boy of the tea world, kombucha (the trendy fermented tea, not to be confused with Japanese kelp tea, also called kombu cha), is also under this category. Fermented teas are formed from green or Oolongs and also black teas.
Related Article: What is Pu’er Tea? Origins, Taste and More
Herbal/ Floral/ Infused/ Tisanes/ Other/ Exceptional
I have grouped the infused teas together, not out of callousness or a sense of haughty snobbishness, but just to keep it simple. There are hundreds and hundreds of types of these teas that exist all over the world. I’d love to list them all, but that would be one long article for sure. Maybe someday after years of tea enthusiasm, I can compile them all into one source, but for now, these teas are usually based on green, Oolong, black or another variety of tea. Other herbs, spices, flowers and ingredients are combined to create another beverage, sometimes one without caffeine, sometimes one with caffeine. Most are brewed for health and medicinal purposes, but this does not exclude them from being delicious as well!
This final category also groups in beverages having the name, “tea” but not being strictly produced from the camellia sinensis plant. Many medicinal and folk remedy beverages fall into this category. For example a ginger tea made from honey and slices of ginger and lemon brewed in hot water may be considered “ginger tea”. In this case such a ginger tea would fall into the “other/exceptional” category. I’d prefer not to use “other” as it sounds almost insulting, so I tacked on the additional name, “exceptional”. What designates a tea as exceptional in the context of this list is if it is tea, but with the exception of not being made by our good friend, camellia sinensis. In which case we will make an exception for the beverage here.
This may be the most difficult category to assess simply due to the fact it is so incredibly diverse and nuanced. So I will do my best to record as many of these great drinks as possible here.
Chinese tea and tea consumption and culture have gone back centuries. Many regard China as the birthplace of tea, and indeed the tea plant originated within modern day China’s borders along with some other Asian countries borders.
White Chinese Teas
- Bai Mu Dan (白牡丹/ White Peony/ White Monkey): Fujian province tea, considered to have a fuller flavor and greater potency than other white teas.
- Bai Hai Yin Zhen (白毫銀針/ Silver Needle): Fujian tea, highly prized and expensive white tea.
- Shou Mei (壽眉/ Longevity Eyebrow): Fujian and Guangxi province tea, collected from naturally withered tips and leaves and has a deeper color than other white teas.
- Gong Mei (貢眉/ Tribute Eyebrow): Fujian and Guangxi province teas, has a golden yellow color.
Green Chinese Teas
- Anji bai Cha (安吉白茶/ Anji county white tea): Despite its name actually a green tea, large leaves and rare.
- Baimao Hou (白毛猴茶/ white-haired monkey): Fujian province tea, often mistaken for white tea.
- Biluochun (碧螺春/ green snail spring): A strongly aromatic tea from Jiangsu province.
- Chun Mee (珍眉/ precious eyebrows): A dusty appearance and acidic taste, originally found in Jiangxi province.
- Da Fang (頂谷大方): originating in Anhui province, this famous tea has a nutty aroma.
- Huangshan Maofang (黃山毛峯/ Yellow Mountain fur tea): Produced in the Huangshan (Yellow Mountains) in Anhui province. Has needle-like leaves with a slight floral flavor.
- Longjing tea (龍井茶/Dragon Well Tea): Famous and legendary tea produced in Zhejiang province. Sweet and mild flavor with edible leaves.
- Lu’an Melon seed tea (六安瓜片): A famous tea from Anhui province, named for the melon seed shaped leaves.
- Mengding Ganlu (蒙頂甘露/ Sweet dew from the top of Mount Meng): a storied tea from Sichuan province. Has a yellowish-green color and sweet after taste.
- Taiping Houkui (太平猴魁/ Peaceful Monkey Leader): Grown in Anhui province, won the title of “King of Tea” in 2004. Is a baked variety of green tea known for its distinct leaf shape.
- Zhuyeqing (竹叶青/Green bamboo leaf): A Sichuan green tea, known for its pleasant floral aroma and taste.
- Xi Hu Long Jing (西湖龍井/ West Lake Dragon Well): Popular tea from Zhejiang province. Picked in early spring.
- Hui Ming Cha (惠明茶/ Purple shoots, Hui ming Spring): Named after the Buddhist monk, “Huiming” who is said to have planted the first of this tea that grows in Zhejiang province.
- Gu Zhu Zi Sun (顧渚紫筍/Purple Bamboo Shoot): Named after the first village in Zhejiang where this variety was cultivated and named for the purple coloration the leaves possess. Light, refreshing and fruity
- Xin Yang Mao Jian (信陽毛尖/ Xin Yang Downy Peak): A Henan province tea, highly fragrant and aromatic.
- Ping Shui Zhu Cha (平水珠茶/ Gunpowder): Tea leaves rolled into pellets that resemble “gunpowder”, originating in Zhejiang province. The Ping Shui is the original and aromatic style of gunpowder tea.
- Jing Shan Cha (京山茶/ Jing Mountain Tea): Tea found in Zhejiang province, has a light and sweet taste and pleasant aroma. A tea closely associated with Buddhism.
- Nan’an shi Ting Lu (南安石亭綠/ Stone Pavilion Green): A Chinese green tea variety.
- Zhu Ye Qing (竹葉青/ Bamboo Leaf green, Green Bamboo tip): Another tea closely tied with Buddhism, grown at Mount Emei in Sichuan province, a sacred Buddhist site. High in antioxidants.
- Yong Xi Huo Qing (湧溪火青/ Yong Xi Jade Fire): An Anhui province tea, a strong green tea with an initial smoky flavor that unfurls into a floral taste.
- Xiu Ning Song Luo (休寧松蘿/ Loose Radish): Anhui province strikes again with this famous green tea also produced in the Buddhism sacred space of Song Luo Mountain.
- Wang Hai Cha (望海茶/ Sea of Hope): A Zhejiang province tea, with a glossy appearance.
- En Shi Yu Lu (恩施玉露/ En Shi Jade Dew): Hubei province tea, only famous Chinese tea processed using a steam method. Has a sweet floral taste.
- Du Yun Mao Jian (都勻毛尖/ Duyun Tippy): A Guizhou Province tea, has a vegetal aroma and refreshing taste.
- Gui Ping Xi Shan Cha (桂平西山茶/ Gui Ping West Mountain Tea): Guangxi province green tea.
- Lao Zhu Da Fang (老竹大方/ Old Bamboo Generous): Anhui green tea, fragrant chestnut aroma and brisk taste.
- Nan Jing Yu Hua Cha (南京雨花茶/ Rain Flower Tea): Tea from Jiangsu, and named after the city where it is produced. Pine needle-like appearance and soothing flowery aroma.
- Kai Hua Long Ding (開化龍頂/ Kai Hua Dragon Pick): Green tea from Zhejiang, strong astringent taste, great with Yixing pot.
- Lu Shan Yun Wu (廬山雲霧/ Lushan Misty Clouds): Jian Xi province tea, a very sweet tea with fruity aroma and notes
- An Hua Song Zhen (安化松針/ Song Zhen Needle green tea): Hunan province green tea.
- Jiang Shan Lu Mu Dan (江山綠牡丹/ Green Peony): Anhui province produces this green tea, the leaves are arranged and tied together to resemble a peony blossom.
- Gao Qiao Yin Feng (高橋銀峰/ Silver Peak): A tea produced in Hunan province, a strong but refreshing and mellow taste.
- Shu Cheng Lan Hua (舒城蘭花/Shu Cheng orchid): Produced in southern Anhui province, has a savory flavor.
- Wu Xi Hao Cha (無錫毫茶/ Wu Xi Downy Tea): Rare tea from Fujian
- Tian Mu Qing Ding (天目青頂/ Heaven’s Eye Green Peak): Sweet tea from Zhejiang.
- Gu Zhang Mao Jian (古丈毛尖/ Gu Zhang Downy Tips): Xiangxi specialty tea with an earthy flavor.
- Meng Ding Gan Lu (蒙頂甘露/ Meng Ding Sweet Dew): Sichuan province tea, said to be from the first place where tea was cultivated.
- Yong Chuan Xiu Ya (永川秀芽/ Yong Chjuang Premium Bud): A tea from Chong Qing province, known for its striking green color.
- Pan’an Yun Feng (盤安云峰/ Pan An Cloud Peak): Guangxi tea, said to be similar to Darjeeling.
- Pu Tuo Fo Cha (普陀佛茶/ Buddha tea): A Zhejiang tea, used in tribute to the Buddha.
- Song Yang Yin Hou (松陽銀猴/ Silver Monkey): Playfully named tea from Zhejiang, has a flowery and somewhat nutty taste.
- Pu Bu Xian Ming (瀑布仙茗/ Immortal Waterfall Buds): An exceptional Zhejiang tea.
- Qian Dao Yu Ye (千島玉葉/ Thousand Islands Jade Leaf): Zhejiang wins again with this lovely leafed tea.
- San Bei Xiang (三杯香/ 3 Cup Fragrance): Fujian tea with a sweet and astringent flavor.
- Jing Ting Lu Xue (敬亭綠雪/ Green Snow): Anhui province, was used as tribute to the Ming and Qing courts.
- Xue Shui Yun Lu (雪水雲綠/ Snow Water clouds): Needle tea from Zhejiang.
- Lin Hai Pan Hao (臨海蟠毫/ Curly buds, curly tips): Zhejiang tea processed to resemble curls of hair. Tasty.
- Pu Jiang Chun Hao (浦江春毫/ Pu Jiang Spring Buds): Yunnan tea, can be fermented to make pu’erh.
- Yang Yan Gou Qing (羊岩勾青/ Sheep Rock Green Hooks): Very rare Zhejiang tea.
- Lu Jian Cha (綠劍茶/ Green Swords): Blade shaped buds from Fujian.
- Zi Yang Mao Jian (紫陽毛尖/ Purple Sun Downy Tips): Henan province tea, one of the most famous in China.
- Dian Qing (滇青/ Yunnan Green Tea): Yunnan tea, mostly fermented into pu’erh.
- Wu Yang Chun Yu (武陽春雨/ Spring Rain): Zhejiang tea, resembles pine needles.
- Wu Zi Xian Hao (午子仙毫/ Wu Zi Heavenly Buds): Shangxi province tea, first produced during the Qin dynasty.
- Lu Ming Wu Cha (鹿鳴霧茶/ Lu Ming Fog Tea): A mysterious tea, as of today, there was little to no English information on it.
- Dong Bai Chun Ya (東白春芽/ Eastern White Spring Buds): Zhejiang tea.
- Jian De Bao Ya (建德苞茶/ Jian De Bud Tea): Zhejiang tea, leaves with a dark appearance and pleasant liquor color.
- Mao Shan Chang Qing (茅山長青/ Mao shan Evergreen): Jiangsu province tea named after the sacred Daoist Mountain.
- Xiao Bu Yan Cha (小布岩茶/ Xiao Bu Rock Tea): Fujian tea with a stony mouth feel.
- Xiao Yao Yun Wu (仙瑤隱霧/ Heavenly Jade Misty Fog): Jiangxi tea.
- Feng Yang Chun (鳳陽春/ Phoenix Spring Sun): Rare Yangzhou tea.
- Nu’er Huan (女兒環/ Daughter’s Ring): Fujian tea artfully rolled into small rings.
- Cheng Tian Xue Long (承天雪龍/ Snow Dragon): Rare Zhejiang tea.
- Wu Zhou Ju Yan (婺州舉岩/ Wu Zhou Rock Tea): Fujian “Cliff tea”.
- Yang Dang Mao Feng (雁蕩毛峰/ Yang Dang Furry Peak): Zhejiang tea with buoyant leaves.
- Wang Fu Yin Hao (望府銀毫/ Wang Fu Silver Needle): Zhejiang tea, with a sweet flavor.
- Heng Wen Xi Xiu (橫紋細秀/ Fine Beauty): Shenzhen tea.
- Fu Lai Chun (浮來春/ Floating Spring): Mysterious and rare tea, more info soon!
- Wu Dong Cha (霧洞茶/ Misty Cave Tea, Wu Dong Tea): Hubei Province tea.
- Da Fo Long Jing (大佛龍井/ Big Buddha Dragon Well): Zhejiang tea, enjoyed by the Qing royal court.
- Xue Qing (雪青茶/ Snow Spring Tea): Shandong tea from the coastline.
- Cai Hua Mao Jian (採花毛尖/ Flower Picking Downy Buds): Another tea that will have more info soon enough!
Yellow Chinese Teas
- Meng Ding Huang Ya (蒙頂黃芽/ Meng Peak Yellow Bud): Sichuan province tea, used as a tribute tea during the Tang dynasty.
- Huo Shan Huang Ya (霍山黃芽/ Hua Mountain Yellow Bud): Anhui province tea, Known to have a peppery flavor.
- Mo Gan Huangya (莫干黃芽/ Mo Gan Yellow Bud): Zhejiang province tea, grown in unique conditions featuring bamboo groves and waterfalls.
