Chinese tea is more than just a brew; it is a ritual and a culture to the Chinese people. Since tea originated in the Southwest portion of China centuries ago, there is no wonder that the Chinese people take their tea drinking and industry seriously. You can find wild tea plants in the tropical and sub-tropical climate zones of China that are over 2700 years old. One can even find tea bushes that were planted by ancient people over 800 years ago.
When tea was discovered in China, it was first used as a medicine around the 8th century BC, but quickly evolved into an exploratory plant used to chew on and season with around 770 BC. Tea became a beverage through simple processing and boiling around 221 BC. The Chinese quickly progressed in their plantation, harvesting and processing abilities and around 618 AD, tea became a major export for China. It was during this time that many great and famous teas were made. While these are the facts, the legend has it that the God of Agriculture had tasted hundreds of herbs and was hit by 72 poisons. It was the tea tree that neutralized the other poisons and hence tea was discovered. This may be why Chinese tea was immediately used for medicinal purposes.
Today, there are many variations of Chinese tea, but most falls into eight categories which are Chinese green tea, Chinese oolong tea, Chinese black tea, Chinese red tea, Chinese white tea, Chinese yellow tea, Chinese flower tea and finally, Chinese compressed tea. Black tea was originally invented to help keep the tea fresh when it was being exported from China into Canada. Black tea is oxidized, green tea is un-oxidized and oolong tea is semi-oxidized. The process is determined by how long the tealeaf is exposed to air before being heated to stop the oxidation. It is for this reason that oolong tea slightly differs between manufacturers in both color and taste. The longer the tea is oxidized the darker and black-like it becomes. The shorter the process, the more green-like it becomes. White tea is the least processed of any tea, only allowing the un-opened to wither and dry. The oxidation process does affect both the taste and color of any tea.
In the Chinese language, different provinces named tea two different names. In one province it was pronounced Cha, while in the other tea was called Tay. As the tea was exported, it depended on which province was shipping, labeling and communicating as to which of the two it was called. It was from Cha that we now have the term Chai in Russia, India and other Middle Eastern Countries, while the British mainly imported Tay, which they spelled tea. The pronunciation of Tay or tea made it to many more lands and therefore became widely adopted by English speaking nations.
Chinese tea is still used in China for medicinal purposes. The practice is called herbalism. Though western medicine doesn't recognize herbal or tea remedies, it is being researched more than ever before. Many studies conducted in the United States are pointing to health benefits derived from drinking Chinese tea among others. Herbalism may not be recognized, however more and more people are turning to herbs, plants, and other natural forms of healing today. For that reason, Chinese tea sales are on the rise. Additionally, the power of the Internet has allowed more average people to research Chinese tea and become true tea connoisseurs.
The Chinese people use tea in many ways, from drinking it to create lasting friendships to faithfully using it during their wedding ceremonies. While the rest of the world may not incorporate Chinese tea as their everyday practices and rituals, we will continue to drink and enjoy this age-old beverage.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, consultation and services of a qualified Medical Practitioner. All information presented is in summary form and intended only for informational purposes. Always seek immediate medical attention for any illness you may have and never disregard the advice from qualified Medical Practitioners as something you have read on this site (or related sites) could be misinterpreted.