Chinese Traditional Loose Tea

China is the homeland of tea. It is believed that China has tea-shrubs as early as five to six thousand years ago, and human cultivation of tea plants dates back two thousand years. All tea trees in other countries have their origin directly or indirectly in China. The word for tea leaves or tea as a drink in many countries are derivatives from the Chinese character "cha.

Tea Production 

A new tea-plant must grow for five years before its leaves can be picked and, The trunk of the old plant must then be cut off to force new stems to grow out of the roots in the coming year. By repeated rehabilitation in this way, a plant may serve for about l00 years .For the fertilization of tea gardens, soya-bean cakes or other varieties of organic manure are generally used, and seldom chemical fertilizers. When pests are discovered, the affected plants will be removed to prevent their spread, and also to avoid the use of pesticides.

The season of tea-picking depends on local climate and varies from area to area The best Dragon Well tea is gathered several days before Qingming (Pure Brightness, 5th solar term) when new twigs have just begun to grow and carry "one leaf and a bud." To make one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of finished tea, 60, 000 tender leaves have to be plucked.

Chinese Tea Grading System

Chinese teas are usually numbered, first being the highest grade and down from there. There's no set stopping point, but generally 7 or 9 is what most people deal with. Again, this is specific to the leaf style and shape and how perfectly that was executed in production.

In addition to numbering, you may also find reference to the season of harvest in the Chinese system. Pre-qingming Dragonwell ("before the rains") is a good example of this. Certain seasons yield better quality of flavor, in general, so where this is noteworthy, it is called out.

Chinese tea names are often poetic and descriptive of the leaf ('hairy crab', 'longevity eyebrow', 'red snail'). Some can also indicate where the tea came from - Yunnan, for example, is a well-known tea province in China, and actually, the birthplace of all tea.

Excellent tea is relatively rare to find, because the entire procedure is done by hand. Pure handmade tea has adopted a strict, machine free process along every step. The leaves are picked leaf by leaf through tea farmer's hand. Although handmade tea production is relatively low, its flavor is particularly pure and tasty. Though manufactured tea is produced a large quantity, these leaves will lose lots of nutrients and original fragrance during the process.

How to Select China Loose Tea

Chinese tea may be classified into five categories according to the different methods by which it is processed.

1) Green tea: Green tea is the variety which keeps the original color of the tea leaves without fermentation during processing. This category consists mainly of Longing tea of Zhejiang Province, Maofeng of Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province and Biluochun produced in Jiangsu.

 

2) Black tea: Black tea, known as "red tea" (hong cha) in China, is the category which is fermented before baking; it is a later variety developed on the basis of the green tea. The best brands of black tea are Qigong of Anhui , Dianhong of Yunnan, Suhong of Jiangsu, Chuanhong of Sichuan and Huhong of Hunan.
3)Oolong tea(Wulong tea): This represents a variety half way between the green and the black teas, being made after partial fermentation. It is a specialty from the provinces on China's southeast coast: Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan.
4) Dark tea(Compressed tea): This is the kind of tea which is compressed and hardened into a certain shape. It is good for transport and storage and is mainly supplied to the ethnic minorities living in the border areas of the country. As compressed tea is black in color in its commercial form, so it is also known in China as "dark tea". Most of the compressed tea is in the form of bricks; it is, therefore, generally called "brick tea", though it is sometimes also in the form of cakes and bowls. It is mainly produced in Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
5) Scented tea: This kind of tea is made by mixing fragrant flowers in the tea leaves in the course of processing. The flowers commonly used for this purpose are jasmine and magnolia among others. Jasmine tea is a well-known favorite with the northerners of China and with a growing number of foreigners.

Selecting tea requires knowledge

Aside from the variety, tea is classified into grades. Generally, appraisement of tea is based on five principles, namely, shape of the leaf, color of the liquid, aroma, taste and appearance of the infused leaf.

There are many different characteristics to the shape of the leaf. For instance leaves can be flat, needle-like, flower-like, and so on. The judgment of what type is best is usually made according to the artistic tastes of the tea tasters.

The evenness and transparency of the leaf will decide the color of the liquid. To obtain an excellent tea, avoid rough burnt red leaves or red stems.