- Jun Shan Yin Zhen (君山銀針/ Jun Shan Silver Needle): Hunan province tea, similar to white tea.
- Wei Shan Mao Jian (溈山毛尖/ Wei Shan Downy Tips): Hunan province tea, a popular tea for politicians and poets from China including chairman Mao Zedong.
- Huo Shan Huang Da Cha (霍山黃大茶/ Huo Mountain Big Yellow Tea): Anhui province tea, especially sweet.
Oolong Chinese Teas
- Mei Zhan (梅占): Fujian with a bright liquor and a smooth aroma.
- Feng Huang Dan Cong (鳳凰單樅/ Phoenix Dan Cong): Guangdong province tea, used as imperial tribute during the Song dynasty.
- Fu Jian Shui Xian (福建水仙): Fujian province tea, has a heavy honey fragrance.
- Ling Tou Dan Cong (嶺頭單樅): Guangdong province tea, imbued with unique tastes from the volcanic soil of the area.
- Da Hong Pao (大紅袍/ Big Red Robe): Fujian and Jiangxi province tea, twisted in a sideways rolling fashion.
- Tie Luo Han (鐵羅漢/ Iron Arhat/Buddhist enlightened master): Fujian tea from Wuyi mountain, the source of many other great teas. Named for the legend of a golden Arhat.
- Bai Ji Guan (白雞冠/ White cockscomb): Fujian province Wuyi tea. Named after a legend where a monk witnessed a brave rooster protect its young from an eagle, but died fighting. A tea plant grew from the rooster’s burial spot.
- Shui Jing Gui (水晶龜/Golden water turtle): Fujian province mt. Wuyi tea. Has a deep green color.
- Yong chun Fo Shou (永春佛手/ Buddha’s Hand): Fujian province mt. Wuyi tea. Possesses a novel taste.
- Tong Tian Xiang (通天香/ Heaven’s scent): Guangdong tea, often referred to as “Fenghuang” or Phoenix tea.
- Huang Zhi Xiang (黃枝香): Hunan province tea from the Fenghuang or Phoenix mountains.
- Rou Gui (肉桂/ Cinnamon Bark): Fujian tea from mt. Wuyi. First developed during the Qing dynasty, has a sweet aroma.
- Tie Guan Yin (鐵觀音/ Iron Buddha/Iron Kwan Yin): Fujian province tea. Named after the Buddhist and Taoist Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy. Has many different varieties.
- Huang Jin Gui (黃金桂): Fujian province tea, flowery aroma and heavy flavor akin to green or black tea.
- Dong Ding Wu Long (凍頂烏龍): Another Fujian hero, has a peach and honey flavor.
- Wen Shan Bao Zhong (文山包種): Fujian and Taiwan tea. An unroasted and twisted leaf tea.
- Bai Hao Wu Long (白毫烏龍): Taiwan tea, amber in color with a sweet honey note.
- Shui Xian Tea Cake (誰先茶餅): Fujian province tea from mt. Wuyi. Can be aged to further enhance the flavor.
- Mao Xie (毛蟹): Fujian province tea, with a spicy and savory flavor.
- Qi Lan (奇蘭/ Miracle Orchid): Fujian province mt. Wuyi tea, known for its mild, sweet and nutty aroma and tastes.
Black Chinese Teas
- Qi Hong (祁紅/ Keemun): Anhui province tea, very famous and popular, known for a fruity and smoky flavor
- Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong (正山小種/ Lapsang Souchong): Fujian province tea smoke dried over pinewood to imbue it with a distinct pine flavor.
- Jin Jun Mei (金駿眉/ Golden Monkey/Golden horse eyebrows): Fujian province tea with a sweet, fruit flavor.
- Yi Hong (宜紅): Hubei province tea. Traditionally used for export to the West.
- Ying Hong (英紅/ Hero Black): Guangdong tea with a fruity and candy like finish.
- Dian Hong/ Yunnan Black Tea (滇紅/ Yunnan Gold): Yunnan province black tea with a fruity and gentle flavor.
- Ning Hong (寧紅): Jiangxi province tea, lauded as being beneficial for weight loss.
- Jiu Qu Hong Mei (九曲紅梅/ Nine Red Plum): Zhejian province tea with rich aroma and flavor.
- Tan Yang Gong Fu (坦洋工夫): Fujian province tea, completely fermented with a shinning red liquor.
- Bai Lin Gong Fu (白琳工夫): Another Fujian tea, exceptionally rare.
- Mi zhuan (米磚/ Rice Brick): Hubei province brick black tea. Highly fermented.
Fermented/Dark/Pu’erh Chinese Teas
- San pu’erh cha (散普洱/ Loose Pu’erh tea): Yunnan province tea, the loose leaf form of pu’erh.
- An hui hei zhuan (安化黑磚/ Anhua dark brick): Hunan province dark tea.
- Qian Liang cha (千兩茶/ Thousand once tea): Hunan province tea, similar to pu’erh. Pressed into poles which are sliced into cakes.
- Bai liang cha (百兩茶/ Hundred once tea): Hunan province tea, similar to the Qian Liang.
- Liu bao cha (六堡茶/ Six Treasure Tea): Guangxi province tea, semi-fermented and possessing a unique taste.
- Kang zhuan (康磚/ Healthy brick): Tibetan tea variety, was transported on the historic Tea Horse Road
- Jin Jian (金尖/ Golden tips): Mysterious dark tea.
- Qing zhuan cha (青磚茶/ green brick tea): Hubei province tea once used for tribute and possessing a deep orange color.
- Fu zhuan (茯磚茶/ Fu tea, fu brick tea): Hunan tea, can develop a fungus known as “golden flower”.
- Zhu tong cha (竹筒茶/ Bamboo tube tea/bamboo dark tea): Yunnan province tea, stored in bamboo tubes, has a citrusy taste.
- Pu’erh fang cha (普洱方茶/ square pu’erh tea): Yunnan “raw” pu’erh.
- Tuo cha (沱茶/ Tuocha tea): Hunan tea, pressed into “bird’s nest” like balls.
- An Hua hua zhuan (安化花磚/ Anhua flower brick): Yunnan tea picked form older teas but produced by a newer company.
- Kombucha* (tea mushroom, tea fungus, Manchurain mushroom): Uncertain origins, possibly Northeastern china, Manchuria. Heavily fermented, effervescent and slightly alcoholic tea often made from green, black or other teas.
Herbal/Floral/Infused/Other Chinese Teas
- Jasmine tea (茉莉花茶): Produced from almost all varieties of tea, scented with jasmine flower blossoms. Said to have been introduced to China from India during the Han era, with Fujian province in China being the most famous producer today.
- Flowering tea (香片, 工艺茶, 开花茶): A bundle of dried tea leaves and dried flowers are tied together. Possible origins in Yunnan, where the leaves are commonly sourced from.
- Lei Cha (擂茶/ thunder tea): Ancient custom originating in southern China during either the Three Kingdoms or Han dynasty. A type of soup or gruel made with ground tea and other grains, herbs, and even sometimes meat.
- Chrysanthemum tea (菊花茶): A tea infused with chrysanthemum blossoms first enjoyed during the Song dynasty. Other ingredients such as sugar and berries can be added.
- Kuding (苦丁茶/ bitter nail tea): A tea produced from a type of holly that grows in Sichuan province. Can be caffeinated or un-caffeinated.
- 24 Flavors tea (廿四老味茶): A Cantonese tea that comes in many variations and a plethora of ingredients.
- Wong lo kat/ Wang Lao Ji (王老吉): Chinese herbal tea from Guangdong and Guangxi provinces and founded by doctor Wong Chat Bong.
- Hong-Kong style milk tea (港式奶茶): Special milk tea using black tea and often prepared in “stockings” and mixed with evaporated or condensed milk. Comes in a variety of styles.
- Yuenyeung (鴛鴦): Beverage with 3 parts coffee and 7 parts Hong Kong style milk tea, where black tea would be the base.
Some of the first tea in Taiwan was said to be introduced from Fujian and its famous Wuyi mountain area. The earliest records of tea in Taiwan go back to the 1700’s when some of these first plants were brought from mainland China. Taiwan has served as a hub for tea cultivation and trade for generations. By 1860 Taiwan began exporting tea worldwide, often under the name “Formosa Oolong”, Formosa being an older name for Taiwan. Today, Taiwan is a competitive producer of tea, especially specialty variants and Oolong teas. Taiwan produces about 20% of the world’s Oolong teas and it has many prime and rich tea growing areas. The Oolong of Taiwan are world renowned and said to be the “Champagne of tea”. Bubble tea was also invented during the 80’s in Taiwan.
Green Taiwanese Teas
- Longjing (龍井茶/ Dragon Well): Very sweet tea with leaves that can be eaten after brewing.
- Biluochun (碧螺春/ Green snail spring): A light floral taste with a strong aroma, rolled to look like snails.
Oolong Taiwanese Teas
- Baozhong (包種茶/ Wrapped Tea): Tea imported from Fujian in the 19th century, popular areas for growing are in Nankang and Wenshan. Has a sweet flavor.
- Dongfang Meiren (東方美人茶/ Oriental Beauty): Popularized by Queen Elizabeth II, this unique Oolong incorporates insect eggs and egg sacs in the harvesting process, which lends to an earthy flavor.
- Tie Guanyin (木柵鐵觀音/ Iron Kwan Yin): Differs from the Anxi variety due to it being roasted and having a more robust taste and a darker color than its predecessor Tie Guanyin from mainland China.
- Gao Shan (高山茶/ high mountain tea/alpine oolong): Varieties grown at high altitudes, usually 1,000 meters (3280 feet).
- Lishan (梨山): Very expensive gao shan oolong grown at 2,200 meters (7217 feet).
- Dayuling (大禹嶺): Another highly expensive oolong gao shan oolong, grown at 2,500 meters (8202 feet).
- Ali Mountain (阿里山): General term applied to Taiwan lightly oxidized oolong, often harvested in winter. The Alishan (Ali mountain) Zhulu tea is highly prized, especially from the Qing Xin cultivar where some highly revered oolong is produced.
- Gold Lily (金萱): Milky flavored oolong of the Ali mountain variety developed in the 80’s
- Fo Shou (佛手/ Buddha’s Hand): Originating in Fujian, has a unique flavor.
Black Taiwanese Teas
- Black jade Taiwan Tea: A very novel tea, produced in the 90’s by the Taiwan Tea Research and Experiment Station. This one just so happens to be a hybrid between the camellia sinensis and a special tea variant native to Taiwan, camellia sinensis forma formosensis. The unique flavor resembles honey, mint and cinnamon. Another special trait of this tea is that it is prepared after an insect known as a Leafhopper lays eggs and bites the tea leaves. This results in a chemical reaction on the part of the plant that acts as a defense mechanism that draws spiders to the plant, presumably to help defend it from the Leafhopper. The chemical reaction in the plant and the residual leafhopper eggs makes for the special taste of this tea.
Herbal/Floral/Infused/Other Taiwanese Teas
- Osmanthus (桂花茶): Tea introduced from mainland China. It is scented with osmanthus and also often packaged with blossoms of the plant.
- Bubble Tea (波霸奶茶): Originating in the 80’s in Tainan and Taichung cities. This drink is made from a wide variety of teas, often green and black and feature tapioca balls or “pearls” at the bottom. Other ingredients such as various jellies are also used. This beverage can be iced as well and is popular around the world.
The origins of tea culture in Tibet aren’t certain but many scholars suggest tea was brought and popularized by princess Wenchang of Tang who was married to the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. From here tea culture became more widespread in Tibet. Tibet was also a major trading partner on the Tea Horse Road (Cha-ma-dao/ 茶马道) or Ancient/old Tea Horse Road (Cha-ma-gu-dao/茶馬古道). From the Tea Horse Road, or Southern Silk Road as it is also known, Tibet would trade horses for tea and other goods. One of the major trading sites was in Yunnan, and some believe the travel through many different types of terrain around the Himalayas and southern China caused the pu’erh tea from Yunnan to ferment and become what we know it as today. As vegetables and other plants are difficult to grow in Tibet, tea often serves as a nutritional staple to substitute the lack of vegetation. Butter tea is an especially famous type of Tibetan tea that is a major part of the Tibetan diet and culture.
Herbal/Floral/Infused/Other Tibetan Teas
Many Tibetan teas are enjoyed as infusions or mixed with other ingredients, herbs and spices. Brick tea is commonly used, especially pu’erh and black teas.
- Butter Tea (བོད་ཇ་/ Tibetan Tea): Traditional drink made using tea leaves, yak or cow’s butter, water and salt. Widely consumed as a daily nutritional staple. Made using a churn and also known as “churned tea”.
- Sweet Tea: Popular drink comprised of black tea, powdered milk and sugar, with some variations on the specifics ingredients.
