Types of Chinese Tea: Benefits, Flavors, Prep, and More

Types of Chinese Tea: Benefits, Flavors, Prep, and More

Posted by Ashley Davis on

Tea has long been a cornerstone of Chinese culture. With humble origins from the Camellia sinensis plant, tea is now the most consumed beverage in the world next to water.

In this guide, we’ll break down the history of this fascinating beverage and explore the benefits, intricacies, and flavors of Chinese tea, as well as the correct preparation for maximum enjoyment.

A History of Chinese Tea

Legend has it that tea was first discovered by Emperor Shen Nong around 2732 B.C. Shen Nong was boiling water under a tree when tea leaves blew into it. The story goes that the Emperor was so taken with the drink’s refreshing and invigorating qualities that tea, as we now know it, was born.

While we can’t know who the first tea drinker was with certainty, we do know that archeological evidence suggests that tea was cultivated in China as far back as 2,400 years ago.

Tea was consumed much differently. It was generally combined with ingredients like vegetables and grain porridge and eaten as a soup.

1,500 years ago, it was discovered that the leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant created a complex and delicious taste and aroma when added to boiling water on their own.

Still, tea was used mostly for medicinal purposes until the Tang Dynasty. During this time, poet Lu Yu wrote “The Classic of Tea” (Cha Jing).  

This work codified tea cultivation, preparation, and consumption, highlighting the deep respect and aesthetic pleasure the Chinese people derived from tea.

The Song Dynasty (960–1279 A.D.) further refined tea culture, with a focus on the artistic presentation and the development of powdered tea.

By the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 A.D.), loose-leaf tea became the norm, and teapots and teacups were used, changing how tea was consumed. 

Chinese tea etiquette and tea ceremonies are profound expressions of Chinese culture, emphasizing respect, mindfulness, and tradition. These practices have evolved over centuries and play vital roles in social interactions, family rituals, and cultural preservation.

Types of Chinese Tea

Chinese tea varies in flavor from light and floral to robust and earthy. There’s a flavor for every preference, so use this guide to find the right fit for your daily tea drinking.

Green Tea

It’s a common misconception that green tea is a different strain from black tea. In actuality, green and black tea are both made from leaves of the same plant, the Camellia sinensis bush. 

Green tea tastes fresher and more “earthy” than black tea because it doesn’t undergo the process of oxidation. (Oxidation is when tea leaves mingle with oxygen in the air, changing their chemical composition).

Green tea’s flavor profile ranges from light and delicate to bold and robust. Notes of grass, nuts, flowers, and a subtle sweetness are common.

Green Tea Jar

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Each type of green tea has unique characteristics based on its growing region, harvesting time, and processing methods.

Here are some of the most popular.

Dragon Well (Longjing)

The processing method of Dragon Well tea includes being pan-fried. This process gives the leaves their signature flat shape. This tea helps reduce stress and boosts brain function. It’s one of China’s most famous teas and is thought of as a prestigious gift. 

Green Snail Spring (Biluochun)

This tea is made of tightly rolled leaves that resemble snail shells, thus giving it its name. It comes from the Dongting Mountain region, supports cardiovascular health, and enhances metabolism.

Matcha

Matcha tea is unique in that it consists of the whole tea leaf ground into powder. Because of this, the caffeine content is high (around 70mg per 8oz serving). It has a strong vegetal taste and a thick and creamy texture. 


If you’re new to Matcha, try the organic ceremonial-grade matcha powder from Kagoshima, Japan, which is sold in the Magic Hour Shop.

 

Gunpowder Tea

This tea gets its name from being tightly rolled into small pellets that resemble gunpowder. Its taste is bold and smokey, with around 25–35mg of caffeine per 8-oz cup. 


It supports immune function, aids in weight management, and improves skin health.

Black Tea

Black tea has the most caffeine compared to other types of Chinese tea. It’s known for its dark color and rich, bold flavor.

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Here are some of the most notable.

Keemun

Keemun is often referred to as the “Burgundy of teas” for its complex, wine-like flavor. It’s a key ingredient in many English breakfast blends and hails from Qimen County in Anhui Province.

Golden Eyebrow Tea

This tea is made exclusively from the buds of tea leaves. This gives it a more delicate flavor than other black teas. The brew gets its name from its golden appearance due to the fine, downy hairs on the tea buds.

Dianhong (Yunnan) Tea

Produced in Yunnan Province, Dianhong tea is known for its large, golden-tipped leaves and smooth, full-bodied flavor. It produces a bright red or golden brew and is highly valued for its rich and mellow taste.

White Tea

Chinese white tea is minimally processed, giving it a low caffeine content. It gets its name from the fine white hairs on the young tea buds it’s made from. White teas are usually lighter and more floral than green and black teas. 

Here are some to try. 

Silver Needle

This is one of the finest grades of white tea. It’s prized for the purity of the brew and its subtle, sweet taste. Its flavor is delicate, with hints of melon and honey.

White Peony

This tea is more robust because it is made of tender buds and leaves. It retains the delicate flavor white tea is known for while also being fuller-bodied and fresh.

Magic Hour brings white tea to the next level with its unique and delectable blends, such as the warmly refreshing Apple Plum Spice White Tea available in the Magic Hour Shop.


