Monday, September 8, 2008


Oolong is a traditional tea somewhere between and in oxidation. It ranges from 10% to 70% oxidation.

In Chinese tea culture, semi-oxidized oolong teas are collectively grouped as ''qīngchá'' . Oolong has a taste more akin to green tea than to black tea: it lacks the rosy, sweet aroma of black tea but it likewise does not have the stridently grassy vegetal notes that typify green tea. It is commonly brewed to be strong, with the bitterness leaving a sweet aftertaste. Several subvarieties of oolong, including those produced in the Wuyi Mountains of northern and in the central mountains of Taiwan, are among the most famous Chinese teas.

Oolong tea leaves are processed in two different ways. Some teas are rolled into long curly leaves, while some are pressed into a ball-like form similar to gunpowder tea.

According to the "tribute tea" theory, oolong tea was a direct descendant of Dragon-Phoenix Tea Cake tribute tea. Oolong tea replaced it when loose tea came into fashion. Since it was dark, long and curly, it was called the Black Dragon tea.

According to the "Wuyi" theory, oolong tea first existed in Wuyi Mountain. This is evidenced by Qing dynasty poems such as Wuyi Tea Song and Tea Tale . It was said that oolong tea was named after the part of Wuyi mountain it was originally produced.

According to the "" theory, oolong tea had its origin in the Anxi oolong tea plant. A man named Sulong, Wulong or Wuliang discovered it.

Another tale tells of a man named Wu Liang who discovered oolong tea by accident when he was distracted by a deer after a hard day's tea-picking, and by the time he remembered about the tea it had already started to oxidize.

Processing of Oolong

Oolong tea undergoes a few delicate processes in order to produce the unique aroma and taste. Typical Oolong tea is processed according to the following steps:
#''Wilting'' : Sun dry or air dry to remove moisture partly.
#''Cooling'': Cool off in shaded area.
#''Yaoqing'' : Gently tossing leaves to bruise the edge of leaves to create more contacting surface for oxidation.
#''Cooling and Yaoqing'' are repeated multiple times.
#''Shaqing'' : The procedure is to stop oxidation with high heat. Premium leaves are usually stir fried in a large pan over high heat, large productions are done by machine.
#''Rouqing'' : The tea leaves are rolled into strands or nuggets before dehydration.
#''Roasting'': Roasting with low heat to dehydrate tea leaves, this step can be repeated with temperature variations to produce flavors of choice.

Classification and grade

Tea connoisseurs classify the tea by its aroma , taste and aftertaste . Oolongs comes in either ''roasted'' or ''light'' . While most oolongs can be consumed immediately postproduction, like pu-erh tea, many oolong can benefit from long aging with regular light roasting with a low charcoal fire .

; Pouchong : Also romanized as Baozhong, the lightest and most floral Oolong, with unrolled leaves of a light green to brown color. Originally grown in Fujian it is now widely cultivated and produced in Pinglin Township near Taipei, Taiwan.

Other oolong teas

*'''': Darjeeling tea made according to Chinese methods.
*''Thai Oolong''
*''African Oolong'': made in Malawi and in Kenya


Generally, 2.25 grams of tea per 170 grams of water, or about two teaspoons of oolong tea per cup, should be used. Oolong teas should be prepared with 180°F to 190°F water and steeped 3-4 minutes.

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh, Pu'er tea, Puer tea or Bolay tea is a type of tea made from a "''large leaf''" variety of the tea plant ''Camellia sinensis'' and named after near Simao, Yunnan, China.

''Pu-erh'' tea can be purchased as either ''raw/green'' or ''ripened/cooked'' , depending on processing method or aging. Sheng pu-erh can be roughly classified on the tea oxidation scale as a green tea, and the shou variant as post-fermented tea. The fact that pu-erh fits in more than one tea type poses some problems for classification. For this reason, the "green tea" aspect of ''pu-erh'' is sometimes ignored, and the tea is regarded solely as a post-fermented product. Unlike other teas that should ideally be consumed shortly after production, ''pu-erh'' can be drunk immediately or aged for many years; ''pu-erh'' teas are often now classified by year and region of production much like wine vintages.

While there are many counterfeit ''pu-erhs'' on the market and real aged ''pu-erh'' is difficult to find and identify, it is still possible to find ''pu-erh'' that is 10 to 50 years old, as well as a few from the late Qing dynasty. Indeed, tea connoisseurs and speculators are willing to pay high prices for older ''pu-erh'', upwards of thousands of dollars per cake.

''Pu-erh'' tea is available as ''loose leaf'' or as cakes of ''compacted tea'' .

Introduction and history

''Pu-erh tea'' is traditionally made with leaves from old wild tea trees of a variety known as "broad leaf tea" or ''Camellia sinensis var. assamica'', which is found in southwest China as well as the bordering tropical regions in Burma, Vietnam, Laos, and the very eastern parts of India. The shoots and young leaves from this varietal are often covered with fine hairs, with the pekoe larger than other tea varietals. The leaves are also slightly different in chemical composition, which alter the taste and smell of the brewed tea, as well as its desirability for aging. Due to the scarcity of old wild tea trees, ''pu-erh'' made using such trees blended from different tea mountains of Yunnan are highly valued, while more and more connoisseurs are seeking ''pu-erh'' with leaves taken from a single tea mountain's wild forests. The history of ''pu-erh'' tea can be traced back to the Eastern Han Dynasty.

''Pu-erh'' is well known for the fact that it is a compressed tea and also that it typically ages well to produce a pleasant drink. Through storage, the tea typically takes on a darker colour and mellower flavour characteristics. Often ''pu-erh'' leaves are compressed into tea cakes or bricks, and are wrapped in various materials, which when stored away from excessive moisture, heat, and sunlight help to mature the tea. Pressing of ''pu-erh'' into cakes and aging the tea cakes possibly originated from the natural aging process that happened in the storerooms of tea drinkers and merchants, as well as on horseback caravans on the Ancient tea route that was used in ancient Yunnan to trade tea to Tibet and more northern parts of China. Compression of the tea into dense bulky objects likely eased horseback transport and reduced damage to the tea.


All types of ''pu-erh'' tea are created from máochá(), a mostly un green tea processed from a "large leaf" variety of ''Camellia sinensis'' found in the mountains of southern Yunnan. ''Maocha'' can undergo "ripening" for several months prior to being compressed to produce ripened pu-erh , or be directly compressed to produce raw pu-erh.

While unaged and unprocessed ''raw pu-erh'' is technically a type of green tea, ''ripened'' or ''aged raw pu-erh'' has occasionally been mistakenly categorised as a subcategory of black tea due to the dark red colour of its leaves and liquor. However, ''pu-erh'' in both its ripened or aged forms has undergone secondary oxidization and caused both by organisms growing in the tea as well as from free-radical oxidation, thus making it a unique type of tea.

In China, where fully-oxidised tea is known as "red tea," ''pu-erh'' is indeed classified as a "black tea" , something which is resented by some who argue for a separate category for ''pu-erh'' as most other black teas tend to be of low standard and status.

Raw ''pu-erh'' and ''Máochá''

After picking appropriate tender leaves, the first step in making raw or ripened ''pu-erh'' is converting the leaf to ''máochá'' . Plucked leaves are handled gingerly to prevent bruising and unwanted oxidation. Weather permitting, the leaves are then spread out in the sun or a ventilated space to wilt and remove some of the water content. On overcast or rainy days, the leaves will be wilted by light heating, a slight difference in processing that will affect the quality of the resulting ''maocha'' and ''pu-erh''. The wilting process may be skipped altogether depending on the tea processor.

The leaves are then dry pan-fried using a large wok in a process called "kill green" , which arrests enzyme activity in the leaf and prevents further oxidation. With enzymatic oxidation halted, the leaves can then be rolled, rubbed, and shaped through several steps into strands. The shaped leaves are then ideally dried in the sun and then manually picked through to remove bad leaves. Sometimes maocha is aged uncompressed and sold at its maturity as aged loose-leaf raw ''pu-erh''.

''Raw pu-erh tea'' , also known as "''uncooked pu-erh''" or "''green pu-erh''," is simply ''máochá'' tea leaves that have been compressed into its final form without additional processing.

Ripened pu-erh

Ripened ''pu-erh'' tea is pressed ''maocha'' that has been specially processed to imitate aged raw ''pu-erh''. Although it is more commonly known as "''cooked pu-erh''," the process does not actually employ cooking to imitate the aging process. The term may come about due to inaccurate transliteration due to the dual meaning of "shoú" as both "''fully cooked''" and "''fully ripened''" .

The process used to convert ''máochá'' into ripened ''pu-erh'' is a recent invention that manipulates conditions to approximate the result of the aging process by prolonged bacterial and fungal fermentation in a warm humid environment under controlled conditions, a technique called ''wòdūi'' , which involves piling, dampening, and turning the tea leaves in a manner much akin to composting.

The piling, wetting, and mixing of the piled ''máochá'' ensures even fermentation. Poor control in fermentation/oxidation process can result in bad ripened ''pu-erh'', characterized by badly decomposed leaves and an aroma and texture reminiscent of compost. The ripening process typically takes anywhere from half a year to one year after it has begun. As such, a ripened ''pu-erh'' produced in early 2004 will be pressed in the winter of 2004/2005, and appear on the market between late 2005 or early 2006.

This process was first developed in 1972 by Menghai Tea Factory and Kunming Tea Factory to imitate the flavor and color of aged raw ''pu-erh''. This technique was an adaptation of "wet storage" techniques that were being used by merchants to falsify the age of their teas. Mass production of ripened ''pu-erh'' began in 1975. It can be consumed without further aging, though it can also be stored to "air out" some of the less savory flavors and aromas acquired during fermentation. The tea is often compressed but is also common in loose form. Some collectors of ''pu-erh'' believe that ripened ''pu-erh'' should not be aged for more than a decade.


