Chinese Tea

Some useful information about Chinese tea

seal-fungcheung Classification of Tea

tea-plantation The most common way to classify tea is to use the degree of fermentation and the color.Apart from the fermentation, the processing of the tea is a very important factor. After the five steps of tea making (withering, fermentation, fixation, rolling, drying) the tea is called Primary Processed Tea. But it still needs to go through the Refining Process which will give the finished product its attractive look and maintain a uniform level of quality.

  • No Fermentation (often called Green Tea) 綠茶
    • Lung Ching (Dragon well) 龍井
    • Pilochun 碧螺春
  • Partial Fermentation (often called Oolong Tea) 烏龍
    • Light Fermentation
      • Chincha 清茶
      • Baozhong 包種
      • Dongding 凍頂
      • White Tea 白茶
      • Jasmine Tea 茉莉花茶
    • Medium Fermentation
      • Dunting Oolong 凍頂烏龍
      • Tieguanyin 鐵觀音
      • Shusxian 水仙
      • Wuii 武夷
      • Foshou 佛手
    • Heavy Fermentation
      • Pekoe Oolong 白毫烏龍
      • Penfun 膨風茶
  • Full Fermentation (often called Black Tea) 紅茶
    • Pu-Erh 普洱

Apart from the fermentation, the processing of the tea is a very important factor. After the five steps of tea making (withering, fermentation, fixation, rolling, drying) the tea is called "Primary Processed Tea". But it still needs to go through the "Refining Process" which will give the finished product its attractive look and maintain a uniform level of quality.

seal-fungcheung Three Effects of Fermentation


The first effect of fermentation is to make Cha Ching turns red. The heavier the fermentation is, the darker the red color will be. The level of fermentation can be determined by checking the color of both the dry tea and brewed tea. Lightly fermented tea will show more of a green color while heavier fermented tea will appear red.


The second effect of fermentation is related to fragrances.

  • Unfermented tea smells like steamed vegetables
  • Lightly fermented tea has the fragrance of flowers
  • Heavy fermented tea smells like ripe fruit
  • Heaviest fermentation gives the tea the smell of sweet candy

The colors of the brewed tea and its fragrances change simultaneously. The tea which has a steamed-vegetable fragrance appears to be green. The tea which has the fragrance of flowers is gold. The tea which smells like ripe fruit is orange and the tea which smells like sweet candy is red.


The third effect of fermentation is producing the various tastes. The lighter the fermentation, the more natural the tea will taste (Green Tea). If the fermentation is heavy, the tea has a much stronger taste (Black Tea). It is because of the stronger taste of black tea that people like to add various flavors to it (strawberry tea would be black tea with strawberry flavor added). It is usual to add milk and sugar when drinking black tea.

seal-fungcheung Names of Different Teas

Most people are not awared that different teas grow on different tea trees. But, on the other hand, the breed of tea trees is not the main factor accounting for the various kinds of tea; more important are the four main steps in tea making, that is: choosing the type of tea, fermentation, rolling and baking.

Name Type Fermentation Rolling Baking
Longjing, Biiluochun Leaf Buds None Light None
Ching Cha Leaves Light * Light None
Dongding Leaves Light * Medium Light
Tieguanyin Leaves Medium * Heavy Medium Heavy
Pekoe Oolong Leaf Buds Heavy * Light None
Black Tea Leaves Full Heavy None
* Partial

In fact, every tea farmer produces his tea differently. In order to have some understanding of how the different types of tea are made, tea specialists collect and analyze all the information available. Even then, there are no absolute rules in tea making. Each kind of tea is given a special name for some good reasons and, in general, five main criteria are used to name a tea:

  • Origin
    • For example, "Longjing Tea" was originally produced from Longjing, Hangchow, China. Therefore, it was named according to its origin.
  • Breed of Tea
    • "Tieguanyin" is one breed of tea tree and it is also the name of the tea.
  • Color of the Brewed Tea
    • For example "Green Tea"
  • Character of the Tea
    • "Ching Cha" has young and vigorous character, and Ching in Chinese means pure and clean.
  • Appearance of the Tea
    • "Pearl Tea" looks like tiny pearls

There are also some other special names given to tea. For example, "Flower Tea" is used to describe scented tea such as Jasmine; "Compact Tea" is a category where one puts Brick Tea because the tea leaves are compacted in such a way that it resembles and is hard like a brick. Spring Tea and Summer Tea are so called because the tea leaves are picked and processed in spring or summer. However, some breeds have their own special traits. For example, when producing Tieguanyin, Shusxian and Foshou teas, only the leaves from these particular trees are used so the tea is named after these specific trees.

