Tea plays one of the most important roles in history of Chinese cuisine, being present in their culture for more than 3 thousand years and steadily developing with each passing century to its current form. It is Chinese history that holds the records of the earliest tea drinking, reaching back all the way to 3rd century BC during Zhou Dynasty, with numerous records confirming that since the earliest times they were used mostly as medicine. Use of tea as a beverage and social drink of the wealthy nobleman was popularized during Tang Dynasty in 8th century AD. By 9th century, tradition of tea drinking was widespread in China, with many written records being made about tea plan growing, leaves processing, tea recipes and medicinal journals.
Many Chinese royal dynasties changed the fashion of tea preparation, serving, customs, etiquette, ceremonies, and even utensils that are used. Two most influential royal dynasties that popularized expansion of new types of tea across Asia were Song Dynasty (960-1276, tea cakes that were grinded into powder and mixed with hot water) and Ming Dynasty (1368-1644, hiqiu tea, tianchi tea, jie tea, liu’an tea, songluo tea and many others). Modern types of Chinese tea started appearing during Qing Dynasty in late 1700s.
Types of Chinese tea can be differentiated between plants, regions they were cultivated, and processing it was used. Today, the most popular type of tea is without any doubt Chinese Green Tea made from the plant “Camellia sinensis” and processed with minimal oxidation. This tea was celebrated in china not only because of its nice taste and mouth feel, but also because of its medicinal properties that can reduce risk of heart disease and some types of cancer, increase metabolic rate and more. Some other types of Chinese tea are oolong tea (semi-oxidized leaves of Camellia sinensis), black tea (similar varieties like those from the western hemisphere), white tea, scented tea and compressed tea (traditionally processed to be stored in brick form).
Today, China is larger manufacturer and exporter of tea. Regions in which most of their tea is produced are Jiangbei, Jiangnan and Huanan, with most popular teas being Longjing, Huangshan, Mao Feng, Bilochun, Putuofeng Cha, and Liu'an Guapian.