I’m a big fan of green tea. Actually, I’m a big fan of tea, full stop. And it’s lucky that I’m living in China, because China is a heaven for tea lovers.
There are hundreds of types of tea classified under the general groups of green tea 绿茶, black (or red) tea 红茶, oolong tea 乌龙茶, as well as the less common white tea 白茶and yellow tea 黄茶. White tea is the least oxidized, followed by yellow tea, green tea, oolong tea and finally black (or red) tea, which is fully oxidized. While it can be difficult to distinguish one type of tea from another, the color of the tea is usually a good indication. The higher the oxidization of tea leaves, the darker the tea and the stronger its flavor (and vice versa). However, on the other hand, the darker the tea, the less tannin it contains and the more gentle it is on the stomach.
Popular green tea includes Long Jing 龙井 (Dragon Well) and Huangshan Mao Feng 黄山毛峰 (Yellow Mountain Fur Pick), while popular Oolong tea includes Tieguanyin 铁观音 (Iron Buddha) and Dong Ding 冻顶 (Frozen Summit). Black (or red) tea is not drunk as often in China as the other types of tea in China, Dahongpao 大红袍 (Big Red Robe) as well as Pu-er tea 普洱茶 (sometimes classified as an individual group of tea on its own) are still popular, while Bai Hao Yinzhen 白毫银针 (Silver Needle) and Junshan Yinzhen 君山银针 (Junshan Silver Needle) are the more well-known varieties of white tea and yellow tea, respectively.
There are a few things worth remembering in order to maximize the health benefits of drinking tea.
First, when brewing green tea, don’t use boiling water. It ruins the delicate flavors of the green tea and destroys some of its nutritional value. Instead, leave the water to be cooled to a temperature of about 70-80 degrees Celsius (i.e. for about 5-10 minutes) before using it.
Second, while it’s very popular in China to drink tea during or immediately after a meal, it’s actually not a very healthy practice. To start with, drinking liquids in general at meal time may dilute the stomach acids and slow down the digestive process. In addition, the tannin in tea may interfere with the absorption of iron in your food. So if you are prone to indigestion or anaemia, it’s best to wait at least an hour after a meal before having your soothing cup of tea.
To buy tea in Beijing, check out:
Maliandao Tea Street 马连道茶叶街
Beijing’s most famous tea street is a kilometer and half long, and teas across China can be found here, with prices ranging from cheap to super-expensive. It’s conveniently located near the Beijng West Railway Station, in southwestern Xuanwu District. Vendors will brew you up a cup for a tasting before you buy and bargaining is a must.
11 Maliandao Road, Xuanwu District 宣武区马连道路11号