To produce ''pu-erh'' many additional steps are needed prior to the actual pressing of the tea. First, a specific quantity of dry ''máochá'' or ripened tea leaves pertaining to the final weight of the bingcha is weighed out. The dry tea is then lightly steamed in perforated cans to soften and make it more tacky. This will allow it to hold together and not crumble during compression. A ticket, called a "''Nèi fēi''" or additional adornments, such as coloured ribbons, are placed on or in the midst of the leaves and inverted into a cloth bag or wrapped in cloth. The pouch of tea is gathered inside the cloth bag and wrung into a ball, with the extra cloth tied or coiled around itself. This coil or knot is what produces the dimpled indentation at the reverse side of a tea cake when pressed. Depending on the shape of ''pu-erh'' being produced, a cotton bag may or may not be used. For instance, ''brick'' or ''square'' teas often are not compressed using bags.

Depending on the desired product and speed, from quickest and tightest to slowest and loosest, pressing can either be done by:
* A ''hydraulic press'', which forces the tea into a metal form that is occasionally decorated with a motif in sunken-relief. Due to its efficiency, this method is commonly used to make all forms of pressed ''pu-erh''. Tea can be pressed in the press either with or without it being bagged, with the latter done by utilizing a metal mould. Tightly compressed bing, formed directly into a mould without bags using this method are known as ''tié bǐng'' due to its density and hardness. It is believed that the taste of densely compressed raw ''pu-erh''s can benefit from careful aging for up to several decades.
* A ''lever press'', which was operated by hand for tight pressings and has largely been replaced by the modern hydraulic press.
* A ''large heavy stone'', carved into the shape of a short cylinder with a handle, simply weighs a bag of tea down onto a wooden board. The tension from the bag and the weight of the stone together gives the tea its rounded and sometimes non-uniformed edge. Due to the manual labour involved, this method of pressing is often referred to as: "''Hand''" or "''Stone-pressing''," and is how many artisanal ''pu-erh bing'' are still manufactured.

Pressed ''pu-erh'' is removed from the cloth bag and placed on latticed shelves where they are allowed to air dry, which depending on the wetness of the pressed cakes may take several weeks or months. In ancient times, ''tuocha'' cakes may have had holes punched through the center so that they could be tied together on a rope for easy transport.
| ''Brick''
| Zhuānchá
| A thick rectangular block of tea, usually in 100g, 250g, 500g, and 1000g sizes. ''Zhuancha'' bricks are the traditional shape that was used for ease of transport along the Ancient tea route by horse caravans.
| ''Square''
| Fāngchá
| A flat square of tea, usually in 100g or 200g sizes. They often contain words that are pressed into the square.
| ''Mushroom''
| Jǐnchá
| Literally meaning "tight tea," the tea is shaped much like ''túocha'', but with a stem rather than a convex hollow. This makes them quite similar in form to a mushroom. Pu-erh tea of this shape is generally produced for Tibetan consumption, and is usually 250g or 300g.
| ''Melon, or Gold melon''
| Jīnguā
| A shape similar to ''tuóchá'', but larger in size with a much thicker body that is decorated with pumpkin-like "stripes". This shape was created for the famous "Tribute tea" that was made expressly for the Qing Dynasty from the best tea leaves of Yiwu Mountain. Larger specimens of this shape are sometimes called "Human-head tea" due in part to its size and shape, as well as the fact that in the past it was often presented in court in a similar manner to severed heads.

Process and oxidation

Although ''pu-erh'' teas are often collectively classified in Western and East Asian tea markets as ''post-fermentation'' or ''black'' teas, respectively, ''pu-erh'' teas in actuality can be placed in three types of processing methods, namely: ''green tea'', ''fermented tea'', and ''secondary-oxidation/fermentation tea''.

''Pu-erh'' can be green teas if they are lightly processed before being pressed into cakes. Such ''pu-erh'' is referred to as ''maocha'' if unpressed and as "green/raw ''pu-erh''" if pressed. While not always palatable, they are relatively cheap and are known to age well for up to 20 or 30 years. ''Pu-erh'' can also be a fermented tea if it undergoes slow processing with fermenting microbes for up to a year. This ''pu-erh'' is referred to as "ripened/cooked ''pu-erh''", and has a mellow flavour and is readily drinkable. Aged ''pu-erh''s are secondary-oxidation and post-fermentation teas. If aged from green ''pu-erh'', the aged tea will be mellow in taste but still clean in flavour.

According to the production process, four main types of ''pu-erh'' are commonly available on the market:
*''Maocha'': Green ''pu-erh'' leaves that are sold in loose form. The raw material for making pressed ''pu-erh''s. Badly processed maocha will result in an inferior pu-erh.
*''Green/raw pu-erh'': Pressed ''maocha'' that has not undergone additional processing. Quality green ''pu-erh'' is highly sought by collectors.
*''Ripened/cooked pu-erh'': Pressed ''maocha'' that has undergone fermentation in the ripening process for up to a year. Badly fermented maocha will create a muddy tea with fishy and sour flavours indicative of inferior aged pu-erhs.
*''Aged raw pu-erh'': A tea that has undergone a slow secondary oxidation and a certain degree of microbial fermentation. Although all types of ''pu-erh'' can be aged, it is typically the pressed raw ''pu-erh''s that are most highly regarded, since aged ''maocha'' and ripened ''pu-erh'' both lack a "clean" and "assertive" taste.



Yunnan province produces the vast majority of ''pu-erh'' tea. Indeed, the province is the source of the tea's name, Pu'er Hani and Yi Autonomous County. ''Pu-erh'' is produced in almost every county and prefecture in the province, but the most famous ''pu-erh'' areas are known as the Six Famous Tea Mountains
Six famous tea mountains

The six famous tea mountains are a group of mountains in Xishuangbanna that are renowned for their climates and environments, which not only provide excellent growing conditions for ''pu-erh'', but also produce unique taste profiles in the produced ''pu-erh'' tea. Over the course of history, the designated mountains for the tea mountains have either been changed or listed differently.

In the Qing dynasty government records for pu-erh , the oldest historically designated mountains were said to be named after six commemorative items that were left in the mountains by Zhuge Liang, These mountains are all located northeast of the Lancang River in relatively close proximity to one another. The mountains' names, in the Standard Mandarin character pronunciation are:
#''Gedeng'' : The term for "leather stirrup"
#''Mansa'' : The term for "seed sowing bag"
#''Mangzhi'' : The term for "copper cauldron"
#''Manzhuan'' : The term for iron brick"
#''Yibang'': The term for "wooden clapper"
#''Yōulè'' : The term meaning "copper gong"

Southwest of the river there are also six famous tea mountains that are lesser known from due to their isolation by the river.

Other regions

In addition to China, border regions touching Yunnan in Vietnam, Laos, and Burma are also known to produce ''pu-erh'' tea, though little of this makes its way to the Chinese or international markets.


Perhaps equally or even more important than region or even grade in classifying ''pu-erh'' is the method of cultivation. ''Pu-erh'' tea can come from three different cultivation methods:
*''Plantation bushes'' : Cultivated tea bushes, from the seeds or cuttings of wild tea trees and planted in relatively low altitudes and flatter terrain. The tea produced from these plants are considered inferior due to the used of pesticides and in cultivation, and the lack of pleasant flavours, and the presence of harsh bitterness and astringency from the tea.
*''"Wild arbor" trees'': Most producers claim that their ''pu-erh'' is from wild trees, but most use leaves from older plantations that were cultivated in previous generations that have gone feral due to the lack of care. These trees produce teas of better flavour due to the higher levels of secondary metabolite produced in the tea tree. As well, the trees are typically cared for using organic practices, which includes the scheduled pruning of the trees in a manner similar to pollarding. Despite the good quality of their produced teas, "wild arbor" trees are not as prized as the truly wild trees.
*''Wild trees'' : Teas from old wild trees, grown without human intervention, are the highest valued ''pu-erh'' teas. Such teas are valued for having deeper and more complex flavors, often with camphor or "mint" notes, said to be imparted by the many camphor trees that grow in the same environment as the wild tea trees. Young raw ''pu-erh'' teas produced from the leaf tips of these trees also lack overwhelming astringency and bitterness often attributed to young ''pu-erh''.

Determining whether or not a tea is wild is a challenging task, made more difficult through the inconsistent and unclear terminology and labeling in Chinese. Terms like ''yěshēng'' , ''qiáomù'' , ''yěshēng qiáomù'' , and ''gǔshù'' are found on the labels of cakes of both wild and "wild arbor" variety, and on blended cakes, which contain leaves from tea plants of various cultivations. These inconsistent and often misleading labels can easily confuse uninitiated tea buyers regardless of their grasp of the Chinese language. As well, the lack of specific information about tea leaf sources in the printed wrappers and identifiers that come with the ''pu-erh'' cake makes identification of the tea a difficult task. ''Pu-erh'' journals and similar annual guides such as ''The Profound World of Chi Tse'', ''Pu-erh Yearbook'', and ''Pu-erh Teapot Magazine'' contain credible sources for leaf information. Tea factories are generally honest about their leaf sources, but someone without access to tea factory or other information is often at the mercy of the middlemen or an unscrupulous vendor. Many ''pu-erh'' aficionados seek out and maintain relationships with vendors who they feel they can trust to help mitigate the issue of finding the "truth" of the leaves.

Sadly, even in the best of circumstances, when a journal, factory information, and trustworthy vendor all align to assure a tea's genuinely wild leaf, fakes fill the market and make the issue even more complicated. Because collectors often doubt the reliability of written information, some believe certain physical aspects of the leaf can point to its cultivation. For example, drinkers cite the evidence of a truly wild old tree in a menthol effect supposedly caused by the trees that grow amongst wild tea trees in Yunnan's tea forests. As well, the presence of thick veins and sawtooth-edged on the leaves along with camphor flavor elements and taken as signifiers of wild tea.