- Black tea with butter
- Milk tea
- Mang Jha: Tea served in monasteries and during religious ceremonies.
The first record of tea in Korea is traced back to queen Heo Hwang-ok during the Three Kingdoms era (57 B.C. to 668 A.D.). Queen Heo Hwang-ok was a princess from Ayodha, India and it is said she arrived in Korea presenting the Camellia sinensis var. assamica as a gift. During this time, many different herbal and floral teas were also consumed. Centuries after the legend of queen Heo Hwang-ok’s first teas plant, and the wider introduction of Chinese culture by Buddhist monks, tea, especially green tea, began to become more widespread in the peninsula. Tea flourished during the later Three Kingdoms, Later Silla and Goryeo eras, starting in earnest with Queen Seondeok of Silla importing tea from China. Tea, along with Chinese and Buddhist culture enjoyed a widespread propagation, with many tea plantations cultivated on land owned by monasteries and tea being used for religious rituals and rites. During Korea’s Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), tea ceremonies were transformed from devout Buddhist rituals to secular or Confucian practices and ancestral rites. Tea began to be enjoyed not just by the nobility, but by larger society as a whole. This also led to tea losing its place of reverence and as rivalry between the Joseon government’s Confucian and Neo-Confucian policies and Buddhism intensified, tea, which was still associated with Buddhism, was heavily taxed and monasteries and tea fields were even sometimes destroyed. After several wars with Japan, eventually resulting in the colonial period (1910-1945) and the subsequent Korean War, tea culture and plantations in Korea were almost eradicated. But starting in recent decades, both scholars and Buddhist monks have helped to rejuvenate and reinvigorate Korean tea and tea culture. Historically, Korea has served as a source of superbly crafted tea ware, especially in regards to earthenware cups and bowls that possess a natural and unpretentious artfulness, still considered among some of the most exquisite tea ware today. The tea producing regions of Boseong, Hadong and Jeju Island are renowned for their high quality tea.
Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Ujeon (우전/ 雨前/ “pre-rain”): A soft, sweet green tea plucked before the first rains of the season, similar to white tea.
- Sejak/ Jakseol (세작/ 細雀/ “thin sparrow”): Tea made from young, tender leaves plucked at a particular time of year.
- Jungak (중작/ 中雀/ “medium sparrow”): The next type of tea leaves plucked in the ensuing cycle of the year.
- Daejak (대작/大雀/ “big sparrow”): The next biggest of the “sparrow’s tongue shaped leaves”
- Ipcha (잎차): Loose leaf green tea
- Yeopcha (엽차/ 葉茶): Loose leaf green tea
- Garu-cha (가루차/Malcha/ 말차/ 末茶): both powdered teas, similar to matcha
- Deokkeum-cha (덖음차/ “roasted tea”): green tea leaves roasted in their preparation
- Jeungje-cha (증제차/ 蒸製茶/ “steamed tea”): Green tea leaves steamed in their preparation
- Banya-cha (반야차/ 般若茶/ “prajñātea”): Buddhist wisdom green tea
- Jungno-cha (로차/ 竹露茶/ “bamboo dew tea”): Bamboo dew green tea
Yellow Tea (黄茶/ Huang Cha)
- Hwangcha (황차/ 黃茶/ “yellow tea”): Tea prepared similarly to Chinese style Oolong, or lightly oxidized black tea.
Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Hongcha (홍차/ 紅茶/ “red tea”): Korean black tea
- Jaekseol-cha (잭설차): Black tea produced in Hadong, in South Gyeongsang Province
Fermented/Dark/Pu’erh tea (黑茶/ Heicha)
- Tteokcha (떡차/ “cake tea”/Byeongcha (병차/ 餠茶/ “cake tea”): Fermented tea
- Borim-cha (보림차/寶林茶) Borim-baengm-cha (보림백모차/ 寶林白茅茶): Fermented tea from Borim Temple in South Jeolla Province
- Doncha (돈차/ “money tea”) Jeoncha (전차/ 錢茶/ “money tea”)/ Cheontaejeon (청태전/ 靑苔錢/ “green moss coin”): Fermented tea shaped like Joseon era coins.
- Hyeonmi-nokcha (현미녹차/ 玄米綠茶/ “brown rice green tea”): Infused tea with brown rice
- Remon Nokcha (레몬 녹차/ “lemon green tea”): Lemon infused green tea
- Baegyeop-cha (백엽차/柏葉茶/ pine leaf tea): Korean pine needle tea
- Baeksan-cha (백산차/白山茶)/ white mountain tea): Labrador leaf tea
- Bakha-cha (박하차/薄荷茶)/ mint tea): Tea made from East Asian wild mint
- Daennip- cha (댓잎차/ bamboo leaf tea): tea made from bamboo leaves
- Gamnip-cha (감잎차/ persimmon leaf tea): tea made with persimmon leaves
- Hwangsan-cha (황산차/黃酸茶)/ rosebay tea): tea made from rosebay leaves
- Iseul-cha (황산차/黃酸茶/ dew tea) Gamno-cha (감로차/甘露茶/ sweet dew tea): Mountain hydrangea leaf tea
- Maegoe-cha (매괴차/玫瑰茶/ Rugose rose tea): Tea from rugose rose leaves
- Mulssuk-cha (물쑥차/ mugwort tea): Tea made from common mugwort
- Ppongnip-cha (뽕잎차/ mulberry leaf tea): white mulberry leaf tea
- Seombaengnihyang-cha (섬백리향차/ thyme tea): Tea made from thyme from Ulleungdo island
- Sollip-cha (솔잎차/ pine leaf tea): Korean red pine needle tea
- Ssukcha (쑥차/mugwort tea): Tea distinct from mulssuk cha, because it is made from Korean mugwort
- Yeonnip-cha (연잎차/ lotus leaf tea): Tea made from lotus leaves
- Dohwah-cha (도화차/桃花茶/ peach flower tea): Tea made of peach flowers
- Goehwa-cha (괴화차/槐花茶/ Pagoda flower tea): tea of pagoda flowers
- Gujeolcho-cha (구절초차/九節草茶/ dendranthema tea): white-lobe Korean dendranthema flowers
- Gukhwa-cha (국화차/菊花茶/ chrysanthemum tea): Indian chrysanthemum flower tea
- Gyehwa-cha (계화차/桂花茶/ cinnamon flower tea): Tea of Chinese cinnamon flowers
- Gyulhwa-cha (귤화차/橘花茶/ citrus flower tea): tea of citrus flowers
- Maehwa-cha (매화차/梅花茶/ plum flower tea): Chinese plum blossom tea
- Mindeulle-cha (민들레차/ dandelion tea): tea of Korean dandelions
- Mongnyeon-cha (목련차/木蓮茶/ magnolia tea): kobus magnolia flower tea
- Yeonkkot-cha (연꽃차/蓮花茶 / lotus flower tea): tea of lotus flower
- Daechu-cha (대추차/jujube tea): tea made from jujubes
- Gugija-cha (구기자차/枸杞子茶/ goji tea): tea of goji berries
- Gyulpi-cha (귤피차/橘皮茶/ citrus peel tea): tea of citrus peels
- Hobak-cha (호박차/ pumpkin tea): tea made from the cheese pumpkin
- Maesil-cha (매실차/梅實茶/ plum tea): Chinese plum tea
- Mogwa-cha (모과차/ quince tea): Chinese quince tea
- Ogwa-cha (오과차/五果茶/five fruit tea): tea made from walnuts, ginkgo, jujube, chestnut and dried persimmon
- Omae-cha (오매차/烏梅茶/ smoked plum tea): tea of smoked plums
- Omija-cha (오미자차/五味子茶/ magnolia berry tea): magnolia berry tea
- Sansuyu-cha (산수유차/山茱萸茶/ cornelian cherry tea): tea of cornelian cherries
- Seongnyu-cha (석류차/石榴茶/ pomegranate tea): tea made from pomegranates
- Taengja-cha (탱자차/ hardy orange tea): tea made from hardy oranges
- Yuja-cha (유자차/柚子茶/yuja tea): tea made from yuja, a type of citrus fruit
- Bori-cha (보리차/ barley tea): tea made from barley grains
- Gyeolmyeongja-cha (결명자차/決明子茶/ sickle pod tea): tea made of sickle pods
- Hyeonmi-cha (현미차/玄米茶/ brown rice tea): rice made from brown rice
- Memil-cha (메밀차/ buckwheat tea): tea made from buckwheat
- Misu-cha (미수차/ rice tea): tea made from rice
- Nokdu-cha (녹두차/綠豆茶/ mung bean tea): tea made from mung beans
- Oksusu-cha (옥수수차/ corn tea): corn kernel tea
- Yulmu-cha (율무차/ Job’s tears tea): tea made from Job’s tears
- Danggwi-cha (당귀차/當歸茶/ angelica root tea): Korean angelica root tea
- Doraji-cha (도라지차/ balloon flower tea): tea made from balloon flower roots
- Dunggulle-cha (둥굴레차/ Solomon’s seal tea): tea made from Solomon’s seal root
- Chikcha (칡차/ arrow root tea): East Asian arrow root tea
- Gyepi-cha (계피차/桂皮茶/ cinnamon tea): Chinese cinnamon bark tea
- Hongsam-cha (홍삼차/紅蔘茶/ Red ginseng tea): tea made from red ginseng
- Insam-cha (인삼차/人蔘茶/ ginseng tea): tea made from Korean ginseng
- Macha (마차/麻茶/ yam tea): tea of the Chinese yam
- Misam-cha (미삼차/尾蔘茶/ ginseng root hair tea): Korean ginseng root hair tea
- Saenggang-cha (생강차/生薑茶/ ginger tea): Tea made from ginger
- Ueong-cha (우엉차/ burdock tea): tea made from burdock roots
- Yeongeun-cha (연근차/蓮根茶/ lotus root tea): tea made from lotus root
- Beoseot-cha (버섯차/ mushroom tea): tea made from mushrooms
- Dasima-cha (다시마차/ kelp tea): tea made from kelp
- Donga-cha (동아차/ wintermelon tea): tea made from wintermelon flesh or seeds
- Giguk-cha (기국차/杞菊茶/ goji chrysanthemum tea): tea made from northern chrysanthemum, goji berries, black sesame seeds, jakseol green tea and milk
- Gyulgang-cha (귤강차/橘薑茶/ citrus ginger tea): tea made from citrus ginger tea
- Jeho-tang (제호탕/醍醐湯): tea made from smoked plums, medicinal cardamom, white sandalwood, black cardamom and honey
- Podo-cha (포도차/葡萄茶/ grape tea): Tea made from grapes, Korean pear, ginger and honey
- Ssanghwa-tang (쌍화탕/雙和湯): medicinal tea made from peony root, rehmannia root, Mongolian milkvetch root, Korean angelica root, lovage root, Chinese cinnamon bark and Chinese licorice.
- Sunchae-cha (순채차/蓴菜茶/watershield tea): tea made from watershield leaves, magnolia beery water, honey and pine nuts
Some of the earliest accounts of tea in Japan come from the Nara era (710-794). The initial contact with tea was experienced by envoys sent to Tang China’s capital of Chang’an. Tea and tea culture was intimately tied to Chinese and Buddhist culture. Tea was spread a number of ways, mainly by envoys, both Japanese returning from China, or envoys travelling from China and Korea. And Buddhist priests and monks, heading from Japan to study, or foreign monks travelling to Japan to proselytize and teach. All these different individuals brought back important aspects and artifacts from Chinese and Buddhist culture such poetry and other arts. The famed monks Kukai and Saicho were two monks in particular associated with bringing tea to Japan. Tea was not only patronized by Buddhist priests and monks, but even the Emperor patronized tea and encouraged the growth and cultivation of tea plants. By the medieval period and after being patronized by many famous monks, poets, samurai, warlords and emperors, tea took on epic proportions, with figures like Sen no Rikyu and the creation and formulation of the Japanese Tea Ceremony or Chanoyu/ Sado/Chado. The importance and role of tea in Japanese culture persists into the modern era, where Japan is still a powerhouse of tea production, preparation and consumption.
White Tea (白茶/ Baicha)
- Hakucha (はくちゃ/ 白茶): White tea is considerably rare in Japan
Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Sencha (煎茶): Japanese whole leaf green tea
- Jô Sencha (上煎茶): High or premium sencha
- Toku Jô Sencha (特上煎茶): Superior premium high sencha
- Hachijuhachiya Sencha (八十八夜): Sencha harvested 88 days after the beginning of spring
- Kabuse Sencha or Kabusecha(かぶせ茶): Sencha grown in the cover of shade
- Asamushi (浅蒸し): Sencha that has been lightly steamed
- Fukamushi or fukamushicha (深蒸し): A sencha that has been deeply steamed
- Shincha(新茶) or Ichibancha (一番茶): Sencha that is the first pick of the year
- Gyokuro (玉露/ jade dew): Green tea grown in the shade
- Tamaryokucha/ guricha (玉緑茶, coiled tea/ ぐり茶, curly tea): mild and less astringent tea produced in Kyushu
- Matcha (抹茶/ まっちゃ/ fine powder tea): Ground green tea leaves, used in the Japanese Tea ceremony.
