The Big, Wide World of Chinese Teas

by Jason Walker on July 19, 2011

in Member Content

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Just when you think you’ve tasted even most of the world’s teas, or at least heard of them, think again.

I found this very useful outline for categories of Chinese teas. The source is An Album of Chinese Famous Tea from the China Tea Museum of Hangzhou.

As you look more closely you may find some illuminating features:

– I suspect that what is sold as Lapsang souchong may be either zheng shan xiao zhong or yan (smoke) xiao zhong. That would explain why I have come across both smokey lapsang and others more similar to non-smokey teas.

– There is red tea and black tea. Red teas are usually called black teas in English. Black teas are a category of their own, of which pu’er is just a sub- sub-category.

– There are so many more teas and kinds of tea to try.

“Category” is a tricky concept in the outline. Some categories are a result of geographic origin, others by processing style. Inasmuch as some teas are a result of location-specific traditions, some categories are a bit of both. Whenever geographic or proper names were used, I capitalized those names.

The English translation:

Green tea

1. chao qing (pan fried)

a. mei (eyebrow): te zhen (special treasure), zhen mei (aka “chun mee,” treasure eyebrow), zhen (needle) mei, tu (bald) mei, Gong Xi

b. zhu (pearl): zhu cha (pearl tea), yu cha (rain tea)

c. xi nen (fine and delicate): Xi Hu long jing* (West Lake dragon well), lao zhu da fang, bi luo chun, yu hua, song zhen (pine needle)

2. hong qing (baked)

a. pu tong (common): Min hong qing, Zhe hong qing, Hui hong qing, Su hong qing

b. xi nen (fine and delicate): Huang Shan mao fengTai Ping hou kui, Hua Ding yun wu, gao qiao yin feng

c. shai qing (sun-dried): Dian qing, Chuan qing, Shaan qing

3. zheng qing (steamed): En Shi yu lu


Red tea

1. xiao zhong (suchong): Zheng Shan xiao zhong, yan xiao zhong

2. gong fuDian hong, Qi hong, Min hong

3. hong sui (broken): sui (broken), pian (piece),  mo (dust)


Wulong (Oolong)

1. Min bei (North of Min River)shui xianda hong paorou gui

2. Min nan (South of Min River)tie guan yinqi lan, shui xian, huang jin gui

3. Guang Dong: Feng Huang dan cong, Feng Huang shui xian, ling tou dan cong

4. Taiwandong ding, wen shan bao zhong


White tea

1. bai ya (white sprout): bai hao yin zhen (silver needle)

2. bai ye (white leaf): bai mu dan (white peony), gong mei


Yellow tea

1. huang ya (yellow sprout)Jun Shan yin zhenMeng Ding huang ya,

2. huang xiao: Bei Gang mao jian, Wei Shan mao jian, Wen Zhou huang tang

3. huang daHuo Shan huang ya, Guang Dong da ye qing


Black tea

1. Hu Nan hei cha: An Hua hei cha

2. Hu Bei lao qing cha: Pu Qi lao qing cha

3. Si Chuan bian cha: nan lu bian cha, xi lu bian cha

4. Dian gui hei chaPu Er cha, liu bao cha

Chinese classification for teas: green, red, wulong, white, yellow, black

Categories of Chinese tea

* links direct to examples, but not all linked teas fully exemplify tea categories. For example, some tie guan yin wulongs may be from Taiwan.

Notice an error? Let me know if I’ve overlooked something. I’m happy to correct or clarify.

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