''Pu-erh'' can be sorted into ten or more grades. Generally, grades are determined by leaf size and quality, with higher numbered grades meaning older/larger, broken, or less tender leaves. Grading is rarely consistent between factories, and first grade tea leaves may not necessarily produce first grade cakes. Different grades have different flavors, and many bricks feature a blend of several grades chosen to balance flavors and strength.


Harvest season also plays an important role in the flavor of ''pu-erh''. Spring tea is the most highly valued, followed by fall tea, and finally summer tea. Only rarely is ''pu-erh'' produced in winter months, and often this is what is called "early spring" tea, as harvest and production follows the weather pattern rather than strict monthly guidelines.

Tea factories

Factories are generally responsible for the production of ''pu-erh'' teas. While some individuals oversee smaller higher-end productions, such as the Xizihao and Yanqinghao brands, enjoys a good reputation, as does Changtai Tea Group, Mengku Tea Company, and other new tea makers formed in the 1990s. However, due to production inconsistencies and variations in manufacturing techniques, the reputation of a tea company or factory can vary depending on the year or the specific cakes produced during a year.

The producing factory is often the first or second item listed when referencing a ''pu-erh'' cake, the other being the year of production.

In past two years, a new generation of pu-erh tea factories has been established. For example,ChenSheng Tea Factory ,which is the only one manufacturer to supply the pest Puer tea that called LaoBanZhang ;and YPT Puerh Tea Factory, , already applies the most advanced technology to standardize its product and brands its product with Chinese ancient culture for marketing. High quality mass production and modern have transformed pu-erh tea from a regional traditional Chinese drink to a nationally widespread trend.


Tea factories, particularly formerly government-owned factories, produce many cakes by recipe, indicated by a ''recipe number''. Recipe numbers consists of four-digits. The first two digits represent the year the recipe was first produced, the third digit the grade of leaves used in the recipe, and the last digit represents the factory. 7542, for example, would be a recipe from 19''75'' using ''fourth''-grade tea leaf made by Menghai Tea Factory . There are also those who believe that the third number indicates a recipe for a particular production year. or Feng Qing Tea Factory It is argued whether tea quality is adversely affected if it is subjected to highly fluctuating humidity levels.
* ''Sunlight'': Tea that is exposed to sunlight dries out prematurely, and often becomes bitter.
* ''Temperature'': Teas should not be subjected to high heat since undesirable flavours will develop. However at low temperatures, the aging of ''pu-erh'' tea will slow down drastically. It is argued whether tea quality is adversely affected if it is subjected to highly fluctuating temperature.

When preserved as part of a ''tong'', the material of the ''tong'' wrapper, whether it is made of bamboo shoot husks, bamboo leaves, or thick paper, can also affect the quality of the aging process. The packaging methods change the environmental factors and may even contribute to the taste of the tea itself.

Further to what has been mentioned it should be stressed that a good well-aged Puerh tea is not evaluated by its age alone. Like all things in life, there will come a time when a Puerh teacake reaches its peak before stumbling into a decline. Due to the many recipes and different processing method used in the production of different batches of Puerh, the optimal age for each age will vary. Some may take 10 years while others 20 or 30+ years. It is important to check the status of ageing for your teacakes to know when they peaked so that proper care can be given to halt the ageing process.

Raw ''pu-erh''

Over time, raw ''pu-erh'' acquires an earthy flavor due to slow oxidation and other, possibly microbial processes. However, this oxidation is not analogous to the oxidation that results in green, oolong, or black tea, because the process is not catalyzed by the plant's own enzymes but rather by fungal, bacterial, or autooxidation influences. ''Pu-erh'' flavors can change dramatically over the course of the aging process, resulting in a brew tasting strongly earthy but clean and smooth, reminiscent of the smell of rich garden soil or an autumn leaf pile, sometimes with roasted or sweet undertones. Because of its ability to age without losing "quality", well aged good ''pu-erh'' gains value over time in the same way that aged roasted oolong does.

Raw ''pu-erh'' can undergo "wet storage" and "dry storage" , with teas that have undergone the latter being much more desirable.

''Pu-erh'' properly stored in different environments can develop different tastes at different rates due to environmental differences in ambient humidity, temperature, and odours.

Ripened pu-erh

Since the ripening process was developed to imitate aged raw ''pu-erh'', many arguments surround the idea of whether aging ripened ''pu-erh'' is desirable. Mostly, the issue rests on whether aging ripened ''pu-erh'' will, better or worse, alter the flavor of the tea.

It is often recommended to age ripened ''pu-erh'' to "air out" the unpleasant musty flavours and odours formed due to maocha fermentation. However, some collectors argue that keeping ripened ''pu-erh'' longer than 10 to 15 years makes little sense, stating that the tea will not develop further and possibly lose its desirable flavours. Others note that their experience has taught them that ripened ''pu-erh'' indeed does take on nuances through aging,

Because of the prolonged fermentation in ripened ''pu-erh'' and slow oxidization of aged raw ''pu-erh'', these teas often lack the bitter, astringent properties of other tea types, and also can be brewed much stronger and repeatedly, with some claiming 20 or more infusions of tea from one pot of leaves. On the other hand, young raw ''pu-erh'' is known and expected to be strong and aromatic, yet very bitter and somewhat astringent when brewed, since these characteristics are believed to produce better aged raw ''pu-erh''.

Judging quality

Quality of the tea can be determined through inspecting the dried leaves, the tea liquor, or the spent tea leaves. The "true" quality of a specific batch of ''pu-erh'' can ultimately only be revealed when the tea is brewed and tasted. Although, not concrete and sometimes dependent on preference, there are several general indicators of quality:
* ''Dried tea'': There should be a lack of twigs, extraneous matter and white or dark mold spots on the surface of the compressed ''pu-erh''. The leaves should ideally be whole, visually distinct, and not appear muddy. The leaves may be dry and fragile, but not powdery. Good tea should be quite fragrant, even when dry. Good pressed pu-erh often have a matte sheen on the surface of the cake, though this is not necessarily a sole indicator of quality
* ''Liquor'': The tea liquor of both raw and ripe ''pu-erh'' should never appear cloudy. Well-aged raw ''pu-erh'' and well-crafted ripe ''pu-erh'' tea may produce a dark reddish liquor, reminiscent of a dried jujube, but in either case the liquor should not be opaque, "muddy," or black in colour. The flavours of ''pu-erh'' liquors should persist and be revealed throughout separate or subsequent infusions, and never abruptly disappear, since this could be the sign of added flavorants.
**''Young raw puerh'':The ideal liquors should be aromatic with a light but distinct odours of camphor, rich herbal notes like , fragrance floral notes, hints of dried fruit aromas such as preserved plums, and should exhibit only some grassy notes to the likes of fresh sencha. Young raw ''pu-erh'' may sometimes be quite bitter and astringent, but should also exhibit a pleasant mouthfeel and "sweet" aftertaste, referred to as ''gān'' and ''húigān''.
**''Aged raw puerh'': Aged pu-erh should never smell moldy, musty, or strongly fungal, though some ''pu-erh'' drinkers considers these smells to be unoffensive or even enjoyable. The smell of aged pu-erh may vary, with an "aged" but not "stuffy" odour. The taste of aged raw ''pu-erh'' or ripe ''pu-erh'' should be smooth, with slight hints of bitterness, and lack a biting astringency or any off-sour tastes. The element of taste is an important indicator of aged pu-erh quality, the texture should be rich and thick and should have very distinct ''gān'' and ''húigān'' on the tongue and cheeks, which together induces salivation and leaves a "feeling" in the back of the throat.
* ''Spent tea'': Whole leaves and leave bud systems should be easily seen and picked out of the wet spent tea, with a limited amount of broken fragments. Twigs, and the fruits of the tea plant should not be found in the spent tea leaves, however animal hair, strings, rice grains and chaff may occasionally be included in the tea. The leaves should not crumble when rubbed, and with ripened ''pu-erh'', it should not resemble compost. Aged raw puerh should have leaves that unfurl when brewed while leaves of most ripened puerh will generally remain closed.


In culture, ''pu-erh'' is known as ''po-lay'' tea. Among the Cantonese long settled in California, it is called ''bo-nay'' or ''po-nay'' tea. It is often drunk during dim sum meals, as it is believed to help with digestion. It is not uncommon to add dried osmanthus flowers, pomelo rinds, or chrysanthemum flowers into brewing ''pu-erh'' tea in order to add a light, fresh fragrance to the tea liquor. ''Pu-erh'' with chrysanthemum is the most common pairing, and referred as ''guk pou'' or ''guk bou'' . ''Pu-erh'' is considered to have some medicinal qualities.


Drinking pu-erh tea is purported to aid in digestion, reduce blood cholesterol and lipid levels. It is also widely believed in Chinese cultures to counteract the unpleasant effects of heavy alcohol consumption. In traditional Chinese medicine, the tea is believed to invigorate the spleen and inhibit "dampness." In the stomach, it is believed to reduce heat and "descends qi".

Some ''pu-erh'' brick tea has been found to contain very high levels of fluorine, because it is generally made from lesser quality older tea leaves and stems, which accumlulate fluorine. Its consumption has led to fluorosis in areas of high brick tea consumption, such as Tibet.


Pu-erh tea can generally improve in taste over time . Teas that can be aged finely are typically:
#Made from high quality material
#Processed skillfully
#Stored properly over the years
The common misconception is that all types of pu-erh tea will improve in taste -- and therefore get more valuable as an investment item -- as they get older. There are many requisite variables for a pu-erh tea to age beautifully. Further, the cooked pu-erh will not evolve as dramatically as the raw type will over time from the secondary oxidation and fermentation.

As in wine, only the finely made and properly stored ones will improve and increase in value. And as in wine, the percentage of those that will improve over a long period of time is only a small fraction of what is available in the market today.

Flower tea

Flower tea

Yellow tea

Yellow tea usually implies a special tea processed similarly to green tea, but with a slower drying phase, where the damp tea leaves are allowed to sit and yellow. The tea generally has a very yellow-green appearance and a smell different from both white tea and green tea. The smell is sometimes mistaken for if the tea is cured with other herbs, but similarities in taste can still be drawn between yellow, and teas.