- Tencha (碾茶): Green tea leaves that have grown in the shade, not yet ground into matcha
- Hojicha (ほうじ茶/ pan fried tea leaves): Roasted leaves, often served after dinner
- Bancha (番茶): Common green tea type, especially in the Western world
- Kukicha (茎茶/ twig tea): Tea that incorporates twigs, stalks and stems of the tea plant.
- Hakuyoucha (白葉茶, white leaf tea): White leaf green tea
- Kiraka (きら香): White leaf green tea produced in Shizuoka prefecture
- Hoshinomidori (星野緑, Hoshino green): White leaf green tea from Fukuoka prefecture
- Koganemidori (黄金みどり, green gold): A type of white leaf green tea from Shizuoka prefecture
- Yamabuki (山吹): A white leaf green tea named after the yellow Japanese kerria. Produced in Shizuoka prefecture
- Yame white sencha: Variety of white sencha tea
- Kanayamidroi white tea (かなやみどり): High quality type of sencha tea
Oolong Tea (烏龍)
- Oolong (烏龍茶): Rare type of Oolong produced in Japan
Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Kocha (紅茶): Japanese black tea, also considerably rare
- Genmaicha (玄米茶/ brown rice tea): Green tea with brown rice
- Kombu cha (昆布茶/ kelp Tea): No, this is not a mistake. Kombucha in Japan really is tea made from kelp, it is exceptionally salty, and is not similar at all to the common conception of “kombucha” as a fermented and effervescent drink. The confusion in names comes from a misapplication of the Japanese tea name by English speakers.
- Jasumine (さんぴん茶/ Sanpin-cha): Jasmine tea, especially popular and produced in Okinawa Prefecture
- Mugicha (麦茶/ barley tea): Tea made from barley grains
- Sobacha (そば茶/ buckwheat tea): Tea made from roasted buckwheat
- Gobocha (牛蒡茶/ burdock tea): Tea made from burdock
- Sakuracha (桜茶/ cherry blossom tea): Tea made from pickled cherry blossoms.
Vietnam is home to some of the oldest living tea plants in the world, especially in Ha Giang province. Vietnamese tea consumption and culture goes back thousands of years and predates contact with Chinese tea culture. Initially, peasants, farmers and rural communities would enjoy “fresh tea”. This way of enjoying tea involved individuals picking and gathering wild tea leaves from forests or highland areas, or from personal gardens to be ground or boiled and enjoyed as a family or as a community from a shared pot. With the increase in Chinese influence and a more stratified social structure, Sinicized tea ceremonies developed and were reserved for the wealthy and powerful in cities like Hanoi. The Sinicized style tea ceremonies and “Tra Dao” or “religion of tea” included expensive displays of opulence, measured and formalized brewing and serving methods, and the use of the Chinese style teapot. When Vietnam came under French colonial rule, the first plantation that cultivated tea for export was established in the 1800’s in Phu Tho province, which is still a breadbasket for tea today. After the turmoil of the Vietnam war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vietnam’s tea exports and culture faced a great deal of upheaval and strife. Today, Vietnamese tea culture as well as tea production for export and trade has been rejuvenated and is a testament to an ancient land of tea.
Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Chè nụ (tea flower bud tea): Tea made from the tea flower.
- Trà xanh (green tea): Vietnamese green tea.
Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Hồng trà(black tea): Vietnamese black tea
- Trà sen (lotus Tea): Lotus tea is a famous specialty tea of Vietnam. Made from a mix of high quality green tea and lotus petals
- Trà lài (Jasmine Tea): Popular as a beverage in Vietnam’s nightlife at cafes or as a follow-up beverage to special meals or Vietnamese iced coffee
- Trà atiso (artichoke tea): Tea made from parts of the artichoke plant from the Lam-Dong region
- Trà đắng (Kuding tea): Tea made from parts of a bitter plant for medicinal purposes.
- Chè vối (Cleistocalyx operculatus leaf and bud tea): Tea made from the Cleistocalyx plant.
- Trà cúc (Chrysanthemum tea): Tea made from chrysanthemums.
- Trà ngâu (aglaia leaf and flower tea): Tea made from the aglaia shrub.
- Trà sói (Chloranthaceae flower tea): tea made from the Chloranthaceae plant.
Tea consumption and tea culture in Thailand were traditionally attributed to two main groups. Various ethnic groups who inhabited the hills and highlands on the border between northern Thailand and China, and Chinese traders and settlers that came from both land and sea and settled in Thailand. For the ethnic groups in northern Thailand, like the Hmong and Labu, tea leaves were picked from wild tea trees in the jungle. The leaves were then made into a culinary treat called letpet or miang. To make this item, the leaves are steamed and packed into bamboo cylinders. The bamboo is then buried which allows the leaves to ferment for months. The resulting leaves are then not drunk, but instead served as a culinary dish alongside fried shrimp and other ingredients . Chinese merchants and settlers brought with them sinicized tea culture with an emphasis on Oolong tea. Black tea was also enjoyed and there even exists a native variant of the Assam tea plant in Thailand. Tea production, cultivation and export become more pronounced after an influx of Chinese settlers after the defeat of Chaing Kai Shek’s forces during China’s civil war. Many types of Oolong, black and green tea were brought to Thailand from Taiwan as well, where they flourished on plantations like Doi Mae Salong. Today, Thailand’s trademark tea is of course, the Thai Iced Tea, but many hybrid breeds developed from Taiwanese Oolongs and other sources thrive as well. Thailand’s northern region hosts a vast array of tea plantations.
Thai Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Bai Yai: Unoxidized tea made from the local Bai Yai plant
- Doi Mae Salong Cing Xin Green Pearls: Green tea produced in the Doi Mae region
Thai Oolong Tea (烏龍)
- Bai Yai Oolong: A Type of Oolong made from a native variant of the Assam tea plant
- Ruan Zhi Jade Pearls: A hybrid of local tea plants and Alishan Oolong from Taiwan
- Jin Xuan Blue Pearls: An aromatic and robust tea from northern Thailand
- Si Ji Chun Four Seasons: Rich type of Oolong developed from Alishan
- Dong Ding Blue Pearls: Descendant of Taiwanese Oolong grown in the Dong Ding mountains
- Cha Nang Ngam Cing Xin Oriental Beauty: A high quality Oolong known for its sublime taste and special flavor due to its interaction with the leafhopper, a type of insect
Thai Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Bai Miang (ใบเมี่ยง): A type of semi-wild native version of Assam tea plants
- Doi Mae Salong Jin Xuan Black Pearls: Black tea produced in the Doi Mae Salong region, has a pleasant aroma
Thai Fermented/Dark/Pu’erh tea (黑茶/ Heicha)
- Doi Wawee pu’erh: Pu’erh produced in Thailand’s Doi Wawee region
- Shan tea: A tea produced in the Shan region and features charcoal roasting of the fermented leaves of the Assam leaves that grow in Thailand
- Thai Tea (ชาเย็น/ cha yen/ cold tea): One of the most famous and popular tea variations in Southeast Asia and the world, this tea is made from tea (often black), condensed milk, sugar and often times other herbs, spices and flavorings. This drink can be prepared both hot or cold and several variations exist that include lime or other flavors and ingredients.
- Jasmine Tea: Prepared from local green tea plants and prepared in the traditional Chinese style with jasmine flowers
- Rice Tea (cha khao hoom): produced from green tea leaves and rice, that gives a pleasant rice aroma and taste
- Osmanthus tea: A tea prepared with osmanthus blossoms and green tea, and generally possesses a pleasant aroma
- Jiaogulan tea (Immortality herb): Tea made from the climbing plant, gynostemma pentaphyllum, purportedly contributes to high health and in some legends immortality
- Safflower tea: Tea made from the ground pulp of safflower, has a fruity-sweet flavor
- Mulberry leaves tea (cha raksa thai): traditionally consumed for medicinal purposes, this tea is made from mulberry leaves and has a nutty and grassy-vegetal taste
Tea consumption in Cambodia is believed to have begun during the Angkorian era. During this time envoys and merchants from China travelled to the court of the Khmer empire, and, like in many countries in Asia, brought tea along as a distinct and amiable aspect of Chinese culture. Tea and tea culture may have also been spread and flourished along the trade and communication routes between the ancient homelands of tea found in China, Burma, India and other parts of the region. A Cambodian variant of the tea plant camellia assamica exists, it is called the lasiocalyx. Tea still plays a role in Cambodian life today, either as a leisurely pursuit or performed as a tea ceremony during traditional Cambodian weddings, where the bride and groom present offerings of tea to ancestral spirits. Green and black tea are both popular and often used to make jasmine and other aromatic teas.
Cambodian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Cambodian Black Tea: Black tea is produced in Cambodia
- Lotus Tea: Tea usually made from black tea and the dried blossoms of lotus flowers.
- Jasmine Tea: Often made from the dried leaves and blossoms of green or black tea and jasmine flowers. This tea is often poured into a finished glass of robusta coffee to help chase the strong and bitter taste of robusta.
- Lemongrass tea: Tea made from lemongrass and other various herbs and spices.
Laos is home to some of the oldest tea trees in the world and is part of the original center of tea going back to prehistoric times. The practice of consuming tea predates contact with later Chinese tea culture, and includes enjoying the leaves for their medicinal and dietary value. Laos was also part of the Old Tea Horse Road and is credited with being a major producer of pu-erh and fermented tea even today. During Laos’s Lan Xang era which ruled from 1353 to 1707, tea became a major item for trade. When Laos became a French colony in the 1800’s, tea trees from Vietnam were imported to southern Laos, and research and study was conducted on the wild and ancient tea trees native to Laos. Especially the tea found in Xieng Khouang province and the Phou San area. Eventually tea cultivation in the southern part of Lao ceased as per a trade agreement between Britain and France in the 1930’s which protected British tea production in its Asian colonies. Occupation in World War II by Japanese forces helped to revive interest in tea production in Laos, but this also ceased at the onset of the Vietnam War. Today, Laos has been rebuilding its tea industry and capitalising on its ancient and exquisite tea trees and fine green, black and fermented teas.
Laotian Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Laotian Green Tea: Green tea is produced in Laos, either from wild trees or domestic plantations
Laotian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Laotian Black tea: Black tea is produced in Laos from either wild tea trees or plantations
Laotian Fermented/Dark/Pu’erh tea (黑茶/ Heicha)
- Laotian fermented tea: Bordering Yunnan, Laos produces pu-erh and pu-erh styled fermented teas
The history of tea in Singapore most likely began with the early interactions between Chinese and Indian merchants, envoys, explorers, sailors, settlers and conquerors. Both Chinese and Indian styles of tea have their place in Singapore where they have taken on unique identities all their own. When Singapore was founded as a British port in the 1800’s, tea was an important trading commodity that passed from China through Singapore on its way to Britain and the rest of the world. For this reason, Singapore has played an important role in the development of tea culture and consumption outside of Asia. The most famous example of Singaporean tea is teh tarik, a tea developed by Indian Muslim immigrants after World War II. Another famous example of tea culture in Singapore is the diao yu or “tea fishing” method of steeping tea bags. This method is so named because one moves their tea bag around their cup akin to the way a fisherman moves their fishing line through water.
Singaporean Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Singaporean Green tea: Green tea is popular in Singapore, often times prepared Chinese style
Singaporean Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Singaporean Black tea: Black tea is popular in Singapore, prepared either Chinese style, as English breakfast or earl gray, milk tea or bubble tea.
- Kopi Cham/Yuenyeung (鴛鴦): Beverage made with equal parts coffee and milk tea.
- Teh tarik (pulled tea): This drink was brought to Singapore by Indian Muslim immigrants. This drink is prepared by pouring a mixture of usually Ceylon tea between two mixing vessels thus “pulling” the tea. This tea is similar to Indian chai and many variations using other ingredients, spices and herbs exists.
- Bubble Tea (珍珠奶茶): Bubble tea, featuring either green or black tea, tapioca pearls and various other ingredients and toppings is popular in Singapore as an iced beverage.
Tea in Malaysia goes back over 100 years when Chinese immigrants arrived, many of whom carrying boxes of green tea. Today Chinese tea culture still persists, with teas like green and jasmine still having a popular audience. The first tea plantations in Malaysia, however, began in the late 20’s when the British entrepreneur J.A. Russell established BOA plantations, which is still a major producer of tea in Malaysia today. in addition to these two previous tea influences, Muslim immigrants introduced the “pulled tea” or teh tarik beverage. This style of tea is similar to chai and is enjoyed by many people in Malaysia today.
