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China is a vast country with varying cultures, cuisines, and traditions. One of those traditions is tea, and there’s a lot of them! Have you ever wondered what kind of tea is typically served at Chinese restaurants? While all Chinese restaurants will vary, a few tea staples in Chinese cuisine stand out above the rest.
Though Chinese restaurants serve many types of tea, a few of the most popular teas are oolong tea, green jasmine tea, green tea, and blended teas.
In this article, we’ll go into detail about each of these teas, describing how they’re made, how to brew them, and why they’re popular in Chinese cuisine. So let’s drink up.
Though oolong tea represents only 2% of the tea manufactured and consumed worldwide, it’s especially popular in Chinese restaurants and possesses a few key differences from other teas on this list. So what makes it special? Well, oolong tea contains the qualities of both dark and green teas, giving it distinct benefits and taste.
How is Oolong Tea Made?
Oolong tea is made from Camellia sinensis leaves—the same leaves that are used to make green tea. However, what sets oolong apart is how the leaves are prepared. Oolong tea uses oxidized leaves, a chemical process that occurs when leaves are exposed to air and sunlight. Oxidation of tea leaves is what changes the color and taste of different teas.
Unlike green tea leaves, oolong tea leaves are prepared by wilting them in the sun to promote partial oxidation. And unlike black tea leaves, oolong leaves are left intact—to prepare black tea, the leaves are crushed and fully oxidized. This is how oolong combines the benefits of both black and green teas.
How is Oolong Tea Brewed?
There are several different brewing methods depending on the form your oolong tea leaves take. Most often, you’ll have loose-leaf tea, which should be prepared in a teapot with an infuser for best results.
Brewing time and the ratio of tea leaves to water also change depending on the type of oolong tea you have, but 2 grams of leaves per cup of water is generally sufficient. Tea should be steeped in 185-200F water for 2-3 minutes.
Why is Oolong Tea Popular in Chinese Restaurants?
Oolong tea is popular for its unique flavor and health benefits. Like other teas on this list, oolong tea can help reduce inflammation in your body and boost your metabolism. But what else can it do?
Oolong tea contains several important nutrients and possesses numerous health benefits. In addition to caffeine, oolong tea also contains vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium and antioxidants called polyphenols that aid in digestion and brain health.
Green tea is certainly popular — people in China are responsible for nearly 50% of the world’s total green tea consumption! Green tea has been popular in China for thousands of years for its mild, natural flavor and health benefits.
How is Green Tea Made?
Green tea is prepared from Camellia sinensis leaves and buds that haven’t undergone oxidation. Once the leaves are collected, they are steamed and pan-fried before drying. Since green tea is not fermented like black tea, it retains a high level of antioxidants.
How is Green Tea Brewed?
Green tea should be brewed at a ratio of about 2 grams per cup of water. Water should be around 185F and should steep for 3 minutes. In order not to release the bitter notes of the tea, it’s important to bring the tea to the water—that is, fill your vessel with hot water before adding your tea leaves.
Why is Green Tea Popular in Chinese Restuarants?
Green tea is an extremely popular drink, touted to be one of the healthiest beverages in existence. Green tea provides you with powerful antioxidants that protect your cells against free radicals, aiding in the prevention of health conditions like certain cancers, cognitive issues, and heart health. Green tea’s mild caffeine content helps you wake up in the morning feeling fresh, reducing inflammation in your body and kickstarting your metabolism.
Green Jasmine Tea
Green Jasmine tea is one of the most popular floral teas in East Asia. With origins in China, it’s no wonder this tea is a staple at Chinese restaurants everywhere.
How is Green Jasmine Tea Made?
Jasmine green tea is prepared by exposing green tea leaves to Jasmine blossoms. The leaves and blossoms are stored or blended together, infusing the green tea leaves with the aroma of Jasmine.
How is Green Jasmine Tea Brewed?
Jasmine tea should be brewed at a ratio of 2-5 grams of tea leaves per cup of water. Like oolong tea, Jasmine tea is typically prepared in loose leaves with a tea infuser. Water should be at 175F and steep for no more than 3 minutes.
Why is Green Jasmine Tea Popular in Chinese Restaurants?
Jasmine tea is popular in Chinese restaurants for its elegant flavor and aroma. It also pairs well with spicy foods, making it the perfect match for Chinese cuisine.
Since Jasmine tea is made with green tea leaves, it boasts the same health benefits as green tea, such as antioxidants that protect against free radical damage, a boost to your metabolism, and support for your brain and heart health.
Blended teas are works of art, requiring tea experts to blend components to create the perfect combination of flavors. Blended teas are unique experiences and are constantly open to innovation.
How Are Blended Teas Made?
Blended teas are created by combining tea leaves from different regions or blending tea leaves with flowers or herbs to create distinct flavor combinations. One example you’ve already seen is jasmine tea, which is produced by blending green tea leaves with jasmine blossoms.
How Are Blended Teas Brewed?
Brewing instructions depend on the blend you’ve selected. Since the possibilities for tea blends are almost endless, use your discretion when preparing these teas. However, most blends will follow similar instructions to the other instructions above, as they’re usually also brewed in a loose-leaf form.
Why Are Blended Teas Popular in Chinese Restuarants?
Blended teas provide new flavors and combinations that can serve different purposes. For example, you can combine herbs with green tea leaves to create herbal teas with new health benefits, not to mention the change in flavor. As Chinese cuisine develops, tea blends can develop alongside it, creating perfect combinations for any occasion.
Tea is an important part of Chinese culture and cuisine and is just as varied. Different teas are made and brewed differently, and though many teas offer similar benefits, they each provide unique flavor palettes to complement any cuisine. So next time you visit a Chinese restaurant, take note of the selection of teas offered (it’s likely to be one of those we’ve outlined here).