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Discover chinatown nyc  >  Food & Etiquette
guide to tea terminology

black tea
also known as red tea (hong cha) in China; fermented tea with a stronger fragrance than green tea.

brick tea
tea composed of black or green tea that is compressed into brick shapes for easy transportation; the most famous brick tea is Pu'er made in the Yunnan province

the word for tea in Chinese

the word for tea in Arabic

term for new tea shoots

green tea
the oldest type of tea, has a natural fragrance and is baked immediately after picking. It is considered to be very healthy and contains a high amount of antioxidants

oolong tea
a green-black tea, it is partially fermented green tea and combines the freshness of green tea and the aromatic fragrance of black tea. Fujian, Guangdong and Taiwan are the main producers of oolong tea

scented tea
a mixture of green tea with flower petals of jasmine, rose, orchid, and plum combined in an elaborate process; of these types, jasmine tea is the most common

tapioca bubble tea
popular with young people today, this drink is made with tea, milk, black tapioca pearls (bubbles), and can contain infused fruit flavors. This hip sip is gulped through a wide straw, with the bubbles chewed upon arrival in your mouth

tea plant (camellia sinensis)
a flowering shrub; all tea comes from variations of this plant

white tea
a rare tea since it is only harvested for a few days out of the year, this type of tea is composed only of the buds from a rare variety of the tea plant

Photographer Kate Milford

Since ancient times, tea has been one of China's most important exports to the world, along with silk and porcelain. All tea plants originate from China even though tea is grown in countries throughout the world today.

Legend holds that tea was discovered by accident by Chinese Emperor Sh'eng Nung in 2737 BC when some leaves inadvertently fell into a pot of boiling water. Intrigued by the fragrance, he drank the leafy brew.

The first written documentation that mentions tea was not until the 3rd century BC, when a distinguished Chinese surgeon recommended it for boosting alertness. It is thought that in the early 17th century, either the Dutch or the Portuguese were responsible for bringing the first chest of Chinese tea to Europe. Since then, tea has become a leading beverage of choice worldwide.

Today tea has a wider following than ever before, due in part to modern scientific findings that suggest the health benefits of tea. Whether green, black, scented, or oolong, tea contains less caffeine than coffee and none of the sugar of cocoa drinks. Some studies have shown that regular tea consumption may lower the risk of heart disease and cancer and lower cholesterol. Green tea is said to contain many antioxidants and to be richer in these compounds than many fruits and vegetables.

Where to get tea?