Malaysian Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Malaysian Green Tea: Popularly served at cafes, teahouses and in the Chinese style in a pot
Malaysian Oolong Tea (烏龍)
- Malaysian Oolong Tea:Also enjoyed at tea houses and often served Chinese style
Malaysian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Malaysian Black Tea: Black tea is often served as milk tea
- Teh Tarik: “pulled tea” so named for the way it is brewed, is made with black tea and condensed milk
- Teh Ais: Black tea served with ice and condensed milk
- Teh O Ais: Variant of teh ais served with sugar and no condensed milk
- Jasmine tea: Tea, often green, flavored with jasmine blossoms
- Chrysanthemum tea: Tea, sometimes green, flavored with chrysanthemum blossoms
Myanmar, formerly Burma is counted among the birthplace regions for tea. In fact a plethora of recent research suggests that Myanmar is THE birthplace of the camellia sinensis plant. While the myths and legends of Chinese tea regard China, specifically the Yunnan province region as tea consumption and culture’s place of origin, Myanmar has in recent years been regarded as its true birthplace instead. Tea in Myanmar was consumed both as a dietary staple as well as a beverage, mostly gathered by individuals from wild trees. Being at the crossroads between India and China has had an influence on the further development of Myanmar’s tea culture, with both Indic and Sinicized forms of tea and tea culture. Like many other Asian countries with a substantial tea culture, Buddhism has played a role in facilitating the growth and development of tea as both a source of ritual as well as recreation with street food and culinary culture also incorporating tea. One of the national dishes of Myanmar is lahpet, which is a dish made with pickled tea leaves. The modern development of commercial tea plantations does however reflect British colonial influence, but tea consumption and culture in Myanmar predates this cultural interaction. A wild variant of the camellia sinensis, the camellia irrawadiensis is native to Myanmar.
Myanmar Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Myanmar Green Tea: Produced mostly in the mountainous Shan state, one of the birth regions for tea
- Lahpet chauk, lahpet yei gyan: Green tea
Myanmar Oolong Tea (烏龍)
- Myanmar Oolong tea: Oolong is produced in Myanmar
Myanmar Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Myanmar Black Tea:As a birthplace of tea, especially the Assam variety, black tea is produced in Myanmar and used in many tea based beverages
Myanmar Fermented/Dark/Pu’erh tea (黑茶/ Heicha)
- Myanmar fermented tea:Burma was a participating region in the Old Tea Horse Road trade network, which witnessed the genesis of pu-erh, and produces fermented tea.
- Acho gyauk: Black tea, used with milk and sugar to make a sweet tea
The first tea plants in Indonesia were brought to the islands by a German citizen named Andreas Cleyer. Cleyer had brought the seeds from japan and planted them in Batavia as an ornamental plant. By the 1700’s, the Dutch established many tea plantations to compete with British tea operations in Asia. Originally with plants from China, until it was found the Assam and Indian varieties were better suited to the hot, humid and tropical climate of the islands. The production of tea continued until the upheavals of World War II temporarily halted the production of tea, mostly black tea, in Indonesia. The next big disruption would come in the modern era where palm oil production would disrupt tea cultivation as many tea plantations have been converted into palm oil plantations instead. Today, indonesia is the 7th largest tea producing nation in the world.
Indonesian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Indonesian Black Tea: Black tea is one of the major types of tea produced in Indonesia
- Milk tea: Milk tea and tea with sugar featuring black tea as the base is a popular drink in Indonesia
- Black jasmine tea: Black tea flavored with jasmine
Indian and South Asian Teas
Tea in India and south Asia still has an air of mystery and ambiguity in regards to the precise time when tea was consumed as a beverage. India’s Assam region is of course one of the many original birthplaces of the camellia sinensis and so wild tea plants may have been used by people inhabiting tea rich regions since antiquity. some theories claim that it was used under a different name, used in Ayurveda but only as a medicinal ingredient as opposed to a recreational one, and other theories that the legendary substance/drink “soma” found in Hindu epic and religious literature may in fact be tea. Some claims also include that tea consumption is recorded in the epic poem the Ramayana. But these theories have yet to be fully substantiated. Tea consumption did however have concrete records around the time of the Middle Ages and continued until the colonial period. The colonial period in India saw the rise of large scale commercial plantations and farms, mostly in the production of black tea for export to the rest of the British Empire. Over time, tea became a fixture and facet of Indian life. Some of the most famous teas found in India and the rest of South Asia include the Assam, Ceylon and Darjeeling varieties. One of the most well known Indian style teas is masala chai, itself a beverage made from black tea and various other ingredients, herbs and spices. This list includes tea found in other countries of South Asia aside from India, but will be included with special mention of their distinct national origin and identity.
Indian and South Asian White Tea (白茶/ Baicha)
- White Darjeeling (দার্জিলিং চা): Darjeeling white tea is said to have a delicate aroma
- Ceylon White: Cultivated in Sri Lanka and gathered from the Ceylon tea variety.
Indian and South Asian Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Green Darjeeling (দার্জিলিং চা):The green, unoxidized form of Darjeeling
- Ceylon Green: Grown in Sri Lanka, have a full body and pungent character
Indian and South Asian Oolong Tea (烏龍)
- Oolong Darjeeling (দার্জিলিং চা): A more recent style of processing Darjeeling
Indian and South Asian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Black Darjeeling (দার্জিলিং চা): The traditional style of Darjeeling tea preparation.
- Assam: Perhaps the most famous of all black teas, also the first black tea. This tea is named after the Assam region of India.
- Ceylon Black: Sri Lanka is a country that specializes in the production of this famous black tea
- Nilgiri: Produced in India’s Western Ghats region, said to be intensely aromatic and fragrant
Indian and South Asian Herbal/Floral/Infused/Other
- Masala Chai: Popular type of spiced tea featuring black tea and any combination of spices and ingredients but most often, milk, ginger, cinnamon and other Ayurvedic herbs and ingredients
- Butter Tea (བོད་ཇ་): Tea made with yak butter or cow’s milk, water and salt. Mostly enjoyed in the Himalayan regions of India and south Asia, or by areas with large Tibertan populations
- Noon Chai/sheer chai/ gulabi chai/ Kashmiri tea/pink tea: tea originating in the Kashmir Valley region and prepared with gunpowder tea, milk and baking soda
Nepal had maintained an isolationist policy under the rule of the Rana dynasty which reigned from 1800 to the early 1900’s. while the first tea plants were said to be a gift from the Emperor of China to one of the Rana clan Prime Ministers of Nepal, the cultivation of large scale tea plantations, was influenced by the introduction of Darjeeling hybrid plants from British India. Today, Nepal produces its own tea, and has an overseeing body, the Himalayan Orthodox Tea Producers Association. some of the rules enforced by the association includes production and harvesting techniques that promote respect towards nature, humans, the production and quality systems. Nepalese tea is often divided into two main types, Orthodox and CTC or Crush, tear curl. CTC was developed to mass harvest and process Assam tea leaves, and accounts for a huge portion of Nepal’s tea product.
Russia’s first contact with tea and tea culture began in the 1500’s when the Cossack leaders Petrov and Yalyshev paid a visit to China. Tea was introduced again another time in 1638 when the Tsar, Michael I received a large gift of tea from a Mongol ruler. Initially these gifts of tea were seen as devoid in value, nothing more than just some dried leaves, but on the insistence of the Khan, it was accepted. in the following years, tea caravans would make the trek from China to various trading posts in Central Asia and eventually to European Russia. When Russia annexed Siberia, the tea caravans operated on what came to be called the Siberian Route or the Moscow Highway. Over time, the camel caravans hauling bricks of mostly black tea were replaced by the Trans-Siberian railroad. with the use of the modern railroad, more tea could be hauled much faster. and by the 1900’s Russia had established some of its first tea plantations. Russian tea culture is very rich and found in many aspects of society. Some distinctive features of Russian tea include the large steel container for boiling water, the samovar (самовар), as well as the podstakannik (подстака́нник), an ornate steel holder for hot tea glasses. Russian tea is often served with refreshments and garnished with sugar, lemon, or even jam. a type of tea blend known as “Russian Caravan” exists, so named after the famous Siberian Route.
Russian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Russian black tea: Black tea from Odessa, Sochi, or Ceylon are popular in Russia.
- Russian Caravan:Slightly difficult to classify as it is a blend of Oolong, keemun black tea and lapsang souchong black tea. This tea often has a smoky, sweet and malty flavor. legend has it, that the smoky flavor came from the tea being exposed to campfires along the tea trade route.
- Chifir (чифи́рь): This is an exceptionally strong black tea, brewed and kept to the point of causing some mind altering effects. this type of tea is brewed in Russian prisons and gulags where alchohol is forbidden.
Mongolian tea culture goes back to contact with Han Chinese culture about 2000 years ago. Due to Mongolia’s harsh climate, tea served as not just a stimulating drink but also a dietary supplement as well. Trade between Chinese and Mongolians often saw the exchange of sturdy Mongolian horses with Chinese tea. Even into modern times, tea with butter and salt is a staple of a Mongolian diet. Wild tea plants also grow in Mongolia, where they served as both the basis of drinks as well as a vegetative supplement. Tea also holds a ritual and spiritual function, where every morning tea is spilt around the yurt, or tent, in tribute to the god of nature and the sky. Mongolia served as a major avenue of trade for tea and other goods across Asia for centuries.
- Suutei tsai (сүүтэй цай): Mongolian milk tea, made with green or black tea leaves, water, milk, butter or fat and salt. an important dietary staple.
- Tea with yellow rice: tea, yellow rice and melted butter and fried together
- Tea with dumplings: a type of tea variation involving flour and butter tea with dumplings added in
- Khiitstei tea: tea including flour and butter
- Tea with white rice: tea with rice and sometimes flour to thicken the drink
- Tea with dried meats: tea made with butter, flour and ground dried meats and occasionally white or yellow rice
- Tea with bone marrow: bones, occasionally even the whole head of a sheep with boiled milk tea. considered as a medicinal stress reliever.
Central Asian Teas
Central Asian Tea Tea in Central Asia was introduced during the time of the overland Silk Road, where goods from across Africa, Europe and Asia were transported far and wide. Here Central Asia functioned as a massive hub of trade, and here tea was consumed and enjoyed. Originally tea from the camellia sinensis plant remained expensive for the general populace, so tea made from alternative herbs and ingredients was brewed for a long time instead. Eventually, tea was accessible by all and the favored type was black and occasionally green tea. In Central Asia the choykhona is the tea house which serves as a social hub as well. Central Asian tea is often served to guests and enjoyed from a bowl-like cup known as a piala.
Central Asian Green Teas (綠茶/Luk-cha)
- Central Asian Green Tea: One of the most favorite types of tea in parts of Central Asia
Central Asian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Central Asian Black Tea: Black tea is enjoyed in many countries and areas of Central Asia, often enjoyed with milk.
Tea culture in Iran began towards the end of the 15th century. Prior to this time, coffee had demonstrated great hegemony on the Persian caffeinated beverage market. But, through its connection to the Silk Road, tea from India and China reached Persia where it developed its own unique style and culture. Tea rivaling coffee as a major beverage came about due to logistical issues with shipping coffee at the time. With China and India close to Iran and tea being able to be transported as bricks with longer shelf life than many types of coffee beans, tea became far easier to import. But growing was difficult. the first attempts to grow native Persian tea failed in the 1800’s until Prince Mohammed Milza brought 3000 tea plant saplings from India where he was the ambassador, and after thorough experimentation and trial and error found the perfect regions for Iranian tea. Gilan and Mazandaran are two regions south of the Caspian Sea, and due to their unique geography and climate, affected by the sea that they border, these regions are perfect for tea cultivation. The tea most produced and consumed in Iran is black tea, and Iranian black tea has a distinct hue ranging from pinkish, to ruby, to maroon, depending on how much the drinker has chosen to dilute the tea’s strength. The flavor is said to be sweet and not requiring milk or sugar like other types of black tea. Iranian tea culture is vivacious and tea is often served in ornate glass cups and beautifully decorated samovars are used to heat the water for the tea. The tradition of using samovars is also found in Russia, Central Asia and some other parts of West Asia and Eastern Europe. Tea houses in Iran are called chaikhanehs and they serve as communal meeting places. Iranian tea, especially when served at a chaikhaneh is accompanied by sweets like dried fruit and other confectionary treats. Tea is part of hospitality culture in Iran and guests are almost always served tea when they enter a home.
Iranian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Black Tea: Iran is a producer of black tea, which it makes in its Gilan and Mazandaran regions.
- Black tea with rose petals and cardamom: A popular way to enjoy Iranian tea, some variations include just tea with dried or crushed rose petals and exclude the cardamom.