It can, however, also describe high-quality served at the Imperial court, although this can be applied to any form of imperially-served tea.

Varieties of yellow tea

; '''' : from , China is a ''Silver Needle'' yellow tea. A .
; '''': from Mt. Huo, , China.
; '''' : from Mt. Meng, , China.
; '''': from , China. Literally ''Big Leaf Green''.
; '''': from , China. Literally ''Yellow Soup''.


Tie Guan Yin is a premium variety of associated with Anxi in the . Named after the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara , it has also been translated as "Iron Goddess of Mercy" after the old translation for Guan Yin's name. Tie Guan Yin produced from different areas of AnXi have different characteristics. Recently the tea has been grown in Nantou, Taiwan where it thrives.

Other spellings and names include Ti Kuan Yin, Tit Kwun Yum, Ti Kwan Yin, Tie Guan Yin, Iron Buddha, Iron Goddess of Mercy, and Tea of the Iron Bodhisattva, which is probably the closest English translation.


There are two legends behind this tea: Wei and Wang.

Wei Legend

Deep in the heart of Fujian's Anxi County there was a rundown temple that held inside an iron statue of Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of Mercy. Every day, on his walk to his tea fields a poor farmer named Mr. Wei would pass by and reflect on the worsening condition of the temple. Something has to be done, thought Mr. Wei. But he did not have the means to repair the temple because he was poor. Instead the farmer brought a broom and some incense from his home. He swept the temple clean and lit the incense as an offering to Guan Yin. "It's the least I can do," he thought to himself. Twice a month for many months, he repeated the same task. Cleaning and lighting incense. One night, Guan Yin appeared to him in a dream. She told him of a cave behind the temple where a treasure awaited him. He was to take the treasure for himself, but also to share it with others. In the cave, the farmer found a single tea shoot. He planted it in his field and nurtured it into a large bush, of which the finest tea was produced. He gave cuttings of this rare plant to all his neighbors and began selling the tea under the name Tie Guan Yin, Iron Bodhisattva of Mercy. Over time, Mr. Wei and all his neighbors prospered. The rundown temple of Guan Yin was repaired and became a beacon for the region. And Mr. Wei took joy in his daily trip to his tea fields, never failing to stop in appreciation of the beautiful temple.

Wang Legend

Wang was a scholar who accidentally discovered the tea plant beneath the Guanyin rock in Xiping. He brought the plant back home for cultivation. When he visited Emperor Qianlong in the 6th year of his reign, he offered the tea as a gift from his native village. Emperor Qianlong was so impressed that he inquired about its origin. Since the tea was discovered beneath the Guanyin Rock, he decided to called it the Guanyin tea.


By roasting level
* Jade Tie Guan Yin is a newer type of Tie Guan Yin and has a light green Jade color. It produces a very flowery aroma and taste. It is more similar to green tea than Oolong, and is not good for people with weak stomach.
* Heavily Roasted Tie Guan Yin is traditional Tie Guan Yin. It has more complex taste and aroma but is less floral.
* Moderately Rasted Tie Guan Yin is a new breed that has a good balance of floral aroma and complex taste.
By harvest time
* Spring Tie Guan Yin is harvested around Li Xia and has the best overall quality.
* Autumn Tie Guan Yin is harvested in the autumn and has strong aroma but less complex taste.
* Summer Tie Guan Yin is harvested in summer and is considered lower quality. Summer Tie Guan Yin can be further divided into two types one harvested in June to July, one harvested in August.
* Winter Tie Guan Yin is harvested in winter. Production of Winter Tie Guan Yin is very low.
Other categories
* Guan Yin Wang is the best of Tie Guan Yin. It means Guan Yin King. The best Jade Tie Guan Yin and Autumn Tie Guan Yin are classified as Guan Yin Wang.

Tea brick

Tea bricks or compressed tea are blocks of whole or finely ground tea leaves that have been packed in molds and pressed into block form. This was the most commonly produced and used form of tea in ancient China prior to the Ming Dynasty. Although tea bricks are less commonly produced in modern times, many post-fermented teas, such as ''pu-erh'', are still commonly found in bricks, discs, and other pressed forms. Tea bricks can be made into beverages or eaten as food, and were also used in the past as a form of currency.


In ancient China, compressed teas were usually made with thoroughly dried and ground tea leaves that were pressed into various bricks or other shapes, although partially dried and whole leaves were also used. Some tea bricks were also mixed with binding agents such as flour, blood, or manure to better preserve their form so they could withstand physical use as currency. Newly formed tea bricks were then left to cure, dry, and age prior to being sold or traded. Tea bricks were preferred in trade prior to the 19th century in Asia since they were more compact than loose leaf tea and were also less susceptible to physical damage incurred through transportation over land by s on the Ancient tea route.

Tea bricks are still currently manufactured for drinking, as in ''pu-erh'' teas, as well as for souvenirs and novelty items, though most compressed teas produced in modern times are usually made from whole leaves. The compressed tea can take various traditional forms, many of them still being produced. A dome-shaped nugget of 100g is simply called ''tuóchá'' , which is translated several ways, sometimes as "bird's nest tea" or "bowl tea." A small dome-shaped nugget with a dimple underneath just enough to make one pot or cup of tea is called a ''xiǎo tuóchá'' which usually weighs 3g–5g. A larger piece around 375g, which may be a disc with a dimple, is called ''bǐngchá'' . A large, flat, square brick is called ''fángchá'' .

To produce a tea brick, ground or whole tea is first steamed, then placed into one of a number of types of press and compressed into a solid form. Such presses may leave an intended imprint on the tea, such as an artistic design or simply the pattern of the cloth with which the tea was pressed. Many powdered tea bricks are moistened with rice water in pressing to assure that the tea powder sticks together. The pressed blocks of tea are then left to dry in storage until a suitable degree of moisture has evaporated.

:"Yaan is the main market for a special kind of tea which is grown in this part of the country and exported in very large quantities to Tibet via Kangting and over the caravan routes through Batang and Teko. Although the Chinese regard it as an inferior product, it is greatly esteemed by the Tibetans for its powerful flavor, which harmonizes particularly well with that of the rancid yak's butter which they mix with their tea. Brick tea comprises not only what we call tea leaves, but also the coarser leaves and some of the twigs of the shrub, as well as the leaves and fruit of other plants and trees . This amalgam is steamed, weighed, and compressed into hard bricks, which are packed up in coarse matting in subunits of four. These rectangular parcels weigh between twenty-two and twenty-six pounds—the quality of the tea makes a slight difference to the weight—and are carried to Kangting by coolies. A long string of them, moving slowly under their monstrous burdens of tea, was a familiar sight along the road I followed."

:"The brick tea is packaged either in the courtyard or in the street outside, and it is quite a complicated process. When the coolies bring it in from Yaan, it has to be repacked before being consigned upcountry, for in a coolie's load the standard subunit is four bricks lashed together, and these would be the wrong shape for animal transport. So they are first cut in two, then put together in lots of three, leaving what they call a ''gam'', which is half a yak's load. Tea which is going to be consumed reasonably soon is done up in a loose case of matting, but the ''gams'', which are bound for remote destinations, perhaps even for ''Lhasa'', are sewn up in yakhides. These hides are not tanned but are merely dried in the sun; when used for packing they are soaked in water to make them pliable and then sewn very tightly around the load, and when they dry out again the tea is enclosed in a container which is as hard as wood and is completely unaffected by rain, hard knocks, or immersion in streams. The Tibetan packers are a special guild of craftsmen, readily identifiable by the powerful aroma of untanned leather which they exude.
:Another prominent guild in Kangting is that of the women tea coolies who shift the stuff from the warehouses to the inns where the caravans start. They have a monopoly on this work and the cheerful gangs of girls are a picturesque element in the city's life. They need to be immensely strong to do a job which consists of carrying over a short distance anything up to an entire yak's load several times a day. Many of them are quite pretty ; they look very gay and rather brazen as, giggling and chattering among themselves, they move along with their heavy burdens, which are held in place by a woolen girdle around the chest."

Consuming tea bricks

Due to their density and toughness tea bricks were traditionally consumed after they have been ground to a fine powder. The legacy of using of tea bricks in powdered form can be seen through modern as well as the pulverized tea leaves used in the ''lei cha'' eaten by the Hakka people.


In ancient China the use of tea bricks involved three separate steps:
#''Toasting'': A piece was broken from the tea brick and usually first toasted over a fire. This was likely done to sanitize the tea brick and destroy any molds or insects. Such infestations likely occurred when the bricks were stored uncovered in warehouses and storerooms or in covered jars underground. Toasting also imparted a pleasant flavor to the resulting tea.
#''Grinding'': The toasted tea brick was broken up and ground to a fine powder.
#''Whisking'': The powdered tea was mixed into hot water and frothed with a whisk before serving. The color and patterns formed by the powdered tea were enjoyed while the mixture was being imbibed.

In modern times, bricks of ''pu-erh'' type teas are flaked, chipped, or broken and directly steeped after thorough rinsing. The process of toasting, grinding, and whisking to make tea from tea bricks is now uncommon and not generally practiced.


Tea bricks are used as a form of food in parts of Central Asia and Tibet in the past as much as in modern times. In Tibet pieces of tea are broken from tea bricks, and boiled overnight in water, sometimes with salt. The resulting concentrated tea infusion is then mixed with butter, cream or milk and little salt to make butter tea, a staple of Tibetan cuisine.

The tea mixed with ''tsampa'' is called Pah. Individual portions of the mixture are kneaded in a small bowl, formed into balls and eaten. Some cities of the Fukui prefecture in Japan have food similar to ''tsampa'', where concentrated tea is mixed with grain flour. However, the tea may or may not be made of tea bricks.

