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  The Variety Of Tea  

      
  
Each species of tea has to be labeled with a particular name. The naming of tea is based on a number of criteria:
  (i) the shape: e. g. gunpowder tea, brick tea, silver needle of the processed tea and dust tea.
  (ii) the colour of the drink made from specific tea leaves e. g. Yellow Bud tea, Pekoe.
  (iii) the species of the tea trees e. g. Oolong tea, Jasmine tea, Ti Kuan Yin.
  (iv) the time when the tea was picked and processed.
  (v) the method of processing e. g. fried green tea, baked green tea, steamed green tea.
  (vi) the market assigned for the specific type of tea e. g. tea for domestic, tea for export, tea for consumption in border region, tea for overseas Chinese.
  (vii) the region of production and the species e. g. Wuyi Oolong tea, west Lake Longjing tea, Mengding Yellow bud tea, Qimen Black tea, Ynnan Black tea. In view of the different tea types, a uniform naming system is desirable to avoid confusion. In many cases, one species is given several names, or several tea species have the same name. Hence a reasonable system of classification and naming is indispensable to differentiate between the species for scientific researches, production, sale and consumption purposes.

  The Criteria Used in the Classification of Tea

  How to categorize the different types of tea is a controversial issue. One proposal suggests that the should be classified according to the degree of fermentation taking place in the leaves during processing, Some advocate categorization on the basis of the extent of withering of the tea leaves. Other suggestion with reference to the leaf shape, colour, plant species or growth season. Opinions on the subject are so diverse that there seems to be no definite solution to the issue. However relatively scientific method of classifying tea should satisfy two criteria first, stating the quality of a particular tea type within the framework of a standardized grading system; second, reflecting the processing methods involved. Tea is a commodity. Various types of tea are qualitatively different. The differences in quality originate from the distinctive processing methods. Owing to different ways of processing, black tea and green tea differ utterly in terms of color, odour and taste. Fermentation is a necessary step in processing black tea which facilitates the activation of the enzymes in tea leaves and the relatively thorough oxidation of the phenol content. In contrast, green tea has to be exposed to intense heat to destroy the oxidation and activation of the enzymes, evaporate the water content in the tea leaves. As the processing techniques for green tea and these for black tea are different, the chemical changes which their contents undergo differ also leading to vast distinctions in their quality. Gongfu Black tea and Souchong are similar in quality and are processed in basically the same monner. Both require complete fermentation. Hence they fall under the same category. There is no significant difference between fried green tea and baked green tea. The two are treated in similar ways: intense heat is applied to inhibit the oxidation of the enzymes, preserve the original colour of the leaves and soften the leaves. They are of the same category. Obviously, tea should be first classified according to the processing methods in order to establish a complete naming system.
  Moreover, classification should be based on the shape and content  of the leaves. The most prominent indication of the qualitative difference between various spices of tea is the diversity of their colors. Green tea ( including the fresh leaves, dried leaves and the beverage made from the leaves ) is usually green, though differ types of green tea may show different shades of green. Some other types of tea like the Mengding Yellow Bud tea and the Silver Needle tea of Mountain Jun ture yellow after special treatment. They therefore belong to the category of yellow tea. Oolong tea, a type of qing tea, undergoes slight withering and partial fermentation during processing. Its colour is between green and blue. If the colour goes darker, it will look like and become a black tea, a qualitatively different tea type which is prepared with techniques different from those used in processing qing tea. If several of tea vary greatly in processing procedures and hence fall under different categories.
  The evolution of a new species from tea an old one owes much the reform in the processing methods. The majority of tea experts agree that the sequence of appearance is as follows: green tea, Yellow tea, hei tea, white tea, qing tea and black tea. This is the traditional sixcategory classification used by the Chinese workers. 
  Introduction to the Six Categories of Chinese Tea
  On the bas basis of the processing methods, product quality and the main chemical changes the tea leaves undergo, Chinese tea can be divided into six categories: green tea Yellow tea, hei tea, white tea, qing tea and black tea. The classification embraces a wide range of tea. it is both systematic and scientific and fits in with the traditional categorization. The system is readily comprehensible, enabling people to distinguish between and research into the different species of tea.