Teas in the Middle East and Islamic Arab World
To be clear, this current section is meant to encapsulate the regions between Iran, Turkey and Sub-Saharan Africa. The countries represented in this profile will include both Arab and non-Arab countries of North Africa and the Middle East. The cultures included will also include both Muslim and the many non-muslim cultures of these regions. To begin with our background on tea in these regions, previously, like in Iran and Turkey, coffee was the drink of choice. but with various government and religious institutions restricting the access of coffee and alcohol to the general populace, and trade beginning to open up with India and China in the 1600’s via Iran and other regions, tea started to take coffee and alcohols place. By the 1700’s with more contact with the British Empire, tea started to become a more affordable commodity and consumed more readily. Today tea is known in Arabic as, شاي, or shaail or say. Tea is part of hospitality culture in many Arab countries and is served to guests. Both teapots and tea ware can be very intricate and elegant, featuring grandiose and exquisite designs.
Middle East Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Black Tea (شاي أحمر,/say ahmar): Black tea is one of the most commonly produced and consumed teas in the Middle East and Arab world.
Middle East Herbal/Floral/Infused/Other
- Sage (مريمية,/ maramia): Served as a digestif, can be brewed with or without black tea.
- Chamomile (بابونج,/ babunaj): Tea with dried chamomile blossoms.
- Anise (يانسون,/ yansun): Tea made with the anise plant
- Thyme (زعتر,/za’tar): Tea made with thyme, credited with improving memory and slowing down aging.
- Cardamom (هال,/ haal): Enjoyed as an aperitif before meals, made with cardamom.
- Maghrebi mint tea (الشاي,/as-say,التاي/at-tay): Famous in the Maghreb region, made with green tea and mint, often enjoyed as a palate-cleanser after meals.
- Mint tea (شاي بالنعناع,/ say bi-l-na’na): A mint tea often used as a health tonic against colds.
- Hibiscus (كركديه,/Karkadayya): Enjoyed hot with cold weather and cold with hot weather, made from hibiscus flowers.
- Cinnamon tea/Kuwaiti tea (شاي بالقرفة,/ say bi-l-qirfah): Tea made by boiling cinnamon sticks and sugar together.
- Dried lime tea (شاي لومي,/ say lumiyy): A traditional tea found in many Arab Gulf States.
- Milk tea: Black tea with milk and other ingredients like sugar.
- Breakfast tea: Often made with sugar and other ingredients like mint or cardamom, served in long glasses.
- Libyan Tea: Served in three courses and often uses peanuts or almonds as well as mint or basil. Has a foamy head.
While Turkey was a major player on the Silk Road, where tea was transported and traded throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, tea drinking and tea culture did not begin to develop until the 1800’s. Tea houses began operating in Istanbul, and tea was also further popularized by being touted as a health tonic. After World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, coffee became a more difficult commodity to obtain. Meanwhile, tea was able to be produced domestically, most famously in Turkey’s Rize region which borders the Black Sea. The founder of the modern state of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk promoted tea consumption as tea was not only domestically sustainable but also far more affordable for the general populace than Turkish coffee at the time. A famous brand of Turkish tea is Caykur, which is produced in the Rize region as well. Turkish tea culture is very vibrant and tea consumption is a regular part of daily life and hospitality culture in Turkey. Turkish tea is served in a similar manner to Turkish coffee, with two-tiered kettles called, çaydanlık, and in tulip-shaped ornate glasses and from intricate and exquisitely crafted teapots. Black tea is usually the tea of choice and beet sugar is used to sweeten tea. While milk with black tea is common in other parts of the globe, in Turkey this is an uncommon practice.
Turkish Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Rize tea (Rize çayı) :Black tea produced in Turkey’s Rize region. This tea is the centerpiece for Turkish tea culture and is sweetened with beet sugar or sugar lumps. The color is usually a deep mahogany depending on the strength of the brew one has chosen, either “demli” or strong, or “açık” or weak. It is served from tulip shaped glasses with decorative rims in cafes, this is part of its presentation.
- Apple tea (elma çayı): Herbal tea made with apple.
- Rose hip tea (kuşburnu çayı): Tea made with dried rose hip.
- Linden tea (ıhlamur çayı): Herbal tea made with dried linden flowers.
- Sage tea (ada çayı): Herbal tea made with dried sage.
Tea in Africa refers to any and all the countries found in the African continent that feature tea and tea culture in their cuisine. Tea culture in Africa is very antiquated, with some sources citing the Egyptian polymath Imhotep as enjoying various tisanes and infusions. In addition to ancient Egyptian tea brewing, the art of brewing leaves, roots, fruits and other ingredients as health tonics and elixirs is found in many traditional cultures throughout the continent. Tea made from camellia sinensis in Africa is also quite antiquated with some accounts attesting to camellia sinensis being brewed for tea in the first century in countries like Somalia. But it was during the 13th century with increased trading over the Maritime Silk Road across the Indian Ocean that saw a large increase in camellia sinensis consumption in Africa. During the Ming Dynasty and following voyages by explorers from China like Zhang He and his famous treasure fleet as well as African explorers and scholars such as Ibn Battuta and Sa’id of Mogadishu. The trade network between East Africa and Asia continued until Chinese isolationism took place in the 1400’s. From this time on, European traders sailing back to Europe from Asia, began stopping on their way in Africa. This allowed the tea trade to continue. During the age of colonialism, tea and tea culture from Britain and other colonial nations was imposed on African colonies, as well as tea plantations, most notably in Kenya, which is today the third largest producer of tea. With the fall of colonialism and African nations gaining their independence, tea has become both a source of export income as well as part of many African cultures today. Tea culture is diverse throughout Africa, with mint tea being enjoyed in North Africa, East Africa hosting a wide array of different teas, Kenya producing green, white, black and yellow tea and South Africa being famed for the non-camellia sinensis, rooibos. Some regions use exquisite tea kettles and specific types of cups, and other regions and cultures have special tea ceremonies. Tea is often part of hospitality culture, and like in many other parts of the world black tea is one of the most popular types of tea to enjoy. Indian immigrants brought their own styles of black tea, especially masala chai which can be found in many African countries.
- Hibiscus sabdariffa: Angolan tea made from hibiscus blossoms.
- Wild ginger tea: An infusion sold in Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Lidjiestee: Tea made from a type of mistletoe found in southern Africa.
- Devils Claw tea: Tea made from the grapple plant or Devil’s Claw, found in southern Africa.
- Honger tree tea: Tea made from the leaves of the Honger tree found in southern Africa.
- Wild olive leaf tea: Tea made from wild olive leaves by Xhosa healers in South and southern Africa.
- Masala chai: Introduced by Indian workers and immigrants. Made from black tea and other various herbs and spices.
- Mint tea: Usually green tea flavored with mint and sugar, enjoyed in Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Mauritania and Gambia.
- Milk tea: Black tea with milk and sugar, enjoyed in Mauritius and Kenya.
- Rooibos: Tea made from the leaves of the rooibos plant found in South Africa.
- Shaah: Black tea with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom from Somalia.
The first European country to have contact with camellia sinensis tea was Portugal. In 1516 Portuguese traders and merchants arrived in China, where they reported on the consumption of black tea. From here and the trade monopoly Portugal had with China and Japan, Portugal was able to possess exclusive trading rights for tea until the 17th century when Britain and the Netherlands overtook their trade hegemony in Asia. Tea was spread as a commodity all around Europe by the mid 1600’s, but it was England’s Royal Family that adopted the trend and made a daily event of tea consumption. It was from the adoption of tea and tea culture by England’s monarchy that made tea such a large part of British society. Ireland and Great Britain are the two largest tea consumers in Europe, but other countries in Europe enjoy tea, mostly of the black variety with green and herbal tea increasing in popularity as well. Portugal was not only the first country to introduce tea to western Europe, but also produces tea on the Azores islands. Central European countries and regions like Germany’s East Frisia is known for its tea culture as are the Czech Republic and Slovakia. France, too has a tea culture, one that is featured in the works of writer Marcel Proust.
European Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Black Tea: One of the most popular types of leaves, European tea drinkers will often add cream, milk, sugar or lemon to their tea.
- English breakfast tea: Tea blend of black teas such as Assam, Kenyan, Ceylon and Keemun. Notable brands include Twinings, Dilmah, Taylors of Harrogate, Ahmad Tea, Tetley and PG Tips. Often drank with cream, milk and sugar.
- Irish Breakfast Tea: Blend of black teas, predominantly Assam tea. Brands include Barry’s, Bewley’s, Lyons, Robert Roberts in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, Nambarrie’s and Punjana. It is consumed throughout the day and is often enjoyed with milk.
- East Frisian Blend: Black tea served with white rock candy sugar, and heavy cream.
- Builder’s tea: Strong black tea served with milk and two spoonfuls of sugar in the United Kingdom
- Earl Grey: Black tea flavored with the oil of the citrus fruit, bergamot.
- Hot toddy/hot whiskey: Alcoholic drink usually made from whiskey, hot water, honey, tea and other spices and sugars. Originated in Ireland.
Tea is a large part of Australian culture. The Aborigines of Australia brewed an herbal tea from the “ti tree”. Though not camellia sinensis, the name was the same as the one used by the British when they landed in Australia in the late 1700’s. Australian tea culture is heavily influenced by British tea culture, such as afternoon tea and other practices of British origin. Australia also cultivates tea, mostly of the green and black varieties.
Australian Black Tea (红茶/ Hong Cha)
- Black Tea: A popular tea type, often enjoyed British style, with milk and sugar.
- Ti tree tea: An herbal tea brewed from the flowers and leaves of the ti tree, enjoyed by Australian Aborigines for centuries.
- Eucalyptus tea: Tea made from just the leaves of the eucalyptus tree or an infusion with green or black tea.
Teas of the Americas
Many different types of herbal teas were brewed by the indigenous cultures of both North and South America for centuries before European and possibly also Asian contact. The teas brewed by native people were often used for healing, health, refreshment or ritual purposes and many of these teas are still brewed today. Many countries and regions on both continents are influenced by the indigenous groups who originally lived there, the European groups who colonized there, later immigrant groups who migrated to said country or region and the culmination of all of these factors to make a distinct and unique culture of tea all its own.
An important part of tea history and culture in North American would certainly be the Boston Tea Party. Prior to this event, tea was introduced to the American colonies by the Dutch in their colony of New York, from then on all classes in the colonies drank tea, and in some places, the leaves were eaten as a vegetable with butter. The Boston Tea Party took place when American colonists, angry with taxes they perceived as unfair imposed on them by their British rulers, destroyed an expensive load of tea in Boston Harbor, costing their British overlords a great sum of money in damages. From this time on, tea was considered unpatriotic and coffee or non-camellia sinensis tea was consumed instead. Tea in the United States eventually came back into style in the 70’s when the People’s Republic of China resumed trade with America. Today, iced and sweet tea are enjoyed in the American South where it is a feature of hospitality culture. specialty teas, herbal teas, health teas and authentic tea from Asia have all come into vogue and the United States has a large list of alcoholic teas as well. Canada also has a tea culture influenced by Great Britain, immigrants from regions with tea cultures and modern interest in teas for health and trend purposes. Canada also has a vibrant herbal tea culture that was started by the indigenous people of Canada, many of these teas were used in sweat lodges and other religious and spiritual practices. One of particular note is pine needle tea, brewed by native people in Canada as a source of vitamin C. Some tea companies that originated in North America include Argo Tea, Bigelow Tea Company, Celestial Seasonings, Snapple, AriZona and Tazo which were all founded in the United States and Salada Tea which was founded in Montreal. Tea bags were also invented in the United States.
South and Central America also have tea cultures, especially the tea culture centered around the consumption of Yerba Mate. Yerba Mate was first brewed by the Guarani and Tupi people of Brazil and Paraguay. Yerba Mate is made from the Ilex paraguariensis plant, a type of holly. When Europeans arrived in South America, they not only embraced the drink but also set up plantations for the yerba mate plant around the continent. It is common to find people enjoying yerba mate throughout the day in Argentina and other parts of South America, most often with the traditional calabash gourd mug and the silver bombilla straw. Different types of teas were also introduced to Brazil by the Portuguese. Eventually, plantations to cultivate tea were also introduced, but fell into disuse for some time. In the ‘20’s Japanese immigrants revivided tea cultivation in the Brazilian Highlands.
- Sweet Tea: Popular in the Southern American States, black tea sweetened with sugar, simple syrup, artificial sweetener and often flavored as lemon, peach, raspberry and mint.
- John Daly: An alcoholic tea cocktail named after American golfer John Daly. Consists of sweet tea and vodka.
- Yerba Mate: Tea made from the yerba mate plant and often drank from a gourd with a silver or stainless steel straw called a bombilla. Enjoyed all over South America, especially Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.
- Lemongrass tea (capim-santo, capim-limão, capim cidreira): Popular as an herbal and health tea in Brazil, includes an iced variation made with pineapple peelings.
- Lemon balm tea (erva-cidreira or citronela): Brazilian tea made from the lemon balm plant.