seal-fungcheung Tastes of Tea

  • No Fermentation (Green Tea) 綠茶
    • Rose Green Tea 玫瑰雲綠茶
      Flower fragrance, scented with freshly picked rose flowers. This tea is best known for its lingering aroma before and after tasting tea.
  • Light Fermentation (Oolong Tea) 烏龍
    • Chincha 清茶 — Pure Fragrance
    • Baozhong 包種 — Flower Fragrance
    • Jasmine Tea 茉莉花茶 — Flower Fragrance
  • Medium Fermentation
    • Dongding Oolong 凍頂烏龍 — Milk Fragrance
    • Tekuanwin 鐵觀音 — Fruit Fragrance
    • Sueishen 水仙 — Flower Fragrance
  • Medium Fermentation
    • Pekoe Oolong 白毫烏龍 — Ripe Fruit and Honey Fragrance
  • Full Fermentation (Black Tea) 紅茶
    • Pu-Erh 普洱
  • Four Seasons Teas
    • Spring
      • Chincha 清茶 — Pure Fragrance
      • Pouchong Tea — Flower Fragrance — 包種茶, 花香
    • Summer
      • Oriental Oolong Tea — Ripe Fruit and Honey Fragrance — 東方美人茶, 蜜香
    • Autumn
      • Iron Goddess Tea — Fruit Fragrance — 鐵觀音, 果香
    • Winter
      • Dongding Oolong Tea — Milk Fragrance — 凍頂烏龍, 奶香

seal-fungcheung Processing the Tea Buds and Leaves

Raw materials — Cha Ching 茶青

Tea is made by using the fresh young leaves and leaves’ buds of the tea tree. These raw materials are called Cha Ching.

Feminine and masculine tea
The leaves’ buds and young leaves are chosen to be the raw materials of tea because they have different characteristics and these characteristics make varied kinds of tea. The teas made by leaves’ buds have a tender characteristic, which is feminine in nature, and the tea made by young leaves have a vigorous characteristic, which is considered masculine.


At least four times yearly, the tea tree go through its natural evolution. First, there are young buds which are picked-up for leaf bud type tea. After the growing of leaves, they are picked up for making leaf type tea.

Withering and Fermentation 萎凋 發酵

After Cha Ching is picked-up, the next step of tea-making is the withering which creates an oxidation and some water loss. There withering process uses two phases: first, there is the sun withering which is very short (ten to twenty minutes); second, when Cha Ching has becomed soft. It is moved inside to continue its indoor withering. Perfect timing is very important: if you leave it in the sun too long Cha Ching dries-up out and the tea will not be good. The whole process is called fermentation. The color, fragrance and taste of tea is determined by fermentation.

Sitting and Stirring 靜置 攪拌

As sun withering occurs, Cha Ching loses water and since the water is not distributed equally in the leaves, the outside edge of the leaves is the first part to dry out. Cha Ching is carried indoor before the edges begin to dry out. Sitting is the first step of indoor withering which causes the water to redistribute equally again. The second step is stirring. When Cha Ching is stirred, it is not only good for the water content distribution but also good for the fermentation process because of the friction between leaves. These two steps are performed in alternance until the end of the indoor withering process.

Fixation, Rolling and Drying

  • Fixation
    The next step of tea-making is fixation which is the way of stopping fermentation by using high heat to kill the cells of the Cha Ching. There are three methods of fixation:
    • Pan fixation (similar to stir-frying)
    • Steam fixation
    • Roast fixation
  • Rolling
    After fixation, the next step is rolling which gives shape to the tea. The purpose of rolling is to shatter the cells of the Cha Ching. Rolling the leaves into a shape helps preservation and brings out the flavor. Rolling for only a short time with little strength produces a young but vigorous tea. Rolling heavily for a longer time, the tea will show a tamed but stable character.
  • Drying
    The final step in tea making is drying. After drying, the tea can be preserved and made ready for the market.

In short…
This total tea making process will occur over approximately 24 hours. As soon as Cha Ching is picked, the chemical process is started. Therefore, every step has to be executed in the proper time interval. There is no time for resting. The steps must be completed, one right after the other, until the total process is complete. In the case of green tea, the first two steps (withering and fermentation) can be eliminated.

  • Withering 萎凋
  • Fermentation 發酵
  • Fixation 蒸青
  • Rolling 揉捻
  • Drying 乾燥

Refining Process

  • Screening 篩分 according to size, separate tea into different piles (stacks)
  • Cutting 剪切 cutting the leaves that are bigger than desired
  • Stalk extracting 拔梗 extracting the stalks
  • Shaping 整形 reshaping leaves to the desired, more attractive shape
  • Winnowing 風選 winnowing the impurities
  • Re-drying 覆火 re-drying the leaves

The screening, cutting, stalk extracting, shaping and winnowing processes take about ten days during which the tea leaves absorb some water from the air; re-drying is therefore needed to insure that the quality of the tea will be preserved.

Manufacturing 加工

After the refining process, manufacturing may take place in order to produce different varieties of tea. There are three types of manufacturing: scenting, baking and mixing.