  ( I ) Green Tea

  According to Chinese history, green tea was the first to be processed. People in ancient China discovered the medicinal properties of tea leaves. They prepared soup with the raw leaves, and then began to store dried leave for future use. In the Wei Dynasty (220260 A. D), tea leaves were pressed into tea cakes and baked dry. Tea became popular in the Tang Dynasty. To eliminate the unpleasant smell of tea leaves, new processing methods involving steaming were introduced. After the special treatment the tea tasted better. The advances in the preparation techniques made possible the manufacturing of green tea. The methods were greatly improved in the Song Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty witnessed the invention of an other techique: tea leaves were fried in a heated pot and the heat prevented the oxidation of the enzymes and evaporated the water content in the leaves, resulting in a pleasant, fragrant tea. The technique was continuously refined and the method of processing green tea sophisticated, allowing new types of green tea to be introduced.
  The main procedure in processing green tea is terminating the active of enzymes and its fermentation, reducing the oxidation of the phenol content to the minimum. The tea leaves and the beverage they produce retain their green colour, a characteristic quality of green tea.
  There are two types of preliminary treatment of green tea:
  i) destroying the oxidation of the enzymes and evaporating the water content in the leaves by frying;
  ii) carrying out the same procedure by steaming.
  The product resulting from the first method is called fried green tea whereas the alternate method produces steamed green tea.
  The processed green tea leaves are in different shapes: stick (e. g. Zhenmei tea, Maofeng tea); straps (e. g. West Lake Longjing tea); beads (e. g. Pingshui Gunpowder tea); sliced; needles (e. g. Pine Needle tea) and pointed strips.
  Semiprocessed green tea blended with flowers is called scented tea. Varieties include Jasmine tea, Magnclia tea and Aglais tea.
  Semiprocessed green tea can be made into different shapes by applying steam and pressure, for instance, Puerh tea cube, tuo tea cake arid mini tea cake.

  ( II ) Yellow Tea

  Yellow tea is a specialty of China. It is subdivided into two main types: smallleaf variety and largeleaf variety. The two varieties are differentiated according to whether young or old leaves are used. Smallleaf variety includes Sichuan Mengding Yellow Bud tea etc. Anhui Huoshan tea, belong to the largeleaf variety.
  Yellow tea was evolved from green tea. It was first made in the 16th century A. D. The tea leaves are stored for some time after the oxidation of the enzymes in the leaves is inhibited. The phenol content in the leaves undergoes nonenzymatic autooxidation, and , as a result, the green leaves turn yellow, hence the name yellow tea.
  The characteristics of yellow tea are the yellow tea leaves and the yellow drink made from them. The sweetsmelling and tasty tea is wellreceived in Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and North China. A small amount of the tea is for export.

  ( III ) Hei Tea

  It is a specialty in China and is mainly for the consumption of the ethnic minorities in the border regions. Hence in is also named 'Bianxiao Tea' which means 'tea for export to borderland'.
  In the Tang and the Song dynasties, the central government used tea to strengthen its rule over the ethnic minorities in the border regions in the north west, since hei tea was a favorite drink among the people there. Since the border regions were not easily accessible. only steamed and pressed tea lumps convenient for transport and storage were sent to the frontier seas. The 'Bianxiao Tea' produced in the Tang and Song periods was actually steamed green tea. The production of hei tea did not start until the 16th century (i. e. the Ming Dynasty).
  different types of hei tea are packed in various shapes and vary in quality. However, they share some common features:
  ( i ) The fresh leaves selected for processing are generally rather old and coarse with stalks attached to them.
  ( ii ) After preliminary treatment and rolling, the fresh leaves are stored until they show color changes which indicate the slow oxidation of the phenol content in the leaves. The tea leaves turn dark gradually. Nevertheless, the oxidation is not primarily brought about by the catalytic action of the enzymes because the enzymes become in ert after preliminary processing. The oxidation is mainly due to a combination of specific temperature conditions and humidity, the autooxidation of the phenol content as well as other factors. 
  ( iii ) The tea which has shown colour change is then steamed, pressed into the designated shapes and slowly dried. Quality is upgraded when the content of the hei tea has undergone certain changes.
  ( iv ) The dried leaves are lustrous and dark brown. Pure and fragrant, the tea has no bitter taste and produces a yellowbrown or reddishbrown beverage.
  Hei tea is produced n Hnnan, Hubei, Sichuan, Yunnan and Guangxi. There are a number of scented hei tea species; for example, Hunan bei brick tea, scented brick tea, Hubei green brick tea, yeoman tea cake and Guangxi Liubao tea.