In parts of Mongolia and central Asia, a mixture of ground tea bricks, grain flours and boiling water is eaten directly. It has been suggested that tea eaten whole provides needed roughage normally lacking in the diet.

Tea bricks as currency

Due to the high value of tea in many parts of Asia, tea bricks were used as a form of currency throughout China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Central Asia. This is quite similar to use of Salt bricks as currency in parts of Africa. Tea bricks were in fact the preferred form of currency over metallic coins for the nomads of Mongolia and Siberia. The tea could not only be used as money and eaten as food in times of hunger but also brewed as allegedly beneficial medicine for treating coughs and colds. Up until World War II, tea bricks were still used as a form of edible currency in Siberia.

Tea bricks for Tibet were mainly produced in the area of Ya'an in Sichuan province. The bricks were produced in five different qualities and valued accordingly. The kind of brick which was most commonly used as currency in the late 19th and early 20th century was that of the third quality which the Tibetans called "brgyad pa" , because at one time it was worth eight Tibetan tangkas in Lhasa. Bricks of this standard were also exported by Tibet to Bhutan and Ladakh.

Health effects

Brick tea often contains very high levels of fluorine compounds, because it is generally made from old tea leaves and stems, which accumulate fluorine. This has led to fluorosis in areas of high brick tea consumption, such as Tibet.

Quick tea

Quick tea


Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, and phytotherapy. Sometimes the scope of herbal medicine is extended to include fungi and bee products, as well as minerals, and certain animal parts.

Many plants synthesize substances that are useful to the maintenance of health in humans and other animals. These include aromatic substances, most of which are phenols or their oxygen-substituted derivatives such as tannins. Many are secondary metabolites, of which at least 12,000 have been isolated — a number estimated to be less than 10% of the total. In many cases, these substances serve as plant defense mechanisms against predation by microorganisms, insects, and herbivores. Many of the herbs and spices used by humans to season food yield useful medicinal compounds.

Anthropology of herbalism

People on all continents have used hundreds to thousands of indigenous plants for treatment of ailments since prehistoric times.

theorize that animals evolved a tendency to seek out bitter plant parts in response to illness. This behavior arose because bitterness is an indicator of secondary metabolites. The risk benefit ratio favored animals and protohumans that were inclined to experiment in times of sickness. Over time, and with insight, instinct, and trial-and-error, a base of knowledge would have been acquired within early tribal communities. As this knowledge base expanded over the generations, the specialized role of the herbalist emerged. The process would likely have occurred in varying manners within a wide diversity of cultures.

Indigenous healers often claim to have learned by observing that sick animals change their food preferences to nibble at bitter herbs they would normally reject. Field biologists have provided corroborating evidence based on observation of diverse species, such as chimpanzees, chickens, sheep and . Lowland gorillas take 90% of their diet from the fruits of ''Aframomum melegueta'', a relative of the ginger plant, that is a potent antimicrobial and apparently keeps shigellosis and similar infections at bay.

Researchers from Ohio Wesleyan University found that some birds select nesting material rich in antimicrobial agents which protect their young from harmful bacteria.

Sick animals tend to forage plants rich in secondary metabolites, such as tannins and alkaloids. Since these phytochemicals often have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antihelminthic properties, a plausible case can be made for self-medication by animals in the wild.A plant that is harmless to a particular animal may not be safe for humans to ingest. A reasonable conjecture is that these discoveries were traditionally collected by the of indigenous tribes, who then passed on safety information and cautions.

The use of herbs and spices in cuisine developed in part as a response to the threat of food-born pathogens. Studies show that in tropical climates where pathogens are the most abundant recipes are the most highly spiced. Further, the spices with the most potent antimicrobial activity tend to be selected.In all cultures vegetables are spiced less than meat, presumably because they are more resistant to spoilage.

Herbs in history

In the written record, the study of herbs dates back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians, who described well-established medicinal uses for such plants as laurel, caraway, and thyme. The Egyptians of 1000 B.C. are known to have used garlic, opium, castor oil, coriander, mint, indigo, and other herbs for medicine and the Old Testament also mentions herb use and cultivation, including mandrake, vetch, caraway, wheat, barley, and rye.

The first Chinese herb book , dating from about 2700 B.C., lists 365 medicinal plants and their uses - including , the shrub that introduced the drug ephedrine to modern medicine.

The ancient Greeks and Romans made medicinal use of plants. Greek and Roman medicinal practices, as preserved in the writings of Hippocrates and - especially - Galen, provided the patterns for later western medicine. Hippocrates advocated the use of a few simple herbal drugs - along with fresh air, rest, and proper diet. Galen, on the other had, recommended large doses of drug mixtures - including plant, animal, and mineral ingredients. The Greek physician compiled the first European treatise on the properties and uses of medicinal plants, ''De Materia Medica''. In the first century AD, Dioscorides wrote a compendium of more that 500 plants that remained an authoritative reference into the 17th century. Similarly important for herbalists and botanists of later centuries was the Greek book that founded the science of botany, Theophrastus’ ''Historia Plantarum'', written in the fourth century B.C.

The uses of plants for medicine and other purposes changed little during the Middle Ages. Many Greek and Roman writings on medicine, as on other subjects, were preserved by diligent hand copying of manuscripts in monasteries. The monasteries thus tended to become local centers of medical knowledge, and their herb gardens provided the raw materials for simple treatment of common disorders. At the same time, folk medicine in the home and village continues uninterrupted, supporting numerous wandering and settled herbalists. Among these were the “wise-women,” who prescribed herbal remedies often along with spells and enchantments. It was not until the later Middle Ages that women who were knowledgeable in herb lore became the targets of the witch hysteria. One of the most famous women in the herbal tradition was Hildegard of Bingen. A twelfth century Benedictine nun, she wrote a medical text called ''Causes and Cures''.

Medical schools began to return in the eleventh century, teaching Galen’s system. At the time, the Arabic world was more advanced in some aspects of science than Europe. As a trading culture, the Arabs had access to plant material from distant places such as China and India. Herbals, medical texts and translations of the classics of antiquity filtered in from east to west. Alongside the university system, folk medicine continued to thrive. The continuing importance of herbs for the centuries following the Middle Ages is indicated by the hundreds of herbals published after the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. Theophrastus’ ''Historia Plantarum'' was one of the first books to be printed, and Dioscorides’ ''De Materia Medica'' was not far behind.

The fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries were the great age of herbals, many of them available for the first time in English and other languages rather than Latin or Greek.
The first herbal to be published in English was the anonymous ''Grete Herball'' of 1526. The two best-known herbals in English were ''The Herball or General History of Plants'' by John Gerard and ''The English Physician Enlarged'' by Nicholas Culpeper. Gerard’s text was basically a pirated translation of a book by the Belgian herbalist and his illustrations came from a German botanical work. The original edition contained many errors due to faulty matching of the two parts. Culpeper’s blend of traditional medicine with astrology, magic, and folklore was ridiculed by the physicians of his day yet his book - like Gerard’s and other herbals - enjoyed phenomenal popularity. The Age of Exploration and the Columbian Exchange introduced new medicinal plants to Europe. The ''Badianus Manuscript'' was an illustrated Aztec herbal translated into Latin in the 16th century.

The , however, also saw the beginning of a slow erosion of the pre-eminent position held by plants as sources of therapeutic effects. This began with the introduction of the physician, the introduction of active chemical drugs , followed by the rapid development of chemistry and the other physical sciences, led increasingly to the dominance of chemotherapy - medicine - as the orthodox system of the twentieth century.

Role of herbal medicine in modern human society

The use of herbs to treat disease is almost universal among non-industrialized societies. A number of traditions came to dominate the practice of herbal medicine at the end of the twentieth century:
* The herbal medicine system, based on and sources
* The and Ayurvedic medicine systems from India
* Unani-Tibb medicine
* Shamanic Herbalism

Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of the world's population presently uses herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. Pharmaceuticals are prohibitively expensive for most of the world's population, half of which lives on less than $2 U.S. per day. In comparison, herbal medicines can be grown from seed or gathered from nature for little or no cost. Herbal medicine is a major component in all traditional medicine systems, and a common element in Ayurvedic, homeopathic, naturopathic, traditional Chinese medicine, and medicine.

The use of, and search for, drugs and dietary supplements derived from plants have accelerated in recent years. , , , and natural-products chemists are combing the Earth for phytochemicals and leads that could be developed for treatment of various diseases. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, approximately 25% of modern drugs used in the United States have been derived from plants.

*Three quarters of plants that provide active ingredients for prescription drugs came to the attention of researchers because of their use in traditional medicine.

*Among the 120 active compounds currently isolated from the higher plants and widely used in modern medicine today, 80 percent show a positive correlation between their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they are derived.
*More than two thirds of the world's plant species - at least 35,000 of which are estimated to have medicinal value - come from the developing countries.

*At least 7,000 medical compounds in the modern pharmacopoeia are derived from plants

Biological background

All plants produce chemical as part of their normal activities. These include primary metabolites, such as sugars and fats, found in all plants, and secondary metabolites found in a smaller range of plants, some useful ones found only in a particular genus or species. Pigments harvest light, protect the organism from radiation and display colors to attract pollinators. Many common weeds have medicinal properties.

The functions of secondary metabolites are varied. For example, some secondary metabolites are toxins used to , and others are pheromones used to attract insects for pollination. Phytoalexins protect against bacterial and fungal attacks. Allelochemicals inhibit rival plants that are competing for soil and light.

Plants upregulate and downregulate their biochemical paths in response to the local mix of herbivores, pollinators and microorganisms. The chemical profile of a single plant may vary over time as it reacts to changing conditions. It is the secondary metabolites and pigments that can have therapeutic actions in humans and which can be refined to produce drugs.

Plants synthesize a bewildering variety of phytochemicals but most are derivatives of a few biochemical motifs.

*Alkaloids contain a ring with nitrogen. Many alkaloids have dramatic effects on the central nervous system. Caffeine is an alkaloid that provides a mild lift but the alkaloids in datura cause severe intoxication and even death.

