Chinese tea culture or Cha Yi (茶艺) is the art of tea appreciation dating back to the Tang dynasty in China. The "Classic of Tea", Cha Jing (茶经), was one of the earliest monographs of tea culture, cultivation and preparation. The Cha Jing pathed the way of early tea appreciation and set the foundations to what would be a sophisticated art in modern day.
Today, tea is appreciated in almost every part of the world. The 6 main varieties of tea are White, Yellow, Green, Oolong, Black and Dark tea. Learn more about the main varieties of teas here.
What makes Tea, Tea?
Tasting that astringency or sweetness in a tea or feeling wide awake after drinking some teas and not others?
Find out more about the key components of tea below!
These compounds are the main reason for that astringency (drying sensation and bitterness) that sippers taste on their tongue.
Tea leaves harvested in summer contain a higher level of polyphenols than those in spring and autumn (resulting in more bitterness). Also, the longer the fermentation, the less the polyphenols one can find in a tea, and therefore resultingly less astringent.
Okay, not going into too much of the science behind polyphenols, the key takeaway is that many of the health claims involving teas coming from polyphenols like flavonoids and catechin as they contain antioxidants which are beneficial to us.
Carbohydrates are responsible for the sweetness in your tea. They are the source of energy for plants and are formed during photosynthesis.
The umami taste in teas come from the amino acids found in teas. The famous Chinese saying 高山云雾出好茶 which directly translates to "good teas are made in high altitude and foggy environments" is attributed to the higher amino acid content in tea that is grown in shade and away from direct sunlight
Alkaloids contribute to the bitterness in tea. The most famous alkaloid that is sometimes present in tea is caffeine. Hence the common saying that certain teas when drank during the evening causes insomnia!
Teas like black and oolong tea are higher in caffeine than other teas and are hence better suited for consumption in the mornings.
They are the essential element for a tea's aroma and flavour. The processing of tea leaves including oxidation and fermentation can result in the formation of complex aromas and flavours.
Pigments, Enzymes and Minerals
The colour in teas come from pigments which gives tea leaves their colour and darker colour during withering and oxidation while enzymes like the polyphenol oxidase and peroxidase also contributes to the brownish colour when oxidation occurs.
JianCha | 煎茶
The method of making tea in the Tang Dynasty
is where tea leaves are grinded into powder, and then sprinkled into boiling water together with other spices. It is served as soup, and sippers are supposed to eat the tea residue and spices together, which is called "eating tea"(吃茶).
DianCha | 点茶
The method of making tea in the Song Dynasty
is a special way of brewing tea, where the destemmed top quality white tea leaves are first steamed or baked, stone-ground and sieved into fine powder, then brewed by fast whisking the mixture of water and powder with chasen (bamboo whisk) to make fine and dense foam. The main criteria of the winner tea during DianCha competition in the Song Dynasty the duration of the foam. Tea masters also will use tea powder to paint on the foam, which is similar to the latte art of coffee. DianCha method was introduced to Japan by Eisai in 1191 and carried forward locally, becoming today's Japanese matcha technique.
PaoCha | 泡茶
The method of making tea from the Ming Dynasty till today
brew loose tea with hot water in teapot or teabowls. Steep tea till preferred concentration level before remove tea solids and consume. This brewing method is still the most common way of making tea today in almost every part of the world. Chaozhong kung fu tea ceremony, is the most representative of the 泡茶法 Chinese tea art and is widely used by tea connoisseurs to maximize the taste for teas, especially fine Oolong tea. The ceremony includes a series of content such as tea selection, water selection, tea cooking techniques, tea set art, and the creation of the environment, which is very performative.