Ordering tea at a Chinese restaurant can be a real struggle sometimes... because most of us have no idea what the waiter is listing down 108% of the time
Perhaps not all of us are tea enthusiasts but it's interesting to note what are some of the common types of tea served at Chinese restaurants in Malaysia so that you can finally order tea like a boss.
After all, tea is second only to water as the world's most popular beverage.
First things first, not all teas served in Chinese restaurants are "Chinese tea"
It is said that there is no specific categorisation but most agree that Chinese tea can be classified into six different types namely green tea, white tea, yellow tea, oolong tea, red tea (known as black tea in the West) and dark tea ("hei cha").
Although all Chinese tea are made from the leaves of the same species namely Camellia sinensis, this classification is based on fermentation and the different procedures used in processing tea.
Within these six categories, there are hundreds of varieties of Chinese teas.
Aside from Chinese tea, there are also Chinese herbal teas, scented teas, flower teas and more.
Now that we've covered some basic knowledge about Chinese tea, let's get to know some of the most common tea selections that can be found at Chinese restaurants in Malaysia:
Do note that the names of the tea are written in the order of "Mandarin", "Cantonese" and "English".
1. Xiang pian / Heung pin / Jasmine
Xiang pian cha, also known as mo li hua cha is perhaps one of the most popular scented Chinese teas, as jasmine blossoms are used to flavour the tea.
The fragrant jasmine flowers are usually blended with green tea to provide a smooth and floral taste, resulting in a rich, greenish-yellow colour infusion.
Like earl grey tea in the West, xiang pian is extremely popular in Asia. It is believed that it has many health benefits including to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and strengthen the immune system.
2. Ju hua / Guk fa / Chrysanthemum
Ju hua cha is a type of Chinese herbal tea and it is easily the most appetising drink in the Chinese herbal tea family as the floral aroma makes this delightfully light tea a rather tasty one.
It's one of the more popular drinks, as it can be easily found in bottles and tetra pack at any supermarket nowadays, besides Chinese restaurants and tea houses.
Delicately sweet, it is thought to be a type of cooling tea with detoxification properties that can be drunk on any occasion.
3. Pu-er / Po-lay / Pu-erh
Pu-er is perhaps one of the most popular teas served in Chinese restaurants, not just in Malaysia but in most parts of the world. People have perpetually mistaken it to be a category of tea in its own right when it is actually a type of dark tea.
Pu-er lovers have likened it to taste like "deep, woody, sweet old tea". It is the traditional choice of tea for dim sum lovers as it is said to help with digestion and the perfect antidote for the oil found in fried dim sum dishes.
It is believed that drinking pu-er can help to lose weight but it is crucial to drink it at the right time, otherwise it will actually cause you to gain weight instead.
4. Ju pu / Guk bou / Pu-er with chrysanthemum
Guk bou is a combination of guk fa and po lay, where they're blended together to get that distinctive earthiness of pu-er while enjoying the aroma and sweetness of chrysanthemum.
People often drink if during dim sum meals, as it is believed to help with digestion.
This is the perfect blend for those can’t decide between pu-er and chrysanthemum tea.
5. Tie guan yin / Tit kun yam
Tie guan yin, or 'Iron Goddess Oolong Tea', is one of the most famous oolong tea in the world. Perhaps it is named after the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, for its purifying taste.
Many would prefer having this tea for its strikingly intense flavour and gentle sweetness of the flowery fragrance.
The pure aroma offers great health benefits, being high in amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants.
6. Longjing / Lungjeng / Dragon Well
Longjing, or sometimes referred to as 'West Lake Dragon Well tea', may sound like a peculiar name for a tea but it is actually a reference to its production region - Longjing Village of West Lake in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.
It is a type of green tea with rich antioxidant content, which means that there are many health benefits. People love longjing for its mellow fresh taste and delicate aroma. Drinking this tea is definitely comforting to both the taste buds and body.
7. Du shu xiang / Tork shou heong
Of the types of tea listed here, tork shou heong (TSH) is probably the most unique as it is a type of tea that was created by Lee Thong Kay in Malaysia back in 1946.
The late Mr Lee, who was a first generation migrant from Xiamen in China's Fujien province, perfected a recipe to introduce the signature Chinese tea known as "tork shou heong" among the Chinese community in Malaysia.
Essentially, the original tea from TSH "an oolong tea that’s mild in texture, light brown in hue with a lingering aroma."
Today, TSH does not only refers to the signature tea but is also recognised as a brand that now produces other Chinese tea besides oolong.
Bonus: Liu bao / Luk bou
Liu bao used to be a common tea that can be found in Chinese restaurants in Malaysia, however, it is increasingly difficult to have this tea nowadays.
Several sources said that liu bao, a type of dark tea, was widely known as "dai yip" (which means 'big leaf" in Cantonese), referring to its properties as a bigger tea leaf.
Much like pu-er, liu bao is said to have this earthiness, with many describing it as having this "rain-water-taste".
The popularity of liu bao in Malaysia can be traced back to the 19th century when it was often served to workers at tin mines during their breaks since it dispels dampness and heat, soothes the lungs, and cools the body down.
However, there has been lesser and lesser liu bao over time and now it's being sought-after by tea collectors.
Which is your favourite tea to order for yum cha sessions? Let us know in the comments section below. :)