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Learning life lessons by reading tea leaves

By Ye Jun | China Daily | Updated: 2016-04-16 07:40

Learning life lessons by reading tea leaves

Tasting teas can be compared to our lives. They can be plain and predictable but sometimes they are full of pleasant surprises.[Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese teas are also probably the world's most expensive. While other parts of the world spend a few dollars on a pound of finely chopped black tea, for 200-400 yuan ($31-$62) one can only get an average tea in the Chinese market. Some mingqian cha, green teas made with the first spring sprouts before qingming, the tomb-sweeping festival that fell on April 4 this year, cost more than 1,000 yuan per 500 grams.

I feel lucky to be Chinese because of the great variety of teas available in the country. It is estimated that there are more than 2,000 teas in China if you divide them geographically, including more than 600 locally famous brews. A more simple way to categorize is by color and extent of fermentation. That comes down to six main categories -green, white, yellow, dark-greenish (oolong), red and black teas.

It is said the Chinese discovered tea 5,000 years ago. It was first used for its detoxicating function, then prepared in powder form and boiled in water to make a soup. The modern way of brewing and drinking tea didn't start until in the Ming Dynasty (1644-1911).

A written record about Shennong, the legendary Chinese ancestor who started agriculture, tasted hundreds of grasses to find the proper grains, but was made ill from toxins many times a day. Luckily he found tea, which flushed out the toxins. There are many enticing Chinese stories about tea like this one that draw people like me to learn more about the beverage.

Tasting teas can be compared to our lives. They can be plain and predictable but sometimes they are full of pleasant surprises. Occasionally they can even seem too good to be true. The best thing is, you know there's always more to explore.

The author is a senior lifestyle editor with China Daily

This column is sponsored by Yunnan Yongde Ziyu Tea Industry Co. For more information about the company’s certified organic tea, please visit or contact Wang Sujuan at 133-0128-9231, or

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