There is a reason that the common saying refers to “all the tea in China”; after all, the Far East is where loose tea was first brewed as a drink and where many of the most popular varieties, including many types of green tea, still come from today. Although cheaper imports were eventually grown in India and Sri Lanka, it is recognised among connoisseurs that the best types, whether black or green, originated in China.
Of the black varieties of loose tea that come from China, the most famous is probably Lapsang Souchong. This loose tea gets its distinctive bitter taste from smoking the leaves before brewing them into tea; although the legend says that this was discovered by accident centuries ago when a warehouse full of loose tea that was drying out had to be moved before it was ready. A soldier had the bright idea of drying the Lapsang Souchong over open fires and the rest is history! Less well known, but equally delicious, types of black tea include the malty Yunnan, somewhat similar to the better known tea from India, Assam, and Keemun which is brewed with specially produced strips torn from the tea plant.
The Far East is better known these days for their green tea, including many varieties that have been flavoured with local herbs, spices and even flowers. These are also available as loose leaf, though green tea is becoming so popular for its health benefits that even many supermarkets are starting to sell green tea bags. The different types include gunpowder, which gets its name from the shape and size of the pellets which are used to make the tea, as they look just like old-fashioned lead shot. Oolong tea, meanwhile, is produced in a slightly different way to most other green tea, but the popular loose tea is usually limped in with them because it has similar properties. Green loose tea is often flavoured with jasmine while Sencha is one of the most popular varieties of green tea in Europe because of its strong flavour.
China also produces white tea; these…