*Phenolics contain phenol rings. The anthocyanins that give grapes their purple color, the isoflavones, the phytoestrogens from soy and the tannins that give tea its astringency are phenolics.

*Turpenoids are built up from terpene building blocks. Each terpene consists of two paired isoprenes. The names monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes and triterpenes are based on the number of isoprene units. The fragrance of rose and lavender is due to monoterpenes. The carotenoids produce the reds, yellows and oranges of pumpkin, corn and tomatoes.

*Glycosides consist of a glucose moiety attached to an aglycone. The aglycone is a molecule that is bioactive in its free form but inert until the glycoside bond is broken by water or enzymes. This mechanism allows the plant to defer the availability of the molecule to an appropriate time, similar to a safety lock on a gun. An example is the cyanoglycosides in cherry pits that release toxins only when bitten by a herbivore.

The word drug itself comes from the word "druug" , which means 'dried plant'. Some examples are inulin from the roots of dahlias, quinine from the cinchona, morphine and codeine from the poppy, and digoxin from the .

The active ingredient in willow bark, once prescribed by Hippocrates, is salicin, which is converted in the body into salicylic acid. The discovery of salicylic acid would eventually lead to the development of the acetylated form acetylsalicylic acid, also known as "aspirin", when it was isolated from a plant known as meadowsweet. The word ''aspirin'' comes from an abbreviation of meadowsweet's Latin genus ''Spiraea'', with an additional "A" at the beginning to acknowledge acetylation, and "in" was added at the end for easier pronunciation. "Aspirin" was originally a brand name, and is still a protected trademark in some countries. This medication was patented by Bayer AG.

Herbal philosophy

Since herbalism is such a diverse field few generalizations apply universally. Nevertheless a rough consensus can be inferred.

Most herbalists concede that pharmaceuticals are more effective in emergency situations where time is of the essence. An example would be where a patient had elevated blood pressure that posed imminent danger. However they claim that over the long term herbs can help the patient resist disease and in addition provide nutritional and immunological support that pharmaceuticals lack. They view their goal as prevention as well as cure.

Herbalists tend to use extracts from parts of plants, such as the roots or leaves but not isolate particular phytochemicals. Pharmaceutical medicine prefers single ingredients on the grounds that dosage can be more easily quantified. Herbalists reject the notion of a single active ingredient. They argue that the different phytochemicals present in many herbs will interact to enhance the therapeutic effects of the herb and dilute toxicity.Furthermore, they argue that a single ingredient may contribute to multiple effects. Herbalists deny that herbal synergism can be duplicated with synthetic chemicals. They argue that phytochemical interactions and trace components may alter the drug response in ways that cannot currently be replicated with a combination of a few putative active ingredients. Pharmaceutical researchers recognize the concept of but note that clinical trials may be used to investigate the efficacy of a particular herbal preparation, provided the formulation of that herb is consistent.

In specific cases the claims of synergy and multifunctionality have been supported by science. The open question is how widely both can be generalized. Herbalists would argue that cases of synergy can be widely generalized, on the basis of their interpretation of evolutionary history, not necessarily shared by the pharmaceutical community. Plants are subject to similar selection pressures as humans and therefore they must develop resistance to threats such as radiation, reactive oxygen species and microbial attack in order to survive. Optimal chemical defenses have been selected for and have thus developed over millions of years.Human diseases are multifactorial and may be treated by consuming the chemical defences that they believe to be present in herbs. Bacteria, inflammation, nutrition and ROS may all play a role in arterial disease. Herbalists claim a single herb may simultaneously address several of these factors. Likewise a factor such as ROS may underly more than one condition. In short herbalists view their field as the study of a web of relationships rather than a quest for single cause and a single cure for a single condition.

In selecting herbal treatments herbalists may use forms of information that are not applicable to pharmacists. Because herbs can moonlight as vegetables, teas or spices they have a huge consumer base and large-scale epidemiological studies become feasible. Ethnobotanical studies are another source of information. For example, when indigenous peoples from geographically dispersed areas use closely related herbs for the same purpose that is taken as supporting evidence for its efficacy. Herbalists contend that historical medical records and herbals are underutilized resources. They favor the use of convergent information in assessing the medical value of plants. An example would be when in-vitro activity is consistent with traditional use.

Certain strains of herbalism rely on sources that would be widely considered unreliable and would not be accepted in a scientifically oriented herbal journal. These include astrology, the Bible, intuition, dreams, “plant spirits”, etc.


A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine focused on who used , what was used, and why it was used. The survey was limited to adults, aged 18 years and over during 2002, living in the United States.

According to this survey, herbal therapy, or use of natural products other than vitamins and minerals, was the most commonly used CAM therapy when all use of prayer was excluded.

Herbal remedies are very common in Europe. In Germany, herbal medications are dispensed by apothecaries . Prescription drugs are sold alongside essential oils, herbal extracts, or herbal teas. Herbal remedies are seen by some as a treatment to be preferred to chemical medications which have been industrially produced.

In the United Kingdom, the training of medical herbalists is done by state funded Universities. For example, Bachelor of Science degrees in herbal medicine are offered at Universities such as University of East London, Middlesex University, University of Central Lancashire, University of Westminster, University of Lincoln and Napier University in Edinburgh at the present.

Types of herbal medicine systems

Use of medicinal plants can be as informal as, for example, culinary use or consumption of an herbal tea or supplement, although the sale of some herbs considered dangerous is often restricted to the public. Sometimes such herbs are provided to professional herbalists by specialist companies. Many herbalists, both professional and amateur, often grow or "" their own herbs.

Some researchers trained in both western and traditional Chinese medicine have attempted to deconstruct ancient medical texts in the light of modern science. One idea is that the yin-yang balance, at least with regard to herbs, corresponds to the pro-oxidant and anti-oxidant balance. This interpretation is supported by several investigations of the ORAC ratings of various yin and yang herbs.

Eclectic medicine came out of the vitalist tradition, similar to physiomedicalism and bridged the European and traditions. Cherokee medicine tends to divide herbs into foods, medicines and toxins and to use seven plants in the treatment of disease, which is defined with both spiritual and physiological aspects, according to Cherokee herbalist David Winston.

In India, Ayurvedic medicine has quite complex formulas with 30 or more ingredients, including a sizable number of ingredients that have undergone "", chosen to balance "Vata", "Pitta" or "Kapha."

In addition there are more modern theories of herbal combination like William LeSassier's triune formula which combined with Chinese medicine ideas and resulted in 9 herb formulas which supplemented, drained or neutrally nourished the main organ systems affected and three associated systems. His system has been taught to thousands of influential American herbalists through his own apprenticeship programs during his lifetime, the William LeSassier Archive and the David Winston Center for Herbal Studies

Many traditional African remedies have performed well in initial laboratory tests to ensure they are not toxic and in tests on animals. Gawo, a herb used in traditional treatments, has been tested in rats by researchers from Nigeria's University of Jos and the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development. According to research in the African Journal of Biotechnology, Gawo passed tests for toxicity and reduced induced fevers, diarrhoea and inflammation

Routes of administration

The exact composition of a herbal product is influenced by the method of extraction. A tisane will be rich in polar components because water is a polar solvent. Oil on the other hand is a non-polar solvent and it will absorb non-polar compounds. Alcohol lies somewhere in between. There are many forms in which herbs can be administered, these include:

*Tinctures (alcoholic extracts of herbs such as echinacea extract. Usually obtained by combining 100% pure ethanol with the herb. A completed tincture has a ethanol percentage of at least 40-60% .
*Herbal wine and elixirs; these are alcoholic extract of herbs; usually with an ethanol percentage of 12-38%
**Salves, oils, balms, creams and lotions- Most topical applications are oil extractions of herbs. Taking a food grade oil and soaking herbs in it for anywhere from weeks to months allows certain phytochemicals to be extracted into the oil. This oil can then be made into salves, creams, lotions, or simply used as an oil for topical application. Many massage oils, antibacterial salves and wound healing compounds are made this way.
**Poultices and compresses- One can also make a poultice or compress using whole herb usually crushed or dried and re-hydrated with a small amount of water and then applied directly in a bandage, cloth or just as is.
*Whole herb consumption. This can occur in either dried form (herbal powder, or fresh (juice, fresh leaves and other plant parts. Just as Hippocrates said "Let food be thy medicine", it has become clear that eating vegetables also easily fits within this category of getting health through consumables . All of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are phytochemicals that we are accessing through our diet. There are clearly some whole herbs consumed that are more powerful than others. Shiitake mushrooms boost the immune system and are also tasty so they are enjoyed in soups or other food preparations for the cold and flu season. Alfalfa is also considered a health food.. Garlic lowers cholesterol, improves blood flow, fights bacteria, viruses and yeast.
*Syrups: extracts of herbs made with syrup or honey. Sixty five parts of sugar are mixed with 35 parts of water and herb. The whole is then boiled and macerated for three weeks., to fight a sinus infection or cough, or to cleanse the skin on a deeper level .

