The drinking of tea is as important to dim sum as the food. The type of tea to serve on the table is typically one of the first things the server asks dining customers. Several following types of tea are served during dim sum.
Chrysanthemum tea does not actually contain any tea leaves. Instead it is a flower-based tisane made from chrysanthemum flowers of the species Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum, which are most popular in East Asia. To prepare the tea, chrysanthemum flowers (usually dried) are steeped in hot water (usually 90 to 95 °C (194 to 203 °F) after cooling from a boil) in either a teapot, cup, or glass. However, Chrysanthemum flowers are often paired with Pu-erh tea, and this is often referred to as guk pou.
Freshly picked leaves only go through heating and drying processes, but do not undergo oxidation. This enables the leaves to keep their original green color and retain most natural substances like polyphenols and chlorophyll contained within the leaves. This kind of tea is produced all over China and is the most popular category of tea. Representative varieties include Dragon Well and Biluochun from Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces respectively.
The tea leaves are partially oxidized, imparting to them the characteristics of both green and black teas. Its taste is more similar to green tea than black tea, but has a less “grassy” flavor than green tea. The three major oolong-tea producing areas are on the southeast coast of China e.g. Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan. Tieguanyin is one of the most popular choice of tea. It is originally cultivated in Fujian province and is a premium variety of Oolong tea with delightful fragrance.
Pounei tea (Cantonese) or Pu-erh tea (Mandarin)
The tea has undergone years of fermentation, giving them a unique earthy flavor. This variety of tea is usually compressed into different shapes like bricks, discs and bowls.
There can be various mixtures of flowers with green tea, black tea or oolong tea. Flowers used include jasmine, gardenia, magnolia, grapefruit flower, sweet-scented osmanthus and rose. There are strict rules about the proportion of flowers to tea. Jasmine tea is the most popular type of scented tea, and is often the most popular type of tea served at yum cha establishments.
The above teas are produced in most of China. Chinese tea bushes (Camellia sinensis) are cultivated in the mountain areas of tropical and subtropical regions or wherever there is a proper climate, sufficient humidity, adequate sunshine and fertile soil. Chinese tea is classified in many ways, e.g., quality, method of preparation or place of production. The main processing methods include oxidation, fermentation, heating, drying and addition of other ingredients like flowers, herbs or fruits. These help to develop the special flavor of the raw tea leaves.
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