Drink Magazine

Correcting 5 Common Misconceptions Regarding Tea

By Dchew78 @peonyts

With so much misinformation floating on the map- many of them appearing on the first page of any tea related Google search- it is not surprising that there is a lot of common misconceptions regarding tea.

We can’t change everything overnight but let’s start with these 5:

1)   Puer, Pu-er or Pu-erh is a category of tea

Correcting 5 Common Misconceptions Regarding Tea
If you look at most online stores, they label Pu-er in a category by itself. Cut to the chase, that’s wrong. Pu-er is a type of dark tea or 黑茶 (hei cha). Part of the problem is that Hei Cha is most accurately translated as Black Tea but in Western nomenclature, it refers to the type of tea that the Chinese call Hong Cha or Red Tea.

Hence, there is a bit of awkwardness in translating Hei Cha.

In addition, outside of China and Chinese migrant communities, dark teas such as Liu Bao, Liu An, Hunan Hei Chas are not common.

Add those to the fact that Pu-er is by far the best known type of Hei Cha and on its own has more varieties than any store can reasonably store- you have numerous so-called ‘experts’ proclaiming that Pu-er- or Pu-erh as is the preferred spelling of those ‘experts’- is one of the 6 major categories of tea.

 2)   A Yixing Pot is a must have for any tea lover


Correcting 5 Common Misconceptions Regarding Tea
There are a lot of Yixing lovers out there and for good reason- the clay is retains heat better than any other material commonly used for teapots and its porous nature retains the flavor of tea, allowing it to ‘season’ over time and your tea becomes more flavorful.

Having said that, there are practical reasons why you shouldn’t rush to fulfill your Yixing jones.

a)   Because of their seasoning, it is recommended that you stick with 1 type of tea for each Yixing pot. For someone who is just starting out on tea, it’s best to experiment a bit before ‘committing’ to one.

Of course if budgetary constraints do not apply to you, feel free to ignore what I just said.

b)   Yixing pots are not suited for every type of tea. Opinion is divided on this but I feel that Yixing pots are not ideal for green tea because the heat retention is not so much of an issue for green teas and the seasoning for green tea is not so obvious.

c)   Real Yixing pots are not cheap and fakes flood the market. The supply of Yixing clay is limited (of course this is partially marketing hype) and real Yixing pots can be rather pricey.

Lots of experienced tea drinkers will tell you they can’t be absolutely sure in discerning reals from fakes and I suspect in the West especially, fakes by far outnumber real ones.

With the combination of these 3 factors, I would caution against getting overly enthusiastic over Yixing pots.

3)   One tablespoon for each person and one for the pot?

Correcting 5 Common Misconceptions Regarding Tea
This- or any commonly repeated tablespoon related measurement within the same category- is fundamentally flawed. It might be true back in the past when all Western tea drinkers had were black tea made from tiny leaves or worse- CTC. A teaspoon would have been pretty accurate then but not when you have such a wide variety of choices.

Let’s look at the difference between 5g of Dian Hong and 5g of Keemun black. Both are black teas but the Dian Hong takes up much more volume.

If you rely on your trusty tablespoon, you will be brewing either a weak Dian Hong or bitter Keemun.

Correcting 5 Common Misconceptions Regarding Tea
For good measure let’s look at 5g of Phoenix Dancong and 5g of Tieguanyin.

A lot of top-notch Chinese teas are not machine made and hence uniformity in shape is quite impossible rendering the use of teaspoons quite inaccurate.

4)   You can use the same way to brew all types of tea within the same category

Besides what was mentioned in part 3) different teas within the same category are made differently.

Take green tea for example, a Bi Luo Chun is made from delicate buds. If you place it on your brewing vessel before pouring water, the velocity of the pouring water might cause the buds to break. On the other hand, flat leaves like Longjing tend to float, if you add the leaves to the water, it will float and not infuse properly.

Hence for green teas you can brew with

i)   Top Drop

ii)   Mid-Drop

iii)   Bottom-Drop

You can click on those links for a pictorial demonstration.

For oolongs, if you brew Dancongs in the same manner as Tieguanyin, you will get a really bitter brew.

In short, there are more than just 6 set parameters for each category.

There, I saved you the cost of getting a machine. You can thank me later.

5)   There is a type of tea specifically known as Taiwan High Mountain Tea or Gao Shan Cha

Correcting 5 Common Misconceptions Regarding Tea
Taiwan High Mountain is not a specific variety- rather it refers to all Taiwanese teas (usually oolongs) grown at elevations of 1,000 mm and above. Common Gao Shan Cha include Alishan or Mt Ali, San Lin Xi, Li Shan or Mt Li (Pear Mountain is the literal but awkward translation) and Da Yu Lin.

Most of these are grown from the Qing Xin cultivar although Jin Xuan cultivar is used in lesser frequency, particularly for Alishan.

Part of the confusion is that in Taiwan (and China) smaller tea vendors use generic labels. Rather than buying 100,000 labels of Alishan, San Lin Xi, Li Shan and Da Yu Ling each, they use a generic Gao Shan Cha label.

Many tourists then come away with the impression that Taiwan High Mountain Tea is a specific variety as opposed to a generic term.

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