Examples of plants used as medicine

Few herbal remedies have conclusively demonstrated any positive effect on humans, mainly because of inadequate testing. and a small clinical study.
* Soy and other plants that contain phytoestrogens have some benefits for treatment of symptoms resulting from menopause.
* may be effective in treating urinary tract infections in women with recurrent symptoms.
* Echinacea extracts may limit the length and severity of ; however, the appropriate dosage levels, which might be higher than is available over-the-counter, require further research.
* Elderberry may speed the recovery from type A and B influenza. However it is possibly risky in the case of avian influenza because the immunostimulatory effects may aggravate the cytokine cascade.
*Feverfew is sometimes used to treat migraine headaches.However, many reviews of these studies show no or unclear efficacy. However a more recent RTC showed favorable results,Feverfew is not recommended for pregnant women as it may be dangerous to the fetus.
* Gawo, a traditional herbal medicine in West Africa, has shown promise in animal tests

* Garlic may lower total cholesterol levels
*Purified extracts of the seeds of Hibiscus sabdariffa may have some antihypertensive, antifungal and antibacterial effect. Toxicity tested low except for an isolated case of damage to the testes of a rat after prolonged and excessive consumption.
* Nigella sativa has demonstrated analgesic properties in mice. The mechanism for this effect, however, is unclear. In vitro studies support antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, anti-inflammatory and immune modulating effects. However few randomized double blind studies have been published.
* Oregano may be effective against multi-drug resistant bacteria.
* Pawpaw can be used as insecticide .,
* Phytolacca or Pokeweed is used as a homeopathic remedy to treat many ailments. It can be applied topically or taken internally. Topical treatments have been used for acne and other ailments. It is used to treatment tonsilitis, swollen glands and weight loss.
* Peppermint oil may have benefits for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome.
* , high risk of toxicity if improperly used, used extensively in India for sleeplessness, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
* may improve memory
* St. John's wort, has yielded positive results, proving more effective than a placebo for the treatment of mild to moderate in some clinical trials A subsequent, large, controlled trial, however, found St. John's wort to be no better than a placebo in treating depression However more recent trials have shown positive results or positive trands that failed significance. A 2004 meta-analysis concluded that the positive results can be explained by publication bias but later analyses have been more favorable.The Cochrane Database cautions that the data on St. John's wort for depression are conflicting and ambiguous.
*Saw Palmetto can be used for BPH. Supported in some studies, failed to confirm in otherrs.
* Stinging nettle In some clinical studies effective for enign prostatic hyperplasia and the pain associated with osteoarthritis. In-vitro tests show antiinflammatory action. In a rodent model, stinging nettle reduced LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. In another rodent study it reduced platelet aggregation.

*Valerian root can be used to treat insomnia. Clinical studies show mixed results and researchers note that many trials are of poor quality.

*''Ocimum gratissimum'' and tea tree oil can be used to treat acne.
*Green tea components may inhibit growth of breast cancer cells and may heal scars faster.
*Lemon grass can lower cholesterol.
*Honey may reduce cholesterol. May be useful in wound healing.


In some cases, herbal medicines offer an inexpensive and safe alternative to pharmaceuticals. In the U.S., which has just 4% of the world's population, 106,000 patients died from and 2.2 million were seriously injured by adverse effects of pharmaceuticals in the year 1994 .

Proper double-blind clinical trials are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of each plant before they can be recommended for medical use. In addition, many consumers believe that herbal medicines are safe because they are natural. Herbal medicines may interact with synthetic drugs causing toxicity to the patient, herbal products may have contamination that is a safety consideration, and herbal medicines, without proven efficacy, may be used to replace medicines that have a proven efficacy.

Standardization of purity and dosage is not mandated in the United States, but even products made to the same specification may differ as a result of biochemical variations within a species of plant. Plants have chemical defense mechanisms against predators that can have adverse or lethal effects on humans. Examples of highly toxic herbs include poison hemlock and nightshade. They are not marketed to the public as herbs, because the risks are well known, partly due to a long and colorful history in Europe, associated with "sorcery", "magic" and intrigue. Although not frequent, adverse reactions have been reported for herbs in widespread use. On occasion serious untoward outcomes have been linked to herb consumption. A case of major potassium depletion has been attributed to chronic licorice ingestion. Black cohosh has been implicated in a case of liver failure.Few studies are available on the safety of herbs for pregnant women.

Herb drug interactions are a concern. In consultation with a physician, usage of herbal remedies should be clarified, as some herbal remedies have the potential to cause adverse drug interactions when used in combination with various prescription and pharmaceuticals.

Dangerously low blood pressure may result from the combination of an herbal remedy that lowers blood pressure together with prescription medicine that has the same effect. Some herbs may amplify the effects of anticoagulants.
Certain herbs as well as common fruit interfere with cytochrome P450, an enzyme critical to drug metabolism.


The gold standard for pharmaceutical testing is repeated, large-scale, randomized, double-blind tests. Some plant products or pharmaceutical drugs derived from them are incorporated into mainstream medicine. To recoup the considerable costs of testing to the regulatory standards, the substances are patented by pharmaceutical companies and sold at a substantial profit.

Most herbal traditions have developed without modern scientific controls to distinguish between the placebo effect, the body's natural ability to heal itself, and the actual benefits of the herbs themselves. Many herbs have shown positive results in-vitro, animal model or small-scale clinical tests but many studies on herbal treatments have also found negative results. The quality of the trials on herbal remedies is highly and many trials of herbal treatments have been found to be of poor quality, with many trials lacking a intention to treat analysis or a comment on whether blinding was successful. The few randomized, double-blind tests that receive attention in mainstream medical publications are often questioned on methodological grounds or interpretation. Likewise, studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals such as Journal of the American Medical Association receive more consideration than those published in specialized herbal journals. This preference may be due to the possibility of location bias for such trials. One study found that non-impact factor alternative medicine journals published more studies with positive results than negative results and that trials finding positive results were of lower quality than trials finding negative results. High impact factor mainstream medical journals, on the other hand, published equal numbers of trials with positive and negative results. In high impact journals, trials finding positive results were also found to have lower quality scores than trials finding negative results. Another study found studies of phyomedicine to have superior quality to matched studies of pharmaceuticals. However, this study used a matched pair design and excluded all herbal trials that were not , did not use a placebo or did not use or quasi random assignment.

Herbal medical systems such as Siddha Vaidya and Ayurveda that were in existence for thousands of years, however, offer a different picture. These systems had the luxury of having thousands of years of experience on humans and as a consequence, the formulae now in existence were proved harmless or has the least side effects. Even when a combination is known to have side effects, other herbal remedies are evolved to counter those side effects.

Herbalists criticize mainstream studies on the grounds that they make insufficient use of historical use. They maintain that tradition can guide the selection of factors such as optimal dose, species, time of harvesting and target population.

Dosage is in general an outstanding issue for herbal treatments: while most conventional medicines are heavily tested to determine the most effective and safest dosages , there are few established dosage standards for various herbal treatments on the market. Furthermore, herbal medicines taken in whole form cannot generally guarantee a consistent dosage or drug quality (since certain samples may contain more or less of a given active ingredient.

Several methods of standardization may be applied to herbs. One is the ratio of raw materials to solvent. However different specimens of even the same plant species may vary in chemical content. Another method is standardization on a signal chemical.

Clinical studies

In 2004 the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health began funding clinical trials into the effectiveness of herbal medicine.

Name confusion

The common names of herbs may not reflect differences in , and the same common name might group together different plant species with different effects. For example, in 1993 in Belgium, a formula created by medical doctors including some Traditional Chinese medicine herbs for weight loss, one herb was swapped for another whose name in Chinese was extremely similar but which contained higher levels of a toxin, aristolochic acid; this ''quid pro quo'' resulted in 105 cases of . Note that neither herb used in a context would be used for weight loss or given for long periods of time.

In Chinese medicine these herbs are used for certain forms of acute arthritis and edema.

Standards and quality control

The issue of regulation is an area of continuing controversy in the and . At one end of the spectrum, some herbalists maintain that traditional remedies have a long history of use, and do not require the level of safety testing as xenobiotics or single ingredients in an artificially concentrated form. On the other hand, others are in favor of legally enforced quality standards, safety testing and prescription by a qualified practitioner. Some professional herbalist organizations have made statements calling for a category of regulation for herbal products. Yet others agree with the need for more quality testing but believe it can be managed through reputation without government intervention.The legal status of herbal ingredients varies by country.

In the United States, most herbal remedies are regulated as dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers of products falling into this category are not required to prove the safety or efficacy of their product, though the FDA may withdraw a product from sale should it prove harmful.

The National Nutritional Foods Association, the industry's largest trade association, has run a program since 2002, examining the products and factory conditions of member companies, giving them the right to display the GMP seal of approval on their products.

Danger of extinction

On January 18, 2008, the Botanic Gardens Conservation International stated that "400 medicinal plants are at risk of extinction, from over-collection and deforestation, threatening the discovery of future cures for disease." These included Yew trees ; Hoodia ; half of Magnolias ; and Autumn crocus . The group also found that 5 billion people benefit from traditional plant-based medicine for health care

Further reading

*Lesley Braun and Marc Cohen. . ''Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide''. Elsevier Australia. ISBN 072953796X 9780729537964.


*, official website
*, official website of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists, one of the governing bodies for herbalists in the United Kingdom
* official website for College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy, one of the governing bodies for herbalists in the United Kingdom
*, official website of the American Herbalists Guild


* Research and educational foundation.
* Research and educational foundation.
* Research and educational foundation.
* Dr. Duke's Ethnobotanical Databases.
* site about alternative medicine: uses, possible prescription drug interactions, and possible nutrient depletions


* editorial about the risks of alternative medicine
* - CNN news article
* - By Steven Novella MD, President of the New England Skeptical Society
* - By Steven Novella MD, President of the New England Skeptical Society

Ku Ding tea

Ku Ding tea or Kuding cha is a particularly bitter-tasting tisane which due to their similarities in appearance is derived from several plant species. Two most common plants used to make Ku Ding tea, being the wax tree species ''Ligustrum robustum'' and the holly species ''Ilex kudingcha'' plant, the former being more commonly grown in Sichuan and Japan while the latter is most commonly grown and used in the rest of China.


The traditional Chinese medicinal properties associated with Ku Ding include its ability to disperse wind-heat, clear the head and the eyes, and resolve toxin, thus being used for common cold, rhinitis, itching eyes, red eyes, and headache. It is also said to calm fidgets and alleviate thirst, especially when one is suffering from a disease that causes fever or severe diarrhea. It transforms phlegm and alleviates coughing, thus used in treating bronchitis. Finally, it is said to invigorate digestion and improve mental focus and memory.