Aroma is the most important factor in judging the quality of a kind of tea. By putting 3 grams worth of leaves into 100 milliliters of boiled water, people can judge the quality of the tea by the smell.

The final judgment should be completed through the taste of the liquid and the appearance of the infused leaves.

China's Tea-Producing Areas

Tea is produced in vast areas of China from Hainan island down in the extreme south to Shandong Province in the north, from Tibet in the southwest to Taiwan across the Straits, totaling more than 20 provinces. These may be divided into four major areas:

1) The Jiangnan area: It lies south of the middle and lower reaches of the Changing (Yangtze) River, and is the most prolific of China's tea-growing areas. Most of its output is the green variety; some black tea is also produced.

2) The Jiangbei area: This refers to a large area north of the same river, where the average temperature is 2-3 Centigrade degrees lower than in the Jiangnan area. Green tea is the principal variety turned out there, but Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, which are also parts of this area. produce compressed tea for supply to the minority areas in the Northwest.

3) The Southwest area: This embraces Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Tibet, producing black, green as well as compressed teas. Pu'er tea of Yunnan Province enjoys a good sale in China and abroad.

 

4) The Lingnan area: This area , consisting of the southern provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian and taiwan, produces Wulong tea, which is renowned both at home and abroad.

How to Store China loose tea

Loose leaf tea is more fragile than it might appear. When exposed to moisture, loose leaf tea can develop mold and become unusable. Heat and sunlight can leech the flavor from the tea, making the brewed drink bland or giving it an unpleasant flavor. Even strongly scented products can affect the final cup of tea; storing your loose leaf tea in a container with garlic and onions, while an extreme example, would give your finished cup a very odd flavor. With proper storage, you can keep loose leaf tea for two to 18 months depending on the type of tea.

Instructions

 

1 Place the loose leaf tea in an airtight container. You can use a tea tin, which is made especially for this task.

2 Close the airtight container and ensure the seal is as tight as possible. Depending on the type of container you use, this might mean pushing down on several sides of a lid to ensure the lid is completely closed or screwing the top onto a jar as tightly as possible.

3Place the sealed container of tea in a cool, dry place that is never exposed to direct sunlight. If you used a glass or other transparent or translucent container rather than one that is completely opaque, put the container in an entirely dark place.

some tips to store  tea in a proper way.

 

Bag Storage
The most common way to store tea leaves is to use proper plastic bags. This storage method is also one of the most convenient and economical ways for the tea drinkers. However, two things should be taken into considerations when using plastic bags to store tea: first, tea leaves should be as dry as possible; second, right packing material must be chosen for this purpose. There are dozens of different plastic bags made of different materials. Make sure the right type of material of the bags is to be used.

Jar Storage
A jar is chosen by some tea drinkers to store tea leaves. The ideal jar should be dry, smell-less, and air tight. Most of such jars are made of pottery and earthen materials. In addition, it should be well aware that different tea varieties should not be mixed together; otherwise the individual tea would lose its own distinctive features due to mutual influence.

Can Storage
Nowadays, there are many more choices of containers for people to use. For example, some tea drinkers use iron cans, bamboo cans or wood cans store tea. These containers would have better damp-proof function if they are made into double layers. The tea cans or boxes should be stored in cool and dry areas and avoid damp and direct sunshine. If the tea leaves are not needed for some time, the tea containers should be sealed by Scotch tape so that damp air would not permeate through and the tea would remain fresh for certain time.

General Tea Storage Guidelines

Keep loose tea away from light sources, including indoor light and outside sunlight. Some tea drinkers may choose glass containers or even see-through decorative containers to store tea. Extra caution must be employed because loose tea will lose its color when exposed to prolonged light through these containers.

Each variety of loose leaf tea should be stored separately in airtight containers.

Right temperature is crucial to your tea storage. No matter what types of containers or boxes you use to store tea, make sure to place them in cabinets or cupboards at room temperature. It is also important to keep the temperature in those areas relatively constant. Avoid sudden and extreme temperature changes.

 

Do not store tea products in the refrigerator.There is a mistake that some tea drinkers often make: store tea in the refrigerator because it is cool inside the refrigerator. They ignore the key fact that the moisture inside the refrigerator will seep into the tea and ruin the tea quickly. Moisture is the biggest single cause for destroying your loose leaf tea. So keep your tea in a dry place.