  • Scenting 薰花
    Scenting is the mixing of tea and fresh flowers to give the tea the intended flowery scent. Eight hours after the mixing, the flowers are removed and the tea needs to be dried again because of the humidity in the flowers. However some particular flowers are kept in the tea because they have a good taste. For example, in some cases, Jasmine would not be kept but Osmanthus would be because it helps the flavor.
  • Baking 焙火
    High temperatures are used to bake the tea and give it a so-called “baked” flavor. Short periods of time and/or lower temperatures produce raw tea while longer periods of time and/or higher temperatures produce ripe tea. Raw tea features a lighter color, gives a colder feeling while ripe tea gives a feeling of warmth. Usually, the baking process is only used with leaves.
  • Mixing 摻和
    Sometimes flowers, fruits or herbs are mixed with the tea. For example, Luo-Shen flowers are combined with black tea to create Luo-shen Black Tea and Peppermint Tea is created by combining Ching-Cha and peppermint.

seal-fungcheung Storage of Tea Leaves

It is important to store tea leaves carefully otherwise the quality will gradually diminish with time. Leaves should be kept in an odor free container in a cool dry place, out of direct sunlight. Make sure the container is well sealed and moisture-proof. Green Tea and less fermented should not be stored too long before drinking. Darker teas can be kept longer if stored well.

seal-fungcheung Examination of Tea Leaves

An experienced person will first look at the leaves and be able to tell the quality of the tea and more or less be aware of the color, taste and aroma that tea will show after brewing. He can tell if the leaves are young or old, the state of fermentation or whether the leaves have been broken. Thus, the examination of the leaves is the first stage in the enjoyment of tea. After brewing not only the taste but also the smell and color are to be observed. And don’t forget to enjoy the smell left at the bottom of the cup. The tea leaves left over will tell you a lot about the leaves’ history.

seal-fungcheung Preparing a Good Cup of Tea (the tea soup)

tea_pot_brown-01 If you are thirsty, you obviously need a large teapot; in this case the tea should be brewed 5 or 6 minutes and cannot be brewed again. However, if you want to really enjoy your tea, you need a smaller pot to prepare tea properly and make many brews from it. Various pots can be used for 2 persons, 3 or 4 persons and even 5 or 6 persons.

The pot itself is made of porcelain, stone or ordinary pottery; of course, the quality of the pot depend on the quality of the craftsmanship. The color of the pot is of no consequence. It can also be glazed and that has no bearing at all on the taste or aroma of the tea. Choose a good quality pot that you like and always keep the pot clean by rincing it thouroughly with clean water.


  • Tea pot 茶壺 Timer 計時器
  • Tea container 茶盅 Tea towel 茶巾
  • Tea cups 茶杯 Dregs spoon 渣匙
  • Tea boat 茶船 Brush 茶拂
  • Tea table ware 泡茶巾 Towel plate 雙線盤
  • Tea canister 茶葉罐 Tea tray 奉茶盤
  • Tea funnel 茶荷 Electric kettle 電茶壺
  • Thermos bottle 保溫熱水瓶
  • Tea-serving cart 茶車

Critical Factors

First, the pot and cups should be warmed up to help keeping the temperature of the tea soup longer. The best way is to quickly run hot water over the cups and the pot.

  • Quantity of leaves
    • A good guide is 3 grams of leaves in 150ml water. Of course, tea should be made to match your personal taste and the quantity of leaves used will vary accordingly.
  • Temperature of water
    • Low (800C) for Green Tea
    • Medium (800 to 900C) for lightly fermented leaves
    • High (900C) for medium fermented and heavily baked tea leaves
  • Lengths of time that the leaves are infused in the water
    • Using a smaller pot filled with leaves and hot water, brew for one minute.
    • For the 2nd brew, increase the brewing time by 15 seconds.
    • For subsequent brews progressively increase the brewing time. On the whole, each brew should taste the same.
    • To be able to respect the brewing time, the tea should be decanted into another pot (tea sea) before being poured into the individual cups.

seal-fungcheung Drinking Tea in the Proper Atmosphere

tea_pot_blue-01 Tea plays an important part in social and domestic life: saying good morning to parents, relaxing with friends, hosting a business meeting and so on. Between husband and wife or parents and children, the little ceremony of drinking tea is a medium for communication. Tea is without a doubt the Chinese national drink. Chinese etiquette requires that various rules and procedures be followed when making and drinking tea.

Teahouses have become a distinctive part of the Chinese culture landscape. People go there for refreshments, ambience and good conversation. To spend a few hours in pleasant surroundings over a pot of tea is as easy as sitting and chatting over a cup of decent café au lait in some western societies.

The former Chinese literati used to sat under a tree beside the river, taking their time over tea, appreciating nature, discussing artistic topics or talking about some of their daily life experiences, all in a thoroughly relaxed atmosphere.

The late seventies have seen a great awakening of interest in traditional culture. College students and the intelligentsia embarked on an avid quest for their roots. The ancient Chinese art of tea-making suddenly found itself not just respectable but actually popular. And where better to have a go for the old tradition than in a proper teahouse?

So teahouses were soon springing up all over the place and in the late seventies and early eighties they began to go beyond the mere cultivation of the old tea-drinking tradition. They also provided a social setting for people, especially those interested in art, literature, and politics, a milieu in which they could share new ideas. It was very similar to the European Salons of the eighteenth century.

And now here in Montreal, we can see the emergence of quite nice tea houses which, with the proper knowledge of tea, will have no choice but offering a more genuine product to knowledgeable customers like you.