Modern research suggests that the herb, derived from either ''Ilex'' or ''Ligustrum'', promotes blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and lowers blood lipids, including cholesterol. It has the reputation of preventing deterioration of the heart and brain function and maintaining proper body weight. It has also be found that Ku Ding tea made from ''L. robustum'' has similar anti-oxidative effects to tea in addition to additional anti-inflammatory properties.

Chrysanthemum tea

Chrysanthemum tea is a flower-based tisane made from chrysanthemum flowers of the species ''Chrysanthemum morifolium'' or ''Chrysanthemum indicum'', which are most popular in East Asia. To prepare the tea, chrysanthemum flowers are steeped in hot water in either a teapot, cup, or glass; often is also added, and occasionally also . The resulting drink is transparent and ranges from pale to bright yellow in color, with a floral aroma. In Chinese tradition, once a pot of chrysanthemum tea has been drunk, hot water is typically added again to the flowers in the pot ; this process is often repeated several times.


Several varieties of chrysanthemum, ranging from white to pale or bright yellow in color, are used for tea. These include:
*Huángshān Gòngjú (, literally "Yellow Mountain tribute chrysanthemum"; also called simply Gòngjú
*Hángbáijú , originating from Tongxiang, near Hangzhou; also called simply Hángjú,
*Chújú , originating from the Chuzhou district of Anhui
*Bójú , originating in the Bozhou district of Anhui

The flower is called ''gek huay'' in Thai.

Of these, the first two are most popular. Some varieties feature a prominent yellow while others do not.

Medicinal use

Chrysanthemum tea has many purported medicinal uses, including an aid in recovery from influenza, acne and as a "cooling" herb. According to traditional Chinese medicine the tisane can aid in the prevention of sore throat and promote the reduction of fever. In Korea, it is known well for its medicinal use for making people more alert and is often used to waken themselves. In western herbal medicine, Chrysanthemum tea is drunk and used as a compress to treat circulatory disorders such as varicose veins and atherosclerosis.

In traditional Chinese medicine, chrysanthemum tea is also used to treat the eyes, and is said to clear the liver and the eyes. The liver is associated with the eyes and the liver is associated with anger, stress, and related emotions. It is believed to be effective in treating eye pain associated with stress or yin/fluid deficiency. It is also used to treat blurring, spots in front of the eyes, diminished vision, and dizziness.

Commercially available chrysanthemum tea

Although typically prepared at home, chrysanthemum tea is also available as a beverage in many Asian restaurants , and is also available from various drinks outlets in East Asia as well as outside Asia in canned or packed form. Due to its medicinal value, it may also be available at Traditional Chinese medicine outlets, often mixed with other ingredients.

Chinese tea

Chinese tea consists of tea leaves which have been processed using methods inherited from China.
According to popular legend, tea was discovered by Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC when a leaf from a ''Camilla sinensis'' tree fell into water the emperor was boiling. Not everyone agrees on the origin, but no one disputes that tea is deeply woven into the history and culture of China. The beverage is considered one of the seven necessities of Chinese life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, sauce and vinegar.

Some writers classify tea into four categories, white, green, oolong and black. Others add categories for red, scented and compressed teas. All of these come from varieties of the ''Camilla sinensis'' plant. Chinese flower tea , while popular, is not a true tea. Most Chinese tea is consumed in China and is not exported. Green tea is the most popular type of tea used in China.

Within these main categories of tea are vast varieties of individual beverages. Some researchers have counted more than 700. Others put the number at more than 1,000. Some of the variations are due to different strains of the Camilla plant. The popular Tie Guan Yin 鐵觀音, for example, is traced back to a single plant discovered in Anxi 安溪 in the Fujian province. Other teas draw some of their characteristics from local growing conditions. The largest factor in the wide variations comes from differences in processing after the tea is harvested. White and green teas are cooked soon after picking to prevent oxidization, often called fermentation, caused by natural enzymes in the leaves. Oolong teas are partially oxidized. Black and red teas are fully oxidized. Other differences come from variations in the processing steps.

Tea leaf selection

The highest grade white tea, yellow tea and green tea are made from tender tea shoots picked early Spring. These young tea shoots may consist of a single terminal bud, a bud with an adjacent leaf or a bud with two adjacent slightly unfurled leaves. It is generally required that the leaves are equal in length or shorter than the buds.

The more oxidised tea such as red tea or oolong tea are made from more matured leaves. The Anxi Tieguanyin, for example, is made from one bud with two to four leaves.

Not all high grade green tea is made from tender tea shoots. The highly regarded green tea is made from more matured leaves.

Traditionally these tender tea shoots are picked before 5 April, or Qing Ming Jie. The standard practice is to start picking when 5% of the garden is ready, or when the tea buds reach certain size. In some tea gardens, tea shoots are picked daily, or every 2 days.

Chinese Tea history

Tea is native to China. The ancient Chinese used them for medical purposes, then developed the infusion we know as ''tea''; to this day tea is said to purge the digestive system of 'toxins'. Later the Chinese learned to grow tea plants and use their leaves to make various types of tea.

Many different types of tea were grown during each of the in China.

The Tang Dynasty

A list of the differing grades of tea grown in the Tang Dynasty:

* Premier Grade Tea: Xiazhou, Guangzhou, Huzhou, Yuezhou, Pengzhou.
* Second Grade Tea: Jingzhou, Ranzhou, Changzhou, Mingzhou.
* Third Grade Tea: Shouzhou, Hangzhou, Muzhou, Hengzhou, Taizhou, Xuanzhou, Yiazhou, Luzhou.
* Fourth Grade Tea: Jinzhou, Lianzhou, Huangzhou, Sozhou, Yunzhou, Hanzhou, Meizhou.
Tea dates back to the West Zhou Period in ancient China, when the Chinese used tea as offerings. Since then, tea leaves have been eaten as vegetables, used as medicine, and, since the Han dynasty, infused in boiling water, the new drink making tea into a major commodity.

The Song Dynasty

Tea was an important crop during the Song Dynasty. Tea farms covered 242 counties. This included expensive ''tribute tea''; tea from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, where some was exported to Southeast Asian and the Arab countries.

In the Song Dynasty, tea started to be pressed into , some embossed with patterns of the dragon and the and was called exotic names including:

Large tea cake, Small Dragon tea cake, Surpass Snow Dragon ball cake, Fine Silver Sprout, Cloud Leaf, Gold Money, Jade Flower, Inch of Gold, Longevity Sprout, Eternal Spring Jade Leave, Dragon in the Clouds, Longevity Dragon Sprout, Dragon Phoenix and Flower, Eternal Spring Silver Sprout.

The Ming Dynasty

Ming dynasty scholar 文震亨 Wen Zhenheng's book 长物志 Zhang Wu Zhi chapter 12 contains description of several famous Ming dynasty teas:

Tiger Hill Tea and Heaven Pool Tea

During this time Tiger Hill Tea was
purportedly developed as the finest tea in the world, however, the production quantity was rather small, and growing is regulated by the Chinese government. Some, however, consider its taste to be second to Heaven Pool tea. Zhen Heng.

Jie Tea

Jie Tea from Chang Xing of Zhejiang is superb and highly regarded, though rather expensive.

Those from Jing Qi find it is slightly inferior.

NB: "Jie" is the short hame for "Luo Jie". Luo Jie was the name of a mountain bordering Zhejiang and Jing Qi , where "jie"-- meant boundary. Chang Xin was south of Luo Jie mountain, Jing Qi was north of Luo Jie. Chang Xin retains its name till today.

Luo Jie tea from Gu Chu mountain in Chang Xing county in Zhejiang was also known as Gu Chu Voilet Shoot. Gu Chu Voilet Shoot had been imperial tribute tea since the Tang dynasty for nearly nine hundred years until the middle of the Qin dynasty. Gu Chu Voilet Shoot was revived again in the seventies as a top grade tea in China.

NB. Jin Qi is now called Yi Xin township. Jin Qi tea was also known as Yang Xian tea. Ruo Leaves are leaves from Indocalamus tessellatus bamboo. The leaf is about 45 cm long.

Liu An Tea

"Liu An" tea is used for Chinese medicine, although if it is not baked right, it cannot let out its aroma and has a bitter taste. The inherent quality of this tea is actually quite good. Wen Zhenheng

Note: Liu An is a county in Anhui. Liu An tea is still produced from Liu An county in Anhui province in China. The Liu An tea from the Bat Cave of Jin Zai county is of superior quality, as thousand of bats in the cave can provide an ideal fertilizer for the tea plants.

Song Luo Tea

Song Luo tea is manufactured at Song Luo mountain located north of Xiu Ning township in An Hui proovince in China. The tea farms are scattered between a height of six to seven hundred meters on the mountain.

There is no real Song Luo tea outside an area of a dozen mu* and only one or two families possess the refined skill to prepare Song Luo tea. Recently the tea hand-baked by mountain monks is even better.

Genuine Song Luo tea is produced at the foot of the Dong Shan and on top of the Tian Chi , highly treasured by people in Xin An county. It is also a favourite for the people of Nan Du and Qu Zong counties, due to its ease in brewing and intense aroma.

* One mu = 667 square meter.

Dragon Well Tea and Eyes on Heaven Tea

Long Jing and Tian Mu may match Heaven Pool tea due to the weather in their growing regions. Because the cold season comes earlier to the mountains, there is abundant snow in the winter, hence the tea plants germinate later.

Long Jing tea is manufactured in the West Lake district in Hangzhou city, China. There is a Longjing on the Feng Huang mountain. Tian Mu mountain is located in Lin An county in the north west of Zhejiang province. There are two 1500-meter peaks, each with a pond on top filled with crystal clear water looking like an eye, hence the name of Eyes on Heaven.


* Red tea
* White tea
* Black tea
* Oolong tea
* Pu-erh tea
* Flower tea
* Yellow tea
* Tieguanyin tea
* Quick tea
* Medicinal tea
* Kudin tea
* Chrysanthemum tea


*2007 - ''All In This Tea''. Co-directed by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht.