You seldom give it much attention, all the health-stealers in your environment and lifestyle: sooty air, brackish water, tobacco & alcohol, the stress of keeping your career on track. When you do, you take a mental note to exercise more, eat healthier, stop smoking so much, just as soon as the important stuff’s out of the way, of course.
Incorporating Chinese tea into your daily routine is the easiest way to greatly affect your health for the better. We say “Chinese tea” because buying Lipton’s or paying 25 RMB for a fruity-licious Tazo Cha infusion at skcubratS would truly be hauling coals to Newcastle. Chinese tea isn’t just green or black, and offers as much variety to the connoisseur as does wine. Adding sugar (even fruit sugar) destroys tea’s marvelous salutary effects, and 25RMB can buy 50 grams of a good grade, enough to last a week of all-day sipping.
So here are 5 great teas you probably haven’t heard of, and why you should try them. The price for an acceptable grade is given by the jin (500 grams), but don’t forget that one-tenth that measure, yi liang, will more than suffice as an introductory amount.
Yixing Hong Cha – 160 RMB/ jin
Yixing red tea smells incredibly rich and distinctive, with deep, lasting body and flavor light years from the faint green stuff you’re probably used to sipping at Chinese restaurants while waiting for your beer. At the same time, it’s not overpoweringly earthy, as Pu’er and other black teas can be to the novice. Yixing Hong Cha packs a nice shot of caffeine, as well, which in combination with its complexity makes it a perfect tea to wean yourself off coffee with.
Tian Cha – 150 RMB/ jin
“Tian” as in “sweet”, not as in “sky”. If this variety doesn’t dissuade you from viewing all tea as bitter leaf juice, none will. With no agent other than the soil it springs from, tian cha delivers a sublimely sweet finish, in noticeable contrast to sugared beverages that are sweet first, then cloying. This makes it a fantastic summer drink – soak five grams in a liter of water, then refrigerate, and you have a delicate iced tea unavailable in any supermarket.
Ironically, the same properties that make tian cha sweet also help fight the symptoms of diabetes, and are a tonic for the kidneys, boosting their eliminatory function.
Xiao Ye Kuding – 200 RMB/ jin
An herbal tea, Xiao Ye Kuding is bitter to the tip and sides of the tongue, but resolves aromatically over the whole palate. For many, it is an acquired taste, but then again, so are coffee and cigarettes. Furthermore, xiao ye ku ding is a nostrum for virtually all the ills of modern life – high cholesterol, overheated systems, congested heads, and clogged digestive tracts.
More over, xiao ye kuding is well known among the Chinese for countering the short-term ill effects of smoking, and for lubricating the throat, an ideal tea for those who have to bark all day for a living [teachers, newspaper hawkers, and the like].
Chong Shi- 200 RMB/ jin
This tea’s name translates as “worm s – – t”, and it’s not metaphorical. Chong shi cha is literally the feces of little tea-leaf-eating worms. Before you blanch, consider that kopi luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee at $600 a pound, consists of weasel droppings (ok, civet droppings after they eat coffee berries). The only clue that something else has already enjoyed this tea is the funky, loamy scent, more suggestive of fermentation than even the darkest Pu’er.
Chong shi cha provides unparalleled digestive benefits, as or more effective than macrobiotic yogurt cultures in restoring healthy bacteria to the digestive tract. It’s also held to purify the lungs.
Bi Luo Chun – 220 RMB/ jin
The original name of this tea, changed in the Qing Dynasty, was ‘shockingly aromatic’, and understandably so. Amazingly full-bodied for a green tea, bi luo chun easily rivals the erstwhile king of greens, long jing. Few other teas will so quickly cultivate a western palate, turning a tongue that only appreciates sweet and salty to one that delights in pungent and savory flavors.
Green teas have a well-documented cornucopia of health benefits, and bi luo chun is no exception. Anti-oxidants, phytophenols, and a host of other polysyllabic compounds make green tea the primary factor in the Japanese people’s longevity. Three cups a day will counterbalance all sorts of self-inflicted damage.