- Mint tea (hortelã): Brazilian tea made with mint
- Ayahuasca: Hallucinogenic tea brewed by indigienous people for religious and spiritual purposes. This tea has caused controversy due to its hallucinogenic effects and is outlawed in many countries outside of Brazil. Made from the Ayahuasca vine and the chacruna shrub.
- Poleo tea: Mexican tea made from a member of the mint family.
- Good Herb tea (Hierba buena): Mexican mint tea.
- Damiana tea: Tea consumed in Mexico and Brazil from the damiana plant.
- Agua de Jamaica: Tea made from the flowers and leaves of the Jamaican hibiscus plant. enjoyed in Mexico and other regions and is served cold
- Agua fresca: Class of drinks prepared in Mexico, often using various types of fruits, leaves, flowers, cereal grains, spices, nuts and herbs.
- Cocoa tea: A Dominican tea made with cocoa, water, condensed milk, cinnamon, Christmas bush leaves or bay leaves, nutmeg and sugar.
- Hibiscus tea: Tea popular in the Caribbean and made from the native hibiscus plant.
- “Bush tea”: Teas made by the indigienous people of Caribbean islands like the Dominican Republic. These teas are made using native plants and herbs.
- Pine needle tea: Tea brewed by Canadian indigenious groups and made from pine needles.
Related Article: Tea Tour: Best Tea Tourism Destinations
Tea preparations, ceremonies and tea ware
“On a cold winter night
a friend dropped by.
We did not drink wine
but instead drank tea.
The kettle bubbled,
the coals glowed,
the bright moon shone
outside my window.
The moon itself
was nothing special-
but, oh, the plum-tree
Tu Hisaio Shan,
“LuYu Visits a Tea Water Well”.
The previous section presented the universality of tea, cataloguing and detailing as much as possible with the resources we currently have about the diversity of tea around the world. The next piece of the larger tea picture now will be the preparation methods employed. The previous section also touched upon some brewing and tea preparation methods, this section will go into a bit more detail about these. Types of tea pots and some brewing techniques will also have a presence in this section of the guide.
Originally, hot brewing was one of the only options to enjoy tea, that is, unless the leaves were being prepared as a culinary dish as they are in various cuisines from around the world. And while many cultures have maintained the tradition of brewing tea with hot water, there are different modes that have been utilized. From steel to silver to clay pots. The profundity of tea brewing has differed around the world, too. Tea can be brewed for purely the caffeine content; it can be brewed as an accoutrement to socializing. And in the case of the Japanese tea ceremony, it can be a mode of spiritual reflection and fulfillment. The simplicity of brewing can amount to pouring hot water on a tea bag and letting it steep for a few minutes, to the elaborate washing and re-brewing found in the traditional preparation of pu’erh. Today more nuance than even these exists, with hot brewing no longer being the exclusive mode of tea preparation. Cold brew, ice brew, sun tea and even kombucha, which is prepared with a combination of boiling and cold preparation are all modes for preparing tea.
Easily the oldest, and for a long time, only, method of preparing tea. Even in the legend of tea starring the Divine Farmer, Shennong, it features him enjoying boiled water when the tea leaves serendipitously waft into his cup. The methods of brewing hot tea are manifold, one of the oldest being boiling the leaves in a steel cauldron and then pouring the hot water into cups where the leaves are already waiting. Other additional ancient methods of tea consumption include chewing the leaves raw, as is featured in some of the Buddhist alternative tea origin myths. Bodhidharma is usually said to have, “chewed” the leaves of the newly sprung green tea plant after ripping his eyelids off. Cooking the leaves is another method of preparation. Some cooking methods include steaming, boiling or frying the leaves.
While cold brew has become a popular and sensational brewing method for both coffee and tea in recent years, their origins are supposedly quite antiquated in comparison. Supposedly the cold brewing method of brewing tea originated in Japan in the 16th or 17th centuries, but it is possible the tradition started sooner. This method includes steeping tea bags or leaves in cold or room temperature for a few hours. This slow method allows the tea to gently and slowly release its flavor and makes for a different taste than when the same tea is hot brewed, one that many drinkers find to be less astringent and less harsh.
Different than ice tea, this method is a variation on cold brew, but includes placing the tea leaves or bags into a jar or other container with ice cubes, which are allowed to slowly melt and brew the tea over time.
Potentially invented as early as the 1800’s, this method of tea brewing came into vogue in the ‘70’s in the United States. The brewing method is also similar to cold brew. The tea is placed in a pitcher of water and left out in the sun; this drink was ideally made in the summer or other warmer or sunny seasons. Over time, the tea would be infused into the water in the pitcher. Recently this method of tea brewing has been discouraged because various types of bacteria can develop in the tea as there are no hot or boiling methods to kill any harmful bacteria. As an alternative, cold brewing is suggested.
A special mention goes to kombucha due to its unique styling of preparation in comparison to other more typical tea brewing techniques. Kombucha’s history has some mysterious aspects, generally said to have been first brewed anywhere from 200-2000 years ago in Northeastern China, today it is a popular beverage for its supposed health enhancing and promoting benefits as well as its unique taste and effects on the mind and body. Kombucha also has a much different brewing technique than other teas. First, water is boiled and mixed with sugar, then the tea leaves, either green or black, are steeped in the hot sugar water and then discarded after a few minutes. Next, the resulting liquid is cooled off and then goes through a series of steps leading to fermentation, usually by being mixed in with previously prepared kombucha and various fermented bacteria cultures. As kombucha is usually enjoyed chilled or cold, the final product is kept in a cool place before being consumed.
Tea Pots, wares and accoutrements
When it comes to charisma in the world of tea culture, the tea pot has always had a special place. Serving both the incredibly important functional role of being the conduit in which the tea is brewed as well as serving an aesthetic and personality function that gives the tea pot a special place in this guide. Tea sets are exquisite, and it is the tea pot that a set centers on, with the cups following suit with the leader of the set, the tea pot. Although the tea pot will be the main focus for this section, other tea ware items and accoutrements will also receive a special mention. Tea cups, mugs, and even tea cozies have not been forgotten!
The origins of the teapot, like tea itself, go back to China. During the Tang era, water was boiled in a cauldron, and then poured over leaves waiting in cups or bowls. After the Tang dynasty, came the Song dynasty, where ground tea leaves were served in bowls and stirred with a brush, the ancestor of both the gaiwan style of tea drinking as well as matcha tea, and the development of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The first example of true tea pots as we would recognize them today have their origins in China during the reign of the Mongol Yuan dynasty. The prevailing theory is that the pots were based off the design used for ceramic wine jugs. Bronze, silver and other precious metals were also used to make exquisite tea pots. By the time of the incumbent Ming dynasty, tea pots would be commonplace and famous pots like the yixing would come into development. The original design of these early Chinese teapots were smaller than today’s standard teapot, this is because pots would be used by individuals, rather than communally. The smaller pots also served the role of keeping portions, flavors and aromas more concentrated and controlled by the brewer. Supposedly, the tea would be drunk straight from the spout of the pot, too.
When tea and tea culture eventually made their way to Europe in the 17th century, they were accompanied by porcelain teapots, many of which were painted in the “blue and white” under glaze style that became nearly synonymous with the Ming dynasty itself. The Chinese porcelain was highly coveted by the European upper classes. Not only was tea drinking a sign of wealth and status due to the expense of buying tea, but porcelain was impossible to produce in Europe at this time. Not only were these Chinese pots exotic and rare, but they also served the practical function of brewing the luxury beverage. Over time, European designers were able to craft porcelain ware, using the Chinese pots as a model and emulating their style. But in addition to porcelain, silver teapots were also crafted, especially in the colonial American city, Boston.
Clay teapots were first used in China in the early to mid-Renaissance period, or Yuan into Ming in the 15th century. Clay teapots, especially unglazed pots like the yixing have the special property of being able to absorb flavor and aroma from strong teas like pu’erh. This is because the clay itself is porous and can withhold lots of the residue necessary to give the pot character when brewing tea. The origins of the yixing in particular go back to the Song dynasty where they were developed near the city of Yixing in Jiangsu province. Other types and styles of clay pots spread around Asia and the rest of the world.
- Yixing: one of the most famous clay pots from China, and according to many sources, the first tea pot ever. Also known as ZiSha, or “purple sand”, named after the type of clay used to create these pieces. Legend has it that a monk from the Jinsha or “Golden Sand” temple crafted the first Yixing during the reign of emperor Zhengde. Yixing come in many colors, styles and sizes of diverse ranges. The type of clay and materials used to craft these pots varies, too. They are unglazed and ideally used for only one type of tea such as pu’erh, black tea or Oolong.
- Raku: The Raku style of tea ware was developed by the Japanese tea master Sen no Rikyu and the tile maker Chojiro. The clay pots and wares are made in the wabi-sabi style, an aesthetic movement and philosophy pursued by Rikyu. This particular aesthetic emphasis designs that are not uniform and have a rugged and weathered appearance. Eventually, Chojiro’s son took the family name Raku and Raku ware was made especially by the family. Raku ware is a large term with tea pots only being a particular aspect of Raku ware. Many different glazing and design styles exist.
- Brown Betty: This style of tea pot was originally made from red clay and glazed. This type of pot originates in Great Britain from the end of the 1600’s. The original design had been altered since its inception until the Victorian era, when public perception considered the tea brewed in brown Betty style pots excellent due to the extra room the leaves had to unfurl and release more aroma and flavor.
Developments in ceramic ware in China began far before the first tea pot was crafted out of porcelain, back during in the Han dynasty. Trade with China and the Islamic world also predates the first arrival of the luxuriant ceramic ware known as porcelain in Europe by a couple hundred years. Initially ceramic tea pots were more simplistic in their designs and decor. But with porcelain, a more highly refined design began to develop.
Korea also became a major center for pottery and ceramic ware. First, with earthenware pottery and then porcelain ceramic wares. Two dynastic eras in Korea’s history are even known for the style and color of their ceramics and tea ware. During Korea’s Goryeo era, celadon, a soft turquoise color was favored. Many exquisite celadon items were crafted including tea and wine ewers shaped like dragons and other mythological creatures. Korea’s following dynasty, Joseon, also was known for superb pottery, this time, favoring white. Joseon white ceramics, especially tea ware reflect the Korean dynasty’s state political philosophy, Neo-Confucianism, which favors the color white due to its association with purity. In the late 1500’s the Imjin war broke out in Northeast Asia. The war took place on the Korean peninsula. The war began with a Japanese invasion spearheaded by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The invasion included an assault on Joseon Korea with an attempt to march on Ming China. The series of military engagements are occasionally called, “the Pottery wars” due to the large number of fine Korean pottery items both taken back to Japan as well as the number of Korean prisoners of war who were potters taken back as well. The enslaved Korean potters were often tasked with creating tea ware and many of these techniques were passed on to Japanese craftsmen who developed a Japanese porcelain industry on the island. Many famous types of wares were developed in Japan including Imari ware, Nabeshima ware and Kakiemon which were patronized by powerful lords and noble families.
The European elite who were also tea drinkers coveted the fine “blue and white” porcelain pieces being shipped from Ming China. And like tea itself at the time, China had a monopoly on the item, because European potters could not reproduce porcelain in the way it was being crafted in Asia, hence our modern word today, “china” referring to fine porcelain ware items. Eventually, European potters did engineer a way to reproduce porcelain; in 1710 Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus developed a way to craft porcelain for the first time in Europe. This was in Dresden Germany at the Meissen factory, opening up the world to Meissen ware pottery. Other major places for porcelain development in Europe include Saint-Cloud, Chantilly and Vincennes in France. Doccia, Capodimonte, Vezzi, Cozzi and Le Nove in Italy. and in England, Chelsea, Bow, Sta. James, Bristol, Longton Hall, Royal Crown Derby, Royal Worcester, Lowestoft, Wedgwood and Spode. Today, in addition to many fine porcelain pieces of tea ware are various other quality ceramic tea pots and cups.
- Kyusu: The kyusu is a type of Japanese teapot, usually used for brewing green tea in particular. The origins of the kyusu began in China most likely during the Tang era, and introduced to Japan by envoys returning from missions to the mainland. Kyusu in Japanese just means “tea pot” and so kyusu is more of an umbrella term. Other variants of the kyusu exist such as the yokode kyusu, which is distinct with its side handle. The ushirode kyusu, which has a standard handle in the back, and the uwade kyusu, which sports a top handle. There are many different sizes, colors and styles for kyusu, but a common color is a reddish-brown hue similar to the color of many unglazed yixing pots.
- Chawan: Chawan are tea bowls used throughout East Asia, especially in tea ceremonies, the most well known examples in the West are generally the Japanese style of tea bowls. This piece of tea ware was developed in China and imported to Japan somewhere between the 13th and 16th centuries. These tea ware items can range in design, from the styles meant to emulate the earlier Chinese designs, to the irregular, weathered and asymmetrical style following the wabi-sabi philosophy.
