8 June 2012
Health secrets of Chinese tea
- report from the Beijing International Tea Expo 2012
|The Nanchang University tea art team performs.|
The tea trade is not only about a cup of tea; all kinds of products are keenly sought by tea lovers, such as the right water, tea snacks and teaware, which were all highlighted.
The environmentalist group Greenpeace issued a report on pesticide residues in Chinese tea in a report last April, claiming that residues of at least three types of pesticides were found in 18 samples of nine Chinese tea brands.
This triggered alarm among tea traders and drinkers. Some farmers pointed out that they had no alternative but to use large quantities of pesticides, because insects have developed high resistance to them.
So, at this year's tea expo, many manufacturers underlined health and safety themes to counteract the report.
|"Taetea" has safety and health as its selling points.||Black tea from Anhua stresses health and safety.|
Anhua Black Tea from the Cofco Group launched advertising campaigns to stress that its tea is "free from pesticide residues, pure and natural, green, healthy, safe and of high quality".
The brand also highlighted seven health benefits for its tea, including slimming, and "alleviation of tobacco- and alcohol-related problems".
|Visitors sample snacks.|
According to Mr Chen, who was in charge of the booth, the tea can defend the body against heavy metal, pesticide residues, mycotoxins, the carcinogenic substance Aflatoxin B1 and other toxicity.
Moreover, drinking Selenium tea on a regular basis has a therapeutic effect against frequent gout attacks.
Twenty tea enterprises from Taiwan attended this year's tea expo with their Tayuling Mountain Tea, Alishan Tea, Li Shan Tea and Dong Ding Oolong Tea. They all stressed that authentic Taiwan teas owe their reputation to pesticide residue control at source; they claimed all products had passed pesticide residue tests by their Swiss and German partners to maintain credibility.
Water for brewing tea
According to the Classic of Tea by Lu Yu, "good water accounts for seven points on a 10-point scale of tea making".
|Zhongmenqingquan mineral water for brewing tea.|
A real tea drinker is very particular about the tea leaves and water used. "If the best tea is not matched with the best water, it's not just a lapse of decorum but actually amounts to a crime," said a veteran tea drinker at the expo.
Special water for brewing tea has received increasing attention and a strategy of differentiation has been developed. A total of 208 brands took part in the Tea Brewing Water Competition.
Special water for brewing tea was a real eye-opener. Different types of water can produce tea of different colours, aromas and tastes at different temperatures.
Zhongmenqingquan Mineral Water is said to be underground water seeping from the Jurassic strata under the Zhongmen Temple in the Mentougou District of Beijing and won an award in the competition.
According to Company Executive Mr Wang, Zhongmenqingquan mineral water is produced by using a number of patented technologies and its water-complex ion has a diameter of less than 0.8 nanometres.
Tea brewed with this water can improve people's suboptimal health status by effectively transmitting nutrients and cleansing body cells.
|"Diefeng Spring Water" for brewing.|
It was another producer stressing safety. In order to keep the water "pure", the company adopted a state-of-the-art filtering system in its bottling facilities, with no chemical additives and residues allowed.
The water bottles are kept in light- and dust-proof, non-woven bags and delivered in sealed air-conditioned vehicles to prevent damage to the quality of the water.
Tea with snacks
Shishangchadian was the busiest booth on the fairground. There was always a long queue.
Shishangchadian is a Chinese mainland company specialising in tea refreshments and snacks. A good combination of snacks, other refreshments and tea leaves actually promotes the artistry of tea drinking.
The company's proprietor cited the right formula for combining tea and snacks: "sweets to go with green tea, something sour for red tea, and melon seeds to go with oolong tea."
|Plenty of tea snacks.||Bamboo tea sticks from Tibet.|
These included all kinds of cakes, including pineapple cake; sour snacks included dried cherry tomatoes, dried lemon and preserved fruits, while melon seeds featured snacks like preserved plums and salted dry grapes.
Many tea manufacturers started developing tea snacks after 2007. These days virtually all teahouses offer a wide variety.
At an earlier expo, brands like Zhongminweishi, Anxi Gande Longxin, Yuyuan, Bama, Huaxiangyuan, Rixiang and Anxi Tieguanyin Group launched several snacks.
|Tibetan tea Yuxiang Tiancheng.|
Teapots for the right brew
Teapots form an indispensable part of tea culture. Twenty purple clay pottery masters from Yixing showed their skills by making exquisite purple clay teapots, Songxi bamboo and wooden tea sets, and Japanese cast iron teapots.
Ceramics enterprises from Jingdezhen also demonstrated Jingdezhen's special art of making hand-painted ceramics.
The Taiwan delegation hosted a high-profile auction for the "Dragon and Its Nine Sons" teapot during the expo. Created by a great Taiwanese master called Lo Yu-chun, this "duanni clay" teapot stands 76 cm tall and has a diameter of 40 cm.
Tibetan tea was another highlight. People in Tibet usually use pots made of birch and other wood, but high-end teaware like bowls made of ceramics, silver, jade and special types of wood was shown at the Tibetan booths.
Classical tea sets, along with Tibetan incense and sutras, gave visitors a glimpse of the world of Tibetan Buddhism.
There are vast development prospects ahead for making the brews consumers crave for.
from special correspondent Hong Liang, Beijing