Tea. Wherever you’ll go in Hong Kong you’ll be served with a freshly brewed cup of tea. But since I didn’t know much about the plant itself, various types and tastes, the process of making it, and so much more, thus I’ve decided to go for a Hong Kong tea tasting.
Coming from Romania, a country without a tea tradition, I grew up thinking that people drink tea only when they are coming down with a flue. Or when they have any other kind of health problem.
Later on, I’ve discovered tea places in Bucharest with the vast options of blends and flavors, and I’ve started drinking tea in the office. Fruity blends, ginger tea, green tea.
It was only years later while traveling through Sri Lanka and its amazing mountains covered in tea plantations that I’ve discovered that tea is so much more than I had learned throughout time.
Moving to Hong Kong made me even more curious about tea ceremony in China and beyond, thus I started looking for the perfect place where they would guide me and where I could learn about the various types of teas, brewing process, taste, and so much more.
That’s how I’ve discovered the tea wonderland at Plantation by Teakha and their Introduction to tea event, also held in English.
It was a moody Monday morning when I woke up filled with anticipation, took the MTR all the way to Say Wan to be welcomed by Nana Chan, the tea passionate owner of Plantation by Teakha and Teakha – the tea shop where you’ll find not only some of the best high tea in Hong Kong but also delicious tarts.
The small place at Plantation offers a cozy feel, perfect for learning more about tea while taking sip after sip of some of the best high tea in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong tea tasting – the experience and what I’ve learned
I’ve done wine tastings in Romania, Italy or Santorini, cheese tastings in The Netherlands, heard about whiskey tasting or different food tasting, but never would I have thought of tea tasting.
And somehow, my journey to Asia made me curious and lead me to my first Hong Kong tea tasting.
On the table, we had nicely arranged several small teacups, along with 6 different types of tea. I was about to learn that the tea tasting follows the same steps as any other kind of tasting.
You get to see, smell, taste all the different stages of the tea.
We smelled the dry leaves, saw how the flavor is released once we put them in a warm cup, their smell after the first and second infusion, and the taste of each stage of the tea.
Nana took us through the tea journey and introduced us to 6 teas coming from various regions of China and Taiwan, that went through different production processes, and who charmed our taste buds in different manners.
Green tea –> Pre-Qingming Longjing
Maybe some of the best high tea in Hong Kong, the first tea we tasted was a Longjing green tea, coming from one of the 5 Longjing production areas in Xihu Lake just outside of Hangzhou.
Its name comes from its period of harvest, which can be before or after the Qingming Festival or Ancestors’ Day, which falls on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar.
The pre-Qingming Longjing we tasted was very light and delicate coming from very young leaves, while the tea harvested after the festival will become stronger and darker.
The Longjing green tea wents only through a short production process once it is harvested, being roasted by hand in a large wok-like iron pan.
What else I’ve learned about green tea?
- Green tea must be kept in the refrigerator, but in a sealed bag because it absorbs different smells
- It shouldn’t be boiled, just pour some heated water (up to 70 degrees) over the leaves and let infuse for a few minutes
White tea –> White Peony Tea Cake
White Peony tea is maybe one of the most famous Chinese white tea and considered a high-grade tea, made from the youngest leaves and unopened leaf buds.
The tea we tasted was from a tea cake made in Fuding in Fujian province, harvested in early Spring, giving it a mild and refreshing taste.
What else I’ve learned about white tea?
- The older the tea, the better. With age of course also price increases, together with its medicinal proprieties;
- White tea should not be boiled, but it can be infused at 80 degrees (slightly higher when in cake form);
- White tea is held in cake tea for storage purposes.
Oolong tea –> Shanlinxi Milky Oolong
The one I chose to take home as well, the Shanlinxi Milky Oolong is original from Shanlinxi province in central Taiwan. Even though the best oolong tea comes from Taiwan, it is also harvested in China,
This Taiwanese ball-rolled Oolong tea is harvested at an altitude of 1400 m and has a buttery floral milky fragrance. The tea leave is rolled in a ball for better oxidation and a good preservation throughout time.
Oolong tea is not so sensible as the green and white teas, thus boiling water can be poured over it and left to infuse for several minutes.
Oolong tea –> Red Oolong
Very similar to a black tea, the red Oolong tea we tasted was one of the rare teas that came from Taitung in Eastern Taiwan.
Red Oolong in this area is harvested during summer months and is being ingested by a green leafhopper which contributes to the tea’s oxidation and overall production process.
As a result, the red Oolong has a natural honey flavor, a ripened longan fruit aroma and a silky body that is nectar-like.
This was maybe one of the strongest and most stringent of the 6 teas we tasted, not particularly “my cup of tea”, but definitely something worth trying.
Black Tea –> Keemun Xiang Luo
One of the best high tea in hong kong, this hand made black tea is coming from Qimen mountains in Anhui province, and most of it was traditionally exported to the UK.
You might recognize the smell of it once it comes in contact with a hot cup and it starts releasing its natural oils, just because the same tea is used for the famous English Breakfast tea.
Puerh –> Rice Scent Aged Puerh
If you’ve ever been to a dim sum place in Hong Kong, you’re not a stranger to the taste and smell of puerh tea, traditionally known for its digestive properties.
But, the coal looking like rice scent aged Puerh (10 years) is different from anything you’ve tried so far, harvested from actual trees, some over 100 years old in the Menghai region.
The tea then goes through a specific process, being fermented in dark and dry room, together with rice bacteria which gives it the unique rice scent so different from other aged puerhs.
I must admit I was expecting a strong bitter taste, something I would not enjoy. But to my surprise, the rice scent aged Puerh was delicious, soft and discrete.
Other tea facts worth knowing
- A good tea is an aged tea
- There is also “Yellow tea” sitting between White and Oolong, but it is very rare – only 2 kinds being produced in China
- Teas do not have an expiration date, they might just change their taste in time
- Teas have caffeine but its concentration depends on many factors, such as temperature, fermentation, and others
- Infuse 6 g of tea for a 450 ml teapot
This being said, I really enjoyed my Hong Kong tea tasting experience, and I encourage you to not trust my word for it but try it out if you’ve ever been curious and want to learn more about tea and its types.