- Yunomi: Japanese tea cup for everyday and informal usage. While the chawan is for more formal situations like the tea ceremony, the yunomi is for any occasion and is even used as a tea cup in restaurants. The cups are usually tall and cylindrical, and can follow a myriad set of patterns or designs.
- Gaiwan or Zhong: This Chinese tea ware item is a lidded tea cup without a handle. The whole set for a gaiwan includes the tea bowl, the lid and a saucer. The designs and materials can also be various. The gaiwan was developed during the Ming dynasty; the goal of the gaiwan is to be able to brew tea leaves right in the cup, with the lid helping to keep in the heat and aroma of the beverage. Gaiwans are ideal for white, green and Oolong tea as well as jasmine tea.
- Cube teapot: A British invention from the 1900’s. This teapot is cubical in shape so it could be taken aboard ships and not roll or tip over when the ship rocked.
Many precious metals have been used to craft quality tea pots and other tea ware items. Stainless steel is a common material that is used, but silver, bronze and gold were all used, with silver tea pots being a popular item crafted in Boston during colonial times. In Moroccan tea culture, the stainless steel pot in particular is of special importance and in Russia, Central Asia, Turkey and parts of Eastern Europe, the steel samovar is also a key item in tea brewing.
- Samovar: The samovar or “self-brewer” used in Russia and other countries to heat the water for tea. The design is usually urn-like but other designs, made from other materials and of various levels of decor all exist.
- Podstakannik: Russian metal tea glass holder. The Podstakannik or “thing under the glass” features different levels of intricacy in the design and craftsmanship of this item. Different metals ranging in preciousness can also be used.
- Tetsubin: In Japan, these are cast-iron kettles are used for boiling water for tea and other purposes. Believed to have developed around the 17th century, these kettles have been used both for the brewing of sencha as well as for matcha and preparation of tea for the Japanese tea ceremony.
- Tetsu kyusu: The tetsu kyusu is a teapot that is crafted in the style of a tetsubin. They are covered with a glaze that would crack if boiled on an open heat source, and so they are used like standard tea pots instead.
Within the past 100 years or so, glass teapots have also come into vogue. Glass tea pots and tea ware are prized as vessels for brewing loose leaf and floral teas. The glass body of the pots allows drinkers to see how the leaves and blossoms unfurl, twist, and seemingly writhe in the hot water when brewed. Glass is also used for the tea cups in North Africa, Turkey, Russia and when the teas being served are cold brewed or iced tea like in the Southern United States.
Other items, utensils and accoutrements also accompany tea. From various handling tools to tea cozies and more. Many of them serve practical functions, but like the tea pot and tea cups, have taken on lives of their own, also serving aesthetic and sentimental roles in addition to practical functions.
- Kettles for heating water. Some have developed into cultural symbols, like the samovar.
- Pot holders, textile or silicone objects serve to hold hot pots like the tea pot or kettle
- Slop bowls serve the function of being a receptacle for emptying cooled tea or tea dregs.
- Tea lights are small candles that are lit underneath teapots to keep them warm
- Tea sets may occasionally include receptacles for milk, sugar and other ingredients
- Saucers accompany cups, which also are both often found among matching pieces in tea sets
- Tea cozy, invented in Britain a cloth or linen article used to keep a tea pot warm and help it retain heat.
- Tea spoons used to either pour in measured amounts of loose leaf tea or also for adding extra ingredients like sugar.
- Tea bowls can be used to aid in brewing, serving or being enjoyed in lieu of a mug or cup.
- Tea trays are used for serving tea on, or, in the case of tea trays in Gongfu sets, pouring out some tea, especially when washing pu;’erh or black tea in the first brewing.
- Tea tongs are used especially in East Asian tea culture to serve loose leaf tea or handle hot objects or sugar cubes as in other tea cultures.
- Tea scoops are used to measure out portions of loose leaf tea or matcha.
- Tea strainers are used to enjoy loose leaf tea or infusions and allow for convenient and clean disposal of ingredients.
- Tea sticks and infusers can be stainless steel balls or long sticks used to conveniently brew loose leaf tea or infusions.
- Tea pets are found in Chinese and East Asian tea culture, the tea pet is an accoutrement often found in the Gongfu tea ceremony style of preparation. Tea is poured on a tea pet for good luck and they can often be in the shape of a three-legged money toad, the Maitreya Buddha, dragons and other mythical animals. A type of tea pet known as a “tea boy” is filled with cold water and has hot water poured over the top. This will force the cold water to spray out of the tea pet in a comical manner and also serve the practical function of letting the tea master know if the water is hot enough for brewing. In addition to bringing good luck and serving a pleasant aesthetic quality, tea pets may also change color over time with enough use, and serve as a means of emptying tea into the basin under the Gongfu tea tray more safely.
- Yerba mate gourd is used for enjoying yerba mate as invented by the native Guarani and Tupi people of South America. The gourd of choice is typically a hollowed out calabash gourd, but other types of cups and mugs may be used. Yerba mate also requires a stainless steel, metal or silver straw known as a bombilla.
The Way of Tea is an art form and sometimes even daily ritual and practice appreciated and observed all over the world. The first tea ceremonies were developed in China and many were developed in tandem with Chinese Buddhism. The tradition of synergizing Buddhism with tea and tea culture into formalized rituals was spread throughout East Asia, like Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other regions. The Japanese tea ceremony is one of the most well know examples of the Way of Tea in practice. But examples of what may constitute as tea ceremonies also exist outside of the East Asian cultural sphere. Other examples include the English practice of “Afternoon tea” and the Western practice of having formal tea parties, like in the Victorian era. In a similar manner to East Asian tea practices, British tea culture in particular has established and set etiquette, rules, rituals and was originally only practiced by the aristocracy like the royal family themselves, before spreading to other members of society. Many treatises and writings have been conducted on tea ceremonies throughout history, including details offered in The Classic of Tea, by the Tang dynasty Sage of Tea himself, Lu Yu. Today, tea ceremonies are performed and enjoyed all over the world, even outside of their respective countries of origin.
Gongfu Tea ceremony ( 工夫茶 or 功夫茶, Pinyin: 老人茶 )
This Chinese tea ceremony is believed to have originated in southern China, in provinces such as Fujian and Guangdong. While there is some debate as to which province originated the practice first, it is The Chaoshan area in Guangdong province that often stakes the most claim. This tea ceremony is even sometimes referred to as the “Chaoshan Gongfu Cha” and the region is regarded as the capital of Gongfu. The name “GongFu” is usually translated as “making tea with skill”. The origins of this practice most likely go back to court rituals or the methods to prepare tea as practiced in monasteries and by scholar officials. The Gongfu tea ceremony is performed and enjoyed today all over the world, especially at tea houses that specialize in Chinese tea and tea culture. Outside of Mainland China and Hong Kong, Taiwan offers many great examples of the Gongfu tea ceremony in many tea houses across the island. As for the tea used in a Gongfu ceremony, typically pu’erh or black tea from a yixing pot or Oolong or green tea from gaiwan cups are the two main types of Gongfu teas, but other pots and tea ware with other varieties of tea can certainly be used too.
- Yixing pot, gaiwan or other types of tea pots
- The cups will usually match the pot used, for example, a Zhisha tea pot will have matching Zhisha cups. there are usually three cups but more can be used and they are called pinming cups
- Fragrance cup used to admire the tea’s fragrant aroma
- Tea pitcher to evenly serve tea
- Brewing tray, this comprises of a deep basin and a flat grated cover. The brewing tray allows for spills, both accidental and on purpose, in the case of washing tea leaves with a first brewing.
- Tea cloth for cleanup.
- Tea spoon or pick for clearing the tea spout, preparing portions of pu’erh from the pu’erh tea cake and other necessary actions.
- Strainer, which may also be installed in the tea pitcher or possibly the teapot itself.
- Tea holder or tea tin.
- Kettle, though some Gongfu sets come with a built in method for providing heated water.
- Tea scoop for portioning or even weighing loose leaf tea.
- Tea tongs, used for handling tea leaves or other tasks.
- Tea pet, this item usually is made from the same clay as yixing pots and can serve both an aesthetic function as well as a practical one.
Korean tea ceremony (다례, 茶禮, “Tea rite”, “etiquette of tea” also 다도, “Way of Tea”)
Tea and tea culture were introduced to Korea via China and like other countries in Asia that were introduced to tea via China’s cultural sphere of influence, it was deeply tied to Buddhism, as it still is today. Over time and development, the tea ceremony and the enjoyment of tea would be adapted to different social groups and in different contexts throughout society. There are Confucian tea rites and Buddhist tea rites. Confucian tea rites may be performed on special holidays or in veneration of past ancestors. The Buddhist tea rites may be done for similar reasons, with the addition of venerating the Buddha. Tea rites and tea ceremonies can be performed at traditional style tea houses, at Buddhist temples, cemeteries and graveyards for Confucian ancestor rites, at special events on holidays or for tourism or showcasing purposes, too. There are even modern institutions that grant proficient students certifications as tea masters who can perform tea ceremonies. Typically for tea ceremonies not performed by Buddhist monastics or clergy, traditional Korean folk clothing like hanbok is worn. The type of tea used depends on the season, same with the tea ware colors and styles used. Typically green tea is the tea of choice, but native Korean styles of black tea as well as herbal teas may also be served. The tea is almost always loose leaf rather than powdered tea like in Japanese tea ceremonies.
- Teapot, the style and colors are dependent on factors and variables like the season and the context of the ritual. For Confucian rituals, a smoother, more uniform style of pot and cups are used, usually colored white, the Confucian color of purity. Buddhist rituals may use Goryeo style celadon or other colors and may use sets that demonstrate a more asymmetrical, weathered and naturalistic appearance. Secular or other tea ceremonies can use any style or colors appropriate to the season and tea. the pots also often have a side handle similar to yokode kyusu pots.
- Tea bowl for pouring the tea to cool and serving into the cups.
- The cups will match the tea pot and bowl, they also are handle-less, shallow and wide lipped.
Vietnamese tea ceremony
The Vietnamese tea ceremony is also influenced by Chinese tea culture, Buddhism and Confucianism but certainly with distinct Vietnamese cultural marks. The tea ceremony is performed at weddings. The ceremony is done to not only celebrate the happy bride and groom but also to venerate ancestors both living and deceased. The couple will take their wedding vows and exchange rings, and then they will serve green or chrysanthemum tea to the families present, starting with the eldest members. Gifts will be received by the couple and the ceremony ends with the lighting of dragon and phoenix candles, representing the union of the groom (dragon) and phoenix (bride).
- The teapot, cups and tea tray will often all be of the same color, design and style. Porcelain is often the material of choice.
Japanese Tea ceremony (茶の湯 “chanoyu, 茶道 “chado, sado”)
The Japanese tea ceremony was first developed in Japan around the 12th century in Zen Buddhist monasteries. Tea had been in Japan for centuries before, but the use of loose leaf and then powdered matcha tea became more common in the 12th century. The ceremony was first practiced as a religious ritual by the monastic clergy before being performed and incorporated into the lifestyles and practices of the ruling warrior class. As the samurai went from just soldiers to the rulers of the nation, many adopting Zen Buddhism as their personal faiths, allowed the tea ceremony to not only gain patronage from powerful and influential warlords, but also adapt, change and evolve within Japanese society. Originally tea ceremonies practiced outside of Buddhist temples were lavish displays of wealth and opulence, but with tea masters like Sen no Rikyu, the ideal and philosophy changed to fit more with the Zen worldview. The various rules, rituals, etiquette, philosophy and aesthetic of the tea ceremony were developed under Rikyu and have continued into the modern era. Japanese tea ceremonies often take place in specially designed tea houses, which themselves are often surrounded by tea gardens, but other venues can host tea ceremonies as well. Seasons often dictate the specific types of calligraphy, tea ware, flower arrangements and incense to use and the tea of choice is almost always matcha, powdered green tea, though tea ceremonies using sencha do exist, but are not as common.
- Kettle, though traditional heating methods like using a tetsubin, may be used instead.
- Tea bowl or chawan is used in lieu of a tea pot due to powdered matcha rather than loose leaves being the tea of choice. The design, style and colors will usually depend on the season and bowls following the wabi-sabi aesthetic, old, rough, natural and worn as well as irregular, asymmetrical and slightly damaged are appreciated and can be used.
- Tea caddy, a small container that carries the matcha powder.
- Tea scoop, which is often made from bamboo but other materials exist, too. The tea scoop is used to apply the matcha into the main tea bowl for brewing.
- Tea whisk or chasen. This bamboo tool is multipronged and resembles a brush, it is used to whip and whisk the matcha and hot water until a thick surface of foam is formed.
- Tea napkin or chakin is used to wipe the tea bowl after sipping.
- Other items may include bamboo utensils used to break up the matcha powder as well as a sieve or strainer in which the matcha is poured through to refine it and try to limit the clumps of tea that may form.
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