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5 Health-Boosting Chinese Teas and Their Remarkable Benefits

Updated: May 7

Chinese Tea

Chinese teas are widely known as one of the most invigorating beverages out there. Offering an uplifting fragrance that gently cleanses the palate, these teas, best enjoyed piping hot and freshly poured from an exquisite teapot, are highly coveted at dim sum restaurants, pastry cafés and intimate family reunions. Furthermore, they are also among the healthiest, yielding a slew of brain- and body-strengthening benefits for the young and old alike. 

Teas classified as Chinese teas include pu-erh tea, white tea, black tea, green tea and oolong tea. Whether you’re in the midst of losing weight, cutting down your sugars, or lowering your cholesterol, there’s always a tea that you can stop for. Ahead, our tea sommeliers at Umbi Tea & Coffee have gathered five delicious, nourishing and easily accessible Chinese teas to try. Better yet, come for tea at our sophisticated cafe, where they pair perfectly with decadent eclairs and moist, scrumptious cakes.  

About Camellia Sinensis

Camellia Sinensis

Pu-erh tea, white tea, black tea, green tea and oolong tea are all categories of Chinese teas derived from the same plant. Known collectively as Camellia sinensis, this species of evergreen shrub is edible from leaf to stem, and can be processed using a variety of methods to achieve different flavours. Sometimes, aromas can also be differentiated based on specific strains of the camellia plant used. The growing conditions in which Camellia sinensis is cultivated can also impact the overall flavour profile of the Chinese tea.

Camellia sinensis is native to East Asia where it is consumed the most in China. 

Pu-Erh Tea

Pu-erh is a type of fermented tea hailing from Yunnan, China. Distinguished from other Chinese tea counterparts for its microbial fermentation process, which involves roasting and compacting leaves for bacterial interaction in a controlled environment, pu-erh tea is also known as a ‘dark’ tea that gets better in taste as it ages. Quality pu-erh comes with a mellow woody fragrance, is distinctively smooth, and sometimes described as slightly sweet.

The fermented nature of pu-erh tea introduces probiotics that can help to balance the microbiome population in your gut. This can influence multiple aspects of your health, including a stronger immune system, reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and even better brain function. Preliminary findings also indicate that pu-erh tea is linked to the inhibition of tumour growth

White Tea

While pu-erh tea is oxidised to a great extent, the other end of the spectrum lies white tea. Of all Chinese tea varieties, it is the least processed, requiring only drying after being picked in its immature state as young leaves. Because of white tea’s time-sensitive harvest, specifically at the start of spring, it is also considered one of the most valuable. White tea is floral, with a hint of lemon, tastes the ‘softest’ and has minimal caffeine. 

One notable feature of white tea is its higher levels of antioxidants due to its reputation as the least-processed Chinese tea. Plant compounds such as catechins contain antioxidant properties that can combat ageing and inflammation. This translates to a lessened risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Because free radicals trigger oxidative stress, the antioxidative effects of white tea can also help to protect skin cells, thereby preventing damage manifesting in wrinkles, dark spots and uneven complexion. 

Black Tea

Local to China, black tea is renowned in various cultures for its rich flavour profile and incredible versatility. In East Asia, it is also commonly referred to as ‘red tea’, as its brew often results in a reddish-brown colour. Being highly oxidised, black tea is stronger than most teas, and is touted to preserve its qualities for a long time. Thus, it offers remarkable shelf life, and is a favourite in the Western world for classic pairings with the likes of milk, sugar or even other ingredients such as fruit, flowers and spices.

Advantages of consuming black tea on a regular basis include better heart health, improved digestive health and a lower risk of cancer. Meanwhile, the caffeine within black tea can contribute to increased alertness and focus; while L-theanine serves to promote relaxation, mitigating the anxiety-inducing effects of caffeine for a jitter-free energy boost. 

Green Tea

Unlike all other forms of Chinese tea, green tea does not undergo oxidation at all. Rather, this common tea is processed shortly after harvesting, which consists of only drying to retain its vegetal flavour and antioxidant benefits. These attributes have made green tea one of the most popular teas despite being one of the oldest and most commercially available. According to the World Green Tea Association, China is the largest green tea-drinking nation, accounting for 50 percent of global green tea consumption, next to Japan. Indonesia follows closely, with 30,000 tons of green tea consumed annually. 

Given that green tea bypasses the fermentation process, which white tea undergoes to a lesser extent, green tea is regarded to contain the highest amount of antioxidants among Chinese teas. Besides catechins, tannins are also a key polyphenol with significant anti-inflammatory effects. This study finds that individuals who drink more green tea tend to have a lower risk of dying, particularly in relation to cardiovascular causes. Bioactive substances, such as caffeine and EGCG, found in green tea are also said to boost metabolism, facilitating weight loss. 

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea offers a comfortable middle ground between black tea and green tea, as it blends the oxidised characteristics of the former with the fresh and grassy qualities of the latter. Known to be semi-fermented, oolong tea is manufactured by ‘solar withering’, leaves spread out to wilt evenly before being rolled and left to interact with oxygen for a specific amount of time. Stopping the fermentation process halfway using heat therefore makes oolong partially oxidised. These steps give oolong its dark colour and complex — fruity and nutty — taste. 

Besides antioxidants, oolong tea is known to possess several nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. Studies have shown that oolong tea can also help to relieve eczema symptoms and enhance cognitive performance. This is attributed to a combination of amino acids such as theanine and polyphenols such as theaflavins.

Final Thoughts 

The benefits of tea, notably Chinese tea, are manifold and in spite of their healthful qualities, are so palatable that the art of appreciating them has been passed down through generations, permeating various cultures and continents. 

Umbi Tea & Coffee, a café located in Bogor, Indonesia, provides opportunities for tea appreciation at multiple levels, from tasting to making. Discover more about the diverse benefits of different Chinese teas, or the artful process of brewing them with us. Visit our café today, and let us elevate your afternoon relaxation with the exquisite taste of comfort. 

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