  ( IV ) White Tea

  White tea is another specialty of China. The chief producing areas are severov counties in Fujian, namely, Fuding, Zhenghe and Jiangyang. Taiwan province also produces a small quantity of the crop.
  White tea prepared in a special way. It is neither fried rolled. The preparation involves only two steps; natural withering and drying. while the leaves are withering, the phenol content in the leaves naturally undergoes slight oxidization without being catalyzed by the enzymes or inhibiting oxidation by stopping the catalytic action of the enzymes. The processed tea is called white tea because the tea leaves are entirely covered with fine silver white hairs. Cooked in water, the tea makes an aromatize light yellow beverage which is sweettasting and refreshing.
  The first records of 'White Tea' appear in books written in the Northern Song Dynasty (9601126 A. D). The white tea referred to in these records, however, was not processed in the same way as the white tea of today. In the Northern Song Period white tea was rare species to be steamed and pressed into lumps before it was ready for use. In fact, at that time the socalled white tea was virtually steamed green tea.
  A description of dried raw tea was first given in a book on the art of cooking tea written in 1554A. D. The author claimed that raw leaves dried under the sun would render the choicest quality tea. The method of drying raw bud tea under the sun similar to the preparation techniques used in processing the whitehaired Silver Needle tea today.
  White tea similar to that consumed nowadays was initially produced during the reign of Jiaqingin early Qing Dynasty (1796A. D). The farmers of Fuding county dried the selected tea buds to make whitehaired Silver Needle tea. The buds were small and the white hair on the leaves were not conspicuous. In 1885, people stared to make Silver Needle tea by using fullgrown quality tea buds of Fuding largeleaf white tea plants. The buds were strong with prominent silver white hairs. The quality of the Silver Needle tea was greatly impoved. Its export began in 1891 and the product was welcomed bconsumers. Another type of white tea, the White Peony tea was created in Fujian and Shuiji counties in 1922.
  The white tea produced at present includes such scented varieties as the whitehaired Silver Needlel tea, the white peony tea, Gongmei tea and Shoum tea. The whitehaired Silver Needle tea is the most expensive among the four and has established extensive markets in H. K. and Macao. Substantial sale of the product is also witnessed in Singapore, Malaysia, France, Germany, Britain, Holland and Switzerland.

  ( V ) Qing Tea
  Qing tea is a special type of tea found in Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan province. Fujian produces a huge quantity of quality qing tea. The province also supplies the fullest range of scented qing tea. Wuyi Oolong tea and Anxi Ti Kuan Yin are the most famous of all. Qing tea is processed in a series of steps. First, the withered leaves are shaken continuously by hand ot by ma chine so as to gring the delicate leaf adages and speed up the enzymatic oxidation of the phenol content in the leaf rims. The leaf edges turn red. Then heat is applied to inhibit the oxidation of the enzymes and to evaporate the water in the leaves, The tea leaves then become soft. The catalytic action of the enzymes located in the middle part of the leaf blade is counteracted, stopping oxidation altogether. After these processing procedures, the green blades are redrimmed.
  Qing tea also called Oolong tea. It has unique quality and flavor. The tea leaves after processing appear green with red rims. The drink made from qing tea orange or yellow in color. The tea has both the pleasing taste and fragrance characteristic of strong green tea and the delicate and pure flavor of black tea. Domestic sales are mainly conducted in Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan provinces. The tea is also exported to H. K. Macao, South East Asia and Japan. It is particularly popular among overseas Chinese.
  Fujian qing tea can be further categorized into two types: North Fujian qing tea and South Fujian qing tea. Wuyi Oolong tea produced in Chongan county is the most renowned species among North Fujian qing tea. Other notable types include a rare species and Narcissus tea in Jianyang county. Ti Kuan Yin of Anxi county is the most wellknown of all South Fujian qing tea. Jasmine tea and Oolong tea grown in the Fujian province are also remarkable.
  The principal qing tea growing district of Guangdong is located in Raoping county. The area is famous for the Phoenix Jasmine tea.
  The bulk of Taiwan qing tea is of the Oolong variety, which is chiefly produced in Taipei. The second largest tea plantation on the island is found in Xinzhu Tere is some production in Tainan, also.

  ( VI) Black Tea

  Black tea takes the major share (over 50%) of the total export of Chinese tea, and accounts for 25% of total tea production in China.
  Black tea has to undergo four processing steps: withering, rolling, fermentation and drying. Fermentation enhances the oxidation of the phenol content in the tea leaves. The dried leaves after processing are dark color. The sweet beverage made from the tea is orange red in color, aromatic and tasty.
  Gongfu Black tea, exported abroad through Guangzhou became very popular in overseas markets. Later producers in Qimen county of Anhui and Anhua county of Hunan followed suit, and they also enjoyed great success. The production of black tea has been gaining momentum since the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Quality species are selected for mechanized processing. The techniques of tea processing have been refined, ensuring continued improvement in quality and expanse ion in production. Apart from Souchong tea and Gongfu Black tea, China has been upgrading consistently the crushed black tea, a new variety which is gaining popularity in international markets. The export of crushed black tea is on the increase every year.
  At present more than sixty counties in twelve Chinese provinces are producing black tea. The products from different districts possess unique qualities. They bear the same name as their respective growing regions; for instance, Anhui Qimen black tea, Yunnan black tea, Sichuan black tea, Guangdong Ying black tea and Fujian Zhengshan Souchong. These varieties of tea are prepared with sophisticated techniques. Delicious and refreshing, the products have established a worldwide reputation for excellence.


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