Tea experts have put forth a list of what are said to be the top ten Chinese teas. Some are well-known and some are downright obscure, with only the most dedicated tea drinkers having heard of them. Here’s a rundown, in no particular order (the numbers are just to assure you that there are ten). Each is worth slowing down and using a nice gaiwan for preparing the tea at its best.
1 Tung Ting (Dongding, Jade Oolong) Oolong Tea
|What better way to steep one of these fine Chinese tea
than in this Cha Qu Gaiwan (holds 150cc)
Technically, this is a Taiwanese (formerly called Formosa) Oolong. Taiwan is a large island nation off the coast of China and so this tea is often included with Chinese teas. This is a premium Formosa Oolong famous for its unmatched fragrance and floral overtones. The leaves are tightly curled and tinged with green. They steep up a golden liquid with a flavor that makes any occasion special. A splendid version is now also grown in North Thailand.
A tea from the Anhui Province of China. It is usually hand-harvested and processed, using tippy leaves and resulting in an elegant tea with aromatic sweetness in the cup. The rich flavor with its delicate smokiness is one that lasts in your memory. This tea tends to be included in blends such as Scottish Breakfast teas to add a touch of excitement.
From the Chingkiang (Zhejiang) Province of China, this green tea is prized for its beautiful bud sets, golden liquid, and memorably sweet finish. Plucked in early spring, these buds give an elegant full-flavored cup. The tea has gained such a reputation that the name “Dragonwell” is now being used to describe not just tea from this area but a method of processing tea leaves so that they have the appearance typical of the real thing.
The tea is divided into seven grades (from best to worst): “Superior” (qiqiang), “Special” (queshe), grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, grade 4, and grade 5. Superior grade Lung Ching is hand-harvested during the short period between “Qing Ming” and “Great Rain” (generally April 5-21).
4 Yunnan Tribute Pu-Erh Tea
One of several fine teas from the Yunnan Province of China. It’s aged for years and acquires a distinctive earthy flavor that is called “bold and assertive” yet remains smooth and without bitterness.
One of the finest oolongs, this tea is from the Fujian Province in China. The leaves come from mountain grown teas said to be accessible only by monkeys trained to harvest them. The clouds and mist in the area are said to account for the tea’s intense aroma and complex, long-lasting finish. The stout, crinkly leaves open during steeping to reveal leaves with green-brown lacy edges and a brownish-green aromatic liquid. Once reserved for special ceremonies, this tea is now so popular that it is available more readily and much more affordably.
A rare white tea from the Fujian Province in China and made entirely of silvery, downy buds, hand plucked before the leaf opens and steamed very carefully. Delicate, mellow, and mildly sweet. A tea to be sipped and savored, especially when you need a calming spot in your day.
Another top 10 tea from the Chingkiang (Zhejiang) Province in China. The pearls are actually hand-rolled green tea buds with silvery tips that give those pearls a luster. They are repeatedly scented with fresh jasmine blossoms, producing a bouquet that is delicate yet lingers in your memory.
8 Feng Huang Oolong Tea
A one-time tribute tea from the Guangdong (Kwangtung) Province in China, this oolong is now available to all. Tea is produced on the Feng Huang Shan (Phoenix Mountain) ranges. The fabulous floral aroma and lingering finish are what stand out in the minds of those who try it. Sip it to get the full affect.
The best version of this green tea is only sourced from its birthplace region surrounding Dong Ting lake in Jiangsu (Kiangsu) Province in China. It is distinguished from other versions by tightly-rolled first-grade leaves a tiny fluffy appearance on each leaf. Only the tender tips are used, and the processing by hand is quite laborious but resulting in leaves that are compact, tender and wonderfully fresh and aromatic. The liquid is very pale-yellow-green with a full fresh smell and taste. This treasured tea has a sweet fragrance of peach and apricot. This tea used to be known as “Astounding Fragrance.”
10 Huang Mountain Mao Feng Green Tea
Another great tea from Anhui Province, this one is, like others on this list, influenced by clouds and mists. In this case, it is those that surround the Huang Mountain. It is also a Spring tea, being harvested early in that season of the year. Comprised of hand-picked tender tips, the tea steeps up golden in the cup and has a mellow and slightly sweet flavor.
Time to try some or all and pick your favorite!