During the class, we discovered that Chinese teas are grouped into red (black), white, dark (post-fermented), yellow and green teas. As groups they have fairly obvious appearance, taste and aroma differences. Look a little more closely, however, and you discover a whole host of more subtle factors affecting your final cup – the differences bought about by growing region, when the tea is harvested (some types are harvested at 3 or 4 different times of year and nearly all are still hand-picked), whether they are produced by oxidation or fermentation, and even what temperature water is used to make the final cup.
Of course, we also tasted the various types to experience the subtle differences fo ourselves. Amazingly, the quality of some teas is deemed so high that they command a huge price – this year, 500g (or a ‘Jin’) of tea can set you back from RMB350 up to RMB6000. But beware; steep your tea leaves too long or in water that is too hot and you will get a bitter brew – no matter how many Kuai you paid!!
A lot to learn, and our class really only scratched the surface, but everyone left feeling pretty well educated, even if slightly awash with tea. Fortunately there was a complete contrast as the tour rounded off with the traditional cuisine of Shaoxing, a city in the Zhejiang province, famous for dishes using yellow rice wine.
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