Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Years ago when a flight attendant on an airline would ask me the usual, “Coffee or Tea?”, I would say coffee without batting an eyelash. But after moving to China for the first time 3 years ago, tea has suddenly become a huge part of my life and I easily fell in love with it. Now, I hardly drink coffee anymore and would prefer tea to almost any other drink. I love how there are just endless flavors to choose from. I love the aromas and the powerful scents that engulf you as you take a sip from a teacup. I love the way it makes you feel: relaxed, energized, and most of all healthy. Most teas are good for you and can help heal a lot of small ailments, especially the herbal teas.

In China, herbal teas are not just the national drink…tea is an entire culture. Drinking tea is part of everyday life here and believe me, it flows like water. Some of my favorite teas in China are Green tea (which have many variations according to the region), Black teas, and Chrysanthemum tea. Other teas also widely drank in China are Jasmine tea, Oolong Tea and White Tea.

Recently, Marc and I stopped by the InterContinental Nanjing to try their afternoon tea special which featured a mixture of green teas, black teas and the highest-grade Chrysanthemum tea I’ve ever tried. It was a really interesting afternoon filled with tea delights.

The InterContinental Nanjing's tea spread 

( cha) pronounced lyew-cha

The most popular form of green tea in China is Longjing tea also called “Dragon Well Tea” which is cultivated in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. For our afternoon tea however, we were given Huangshan Mao Feng tea, a green tea produced in Anhui province and also one of the ten Chinese Famous Teas. This tea is grown near the Yellow Mountain and picked in the early Spring. Upon picking the tea, only the new tea buds and the leaf next to the bud are taken.

Marc's green tea

Another variation of green tea

Green tea leaves formed in the shape of a dragon

Green tea leaves shaped in the forms of a starfish,
teapot, and flower basket
Marc holding green tea leaves in the form of a rabbit
Drinking green tea has many health benefits. It is very high in antioxidants and decades of research reveal it to have the potential to fight cancer and heart disease, as well as the ability to lower cholesterol, burn fat, and prevent diabetes and stroke.

(júhuā chá) pronounced joo-hwah-cha

Chrysanthemum Tea is my favorite tea in China. I love drinking this. I love the “cooling effect” it has when you drink it. Though the water is hot, you immediately feel coolness and a refreshing wave inside of you which makes it perfect even for a hot summer day! This tea is a flower-based tea made from the Chrysanthemum flowers most popular in East Asia. The flowers are usually dried and steeped in hot water. The tea is usually a pale or bright yellow in color with a nice floral aroma. Chrysanthemum Tea was first drunk during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). 

Chrysanthemum Tea
This is a particular high-grade version which requires
the use of only one flower. Normally, 3-4 buds are used
for one cup.
Chrysanthemum tea’s health benefits are said to aid in the recovery of the flu, prevent sore throat and reduce fever. In Western herbal medicine, it is also used as a compress to treat circulatory disorders and varicose veins.

(hóngchá) pronounced hoong-cha

In the Chinese language, hóngchá actually means literally “red tea” which is what they call black tea due to the color of the liquid which usually has a reddish brown color. Black teas are post-fermented and are a type of tea that is more oxidized than green and white teas. They are made from the leaves of the shrub Camellia sinensis. Black tea has a stronger flavor than the less oxidized teas.

In 2001, Boston University released a study that concludes that long-term black tea consumption reverses endothelial vasomotor dysfunction in patients with coronary heart disease. 

Who knew tea could be so wonderful? So, it might be beneficial to start drinking more tea. After all, what’s the harm? I say cheers to long life, good health and a hot cup of tea. J

Black tea
Afternoon tea table set up