There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “It’s better to be deprived of food for 3 days, than tea for one.” Now, I’m not sure I totally agree with this statement; I mean I have a pretty serious chaun and noodle addiction going on at present, and I don’t somehow think that a hot cup of cha is going to fix that.
However, in an attempt to acclimate to China and Chinese culture, I have recently delved into one of this country’s national obsessions: tea.
Please note that if you are yet to make it here to the middle kingdom, you should know that it is a firm local belief that most illnesses can be cured by drinking warm water. From cataracts to cramps, bloating, to bowel issues, all can be cured by gulping down copious cups of warm water. Have a toothache? -Drink hot water. A headache? – Drink hot water. Has your partner left you and taken the dog and kids? You guessed it! Drink hot water.
So, armed with my best friend Michelle to translate for me, we raided the local tea shop and loaded up on the finest, affordable tea China has to offer. What a caffeinated month it has been folks, and the results are in!!!
Bì luó chūn (碧螺春)
This concoction ranges in colour from light green to golden pee yellow and has the aroma of dried cut grass. The taste is what I imagine you would experience if you were to lick the insole of a flip-flop/ sandal after it has been worn for the first time. 3/10
Tiě guān yīn (铁观音)
If you want what appears to be a mini seaweed salad bowl in your cup, then this is the tea for you. A little bit goes a long way with this one and lets just say the seaweed affect isn’t just for appearance. If you like your teas with a slight prawn meets flora flavour, then this brew is for you. 3/10
Dà hóng páo (大红袍)
Anyone who has walked in the English countryside will recognise the smell permeating from this concoction. The scent of cold cow pat comes to mind while the taste is akin to water in which bean sprouts have been boiled. Oddly it’s quite nice and smooth when cold. 5/10
Jīn jùn méi (金骏眉)
If you are a coffee lover, then this is the tea for you. This is the tea you drink on Sunday morning when relaxing in bed. Ranging from dark brown and golden honey in colour, it has an acidity which hits the back of your throat, and a taste reminiscent of coffee meets burnt toast scrapings. 5/10
Bái máo hóu (白毛猴)
It smells like a wet, old umbrella.” Michelle said as she sipped on her tea made from this particular leaf. To me, this drink tastes old, like it could have been brewed by an apothecary and it reminds me of cold Chinese B.B.Q. Beware it has a wicked chemically sour taste when cold. 1/10
Diān hóng (滇紅)
Appearing blood red when freshly brewed, this drink smells like a warm sofa seat after you have sat through a three-hour movie epic, giving off a warm musty aroma of sorts. The tastes wraps around your tongue like a wedding ring with a similar metallic texture. However, oddly when this tea is cold it has a nice almost sweet straw taste to it. 7/10
Long jǐng (龙井)
This drink has the appearance of dried out spring onion leaves and is an inoffensive, almost tasteless brew. To quote my colleague/friend/fellow tea taster Amanda. “It’s tea. It’s nothing special”. 4/10
Bái chá (白茶) White Tea
This beverage lacks any colour or smell but has a pleasant sweetness to it. It is a dry drink which leaves you thirsty afterwards. 7/10
Dà mài chá (大麦茶) Wheat tea
Before brewing, this tea gives off a dark chocolatey coffee smell. However, the scent changes to that of sesame seed oil when water is added. If you have ever eaten sugar puffs or any other wheat-based breakfast food, then you will instantly recognise this taste. It’s cereal in a mug! 8/10
Pǔ ěr (普洱)
This tea for me is the elixir of the cha gods!!! It is a smooth, comforting liquid which pulses energy gently through your veins and leaves you feeling content and focused on what needs to be done. This tea is designed for the stressed-out teacher, mulling over progress reports, lesson plans and a hundred and one other things. It’s a hug in a mug that says “you’ve got this!!!” 10/10
So, there you have it. My rundown of all things cha. Now get out there and find your caffeinated soul beverage. You’ll be glad that you did.
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Teach English, travel and work in China
Post by EF Teacher Fran Church
Fran is a thirty-something English woman who lives in the winter wonderland of Harbin. She loves to travel and in her spare time, she can either be found curled up with a good book, gorging on chicken wings and bourbon whiskey or happily embroidering her own designs. She likes colourful tattoos, adorable dogs and writing fiction.