Yellow Tea

Yellow tea, known as “Huang cha” in Chinese, is a rare and highly prized type of tea. It undergoes a unique processing method involving a slow, controlled oxidation process called “men huan.” This process gives yellow tea its distinctive color and mellow flavor. 

One of the most famous yellow teas is Junshan Silver Needle. Like the white variety of Silver Needle, Junshan tea is made of young tea buds covered in fine, silvery hairs. 

This tea is great for mental clarity and stress reduction and has a smokiness to its flavor, along with notes of apricot.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is oxidized between green and black tea, making it a class of its own. It requires precise craftsmanship in its production, making it one of the more sophisticated categories of Chinese teas.

Because of its oxidation process, oolong tea can have a wide range of flavor profiles, from floral to woody.Magnolia Oolong Tea-Luxe Pouch-Refill your Jar! (65-75 Cups net wt. 5oz/165g)-Magic Hour

If you want to explore some Oolong varieties, we suggest the magical Magnolia Rose Oolong or Goddess of Earl Oolong blend.

Dark Tea

Dark tea is an aged tea that’s gone through a fermenting process. Dark tea leaves are dried, rolled, and fermented via microbial fermentation, resulting in a rich, earthy, and complex flavor.

Pu-erh tea is the most famous and widely consumed type of Chinese dark tea. It originates from Yunnan Province and is available in two main forms:

Sheng (Raw) Pu-erh

This dark tea undergoes a natural fermentation process and is often aged for several years. It has a complex, robust flavor that evolves over time.

Shou (Ripe) Pu-erh

This dark tea undergoes an accelerated fermentation process that was developed in the 1970s to meet market demand for aged Pu-erh. It has a rich, earthy flavor and can be consumed relatively soon after production.

Preparing Chinese Tea

Preparing and drinking Chinese tea is a holistic experience that extends far beyond merely drinking a beverage. The preparation of the tea is a ritual performed with care and precision.

To begin, select your tea.

Loose-leaf tea is usually fresher and fuller in flavor.

You can also choose your type of Chinese tea based on what experience you want to have. Use our guide above to select your desired flavor profile.

Prepare Your Tea Set

After your tea leaves have been selected, it’s time to prepare your tea set.


There are several types of teapots you can use for an authentic Chinese tea experience.


Gaiwan: A gaiwan is a traditional Chinese tea bowl with a lid and a saucer. It’s versatile and suitable for brewing all types of tea. It allows for greater control over steeping times and temperatures.

Traditional Glass Gaiwan Teapot--Magic Hour

Yixing Teapot: A Yixing clay teapot is often used for Oolong and Pu-erh teas. The porous clay absorbs the tea’s flavors, enhancing the taste over time.

Porcelain Teapot: A simple porcelain teapot is suitable for brewing green, white, and yellow teas. It’s non-porous and doesn’t affect the flavor of the tea.

Prepare your teapot and cups by rinsing them with hot water. This pre-warms your teaware and helps maintain the ultimate brewing temperature.

Measure Your Leaves

The amount of tea leaves you use in your brew will depend on what types of Chinese tea you are brewing and personal preference.


Most teas include specific brewing instructions, but the general rule is 1–2 teaspoons of loose-leaf tea per 8oz of water.


Now, it’s time to brew your tea. Use the brewing time and temperature chart below for guidance.

Brew Time and Temperature by Tea Type


  • Pu-erh Tea: Brew at 95–100°C (203–212°F). Steep for 3–5 minutes
  • Oolong Tea: Brew at 85–95°C (185–205°F). Steep for 2–3 minutes
  • Yellow Tea: Brew at 75–85°C (165–185°F). Steep for 2–3 minutes
  • Green Tea: Brew at 70–80°C (160–175°F). Steep for 1–2 minutes
  • Black Tea: Brew at 90–100°C (195–212°F). Steep for 3–5 minutes
  • White Tea: Brew at 75–85°C (165–185°F). Steep for 3–5 minutes

Drink Your Tea

Take small sips. Savor the experience. Be mindful throughout the tea-drinking process. Enjoying Chinese tea is about relaxation and harmony. Feel yourself coming back into balance with every sip.

Explore the beautiful teaware in the Magic Hour Shop to enhance your experience.

Chinese Tea FAQs

What kind of tea is served in Chinese restaurants?

Specifics vary, but the most common teas served at Chinese restaurants are Jasmine, Pu-erh, Oolong, Green, and Chrysanthemum teas.

What is the correct way to drink Chinese tea?

Consuming Chinese tea is as much about the preparation and experience as it is about the taste. Chinese tea should be prepared mindfully and thoughtfully and consumed the same way. Sip your tea slowly and savor the experience. 

How many times can you steep Chinese tea?

Higher-quality loose-leaf teas can generally be steeped more times than lower-quality ones. How many infusions you can steep depends on the type of tea you are brewing, with the general amount being 3–5 times. The exception is Oolong and Pu-erh teas, which can be steeped as many as 7–10 times due to their stronger flavor.

Make Your Tea Ceremony Special

There are many types of Chinese tea to explore and enjoy. We hope this guide was helpful in learning more about all the goodness Chinese tea has to offer.

If you need help choosing a Chinese tea, take our tea quiz to find the right flavor profile for you. If you’d like to explore on your own, browse the available Chinese tea blends in the Magic Hour Shop.

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