With a long history in China as one of the most prized teas, white tea is typically considered a lightly oxidized tea. Tender tea shoots are harvested in the spring season then processed. Neither pan-fired nor rolled, white tea is traditionally withered then sun-dried allowing for minimal oxidization during the drying process which changes the flavor profile. Some of the best-known examples of white tea are Silver Needles and White Peony.
Green teas have been highly prized by the Chinese, from peasants to emperors, for their health benefits, elegant aromas and tastes, and the sheer beauty of the tealeaves. Harvested in the early spring when the tea shoots are young and tender, a low heating is applied to the leaves to stop oxidization, allowing the tealeaves to retain their vibrant green colors and fresh aromatics. Dragon Well and Bi Luo Chun are two of the most famous examples from the hundreds of quality green teas from China’s coastal region.
With one of the largest flavor ranges, from light, sweet, floral and vegetal to rich, nutty, woody, and smoky, Oolong teas are the classic teas used in traditional Chaozhou gongfu tea and will always be closely connected with the tea ceremony. Incorrectly labeled as semi-fermented, Oolong teas are semi-oxidized. Depending on what flavor profile the tea master desires, the oxidization rate, drying period, firing temperature and time will vary to produce just the right flavors and aromatics. Da Hong Pao, Wuyi Yancha, and Tieguanyin are well known examples from China’s southern region.
In China this category is known as “red tea” because of the deep red color of the tea broth. In the west this category is referred to as “black tea” because of the black colored tea leaves. Tealeaves are harvested, withered, and then rolled to oxidize the leaves. Firing, roasting or smoking completes the process and adds to the complexity of the tealeaves. Black tea is highly oxidized to bring out a more robust full-bodied tea, with flavors that range from smoky to fruity to malty. Classic examples of Chinese black teas would include Keemun Maofeng and the Yunnan Blacks.
A unique tea from China’s southwestern region, Puerh tea has been enjoyed there for centuries. Produced from the large leaf cultivar of Yunnan province, puerh is the only tea category to be truly fermented, a process that helps with the aging of this tea. Puerh is a tea that gets better with age, like a fine wine, becoming more smooth and robust, well balanced and complex. Found in both loose and compressed forms, Puerh should be enjoyed for its rustic and complex nature.
The art of scenting teas has been practiced in China for centuries, challenging the skill of the tea maker to balance aromatics and flavors. Flowers, fruits, and herbs are mixed with teas to add to the complexity or enhance the inherent characteristics of the tealeaves. The art of the tea maker is being able to let the taste of the base tea come through, increase the complexity but never mask the flavors and aromas of the base tea. Jasmine teas are some of the best examples of scented teas from China.