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Sipping 10 famous Chinese Expo teas

SIT down calmly, place tea leaves in a tea pot, add boiling water, wait, pour tea into a small cup, raise it gently to your lips and sip - do all of this slowly and with deliberation.

You taste not only one of the best drinks in the world, but also a rich culture that has been growing in China for almost 5,000 years.

Tea in Chinese culture represents the harmony between humans and nature, respect for people and a tranquil mind.

It is a popular drink throughout the country, and there are thousands of varieties, processing methods and regional preferences.

At the World Expo in Shanghai visitors can taste the "Ten Famous Chinese Teas for Expo 2010" selected by the Shanghai Tea Association, and exhibited in the United Nations Pavilion. Experts disagree, of course, on which is "best," but these are superb teas of their type.

Visitors also can appreciate jasmine tea culture in the Baosteel Stage run by the Wu Yu Tai Tea Co.

The Yunnan Pavilion sets aside a special area for its famous Pu'er tea and folk tea ceremonies. Pu'er is distinct from other teas as it is made from the large leaf variety of the famed camellia sinensis plant.

China is the first country known to have used tea and recorded its uses.

In the "Herbal Classic," the first book on traditional Chinese medicine, it said: "To seek treatment for diseases, one of our ancestors named Shen Nong tasted a great many herbs and encountered 72 poisons occasionally - he found that tea was just the remedy."

People from different regions develop different processing methods, leading to six main categories of tea - oolong, black, yellow, green, dark and white teas.

The 10 famous Chinese teas exhibited at the Expo covers all the six categories as well as jasmine tea.

Though different processing makes tea leaves different, certain regions are known for producing the best of certain teas, according to Huang Hanqing, director of China Expo Ten Famous Tea Project.

The eastern areas are famous for green teas, including West Lake Longjing and Lu'an Guapian. The noted growing areas include Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces.

The western regions, including Yunnan and Hunan provinces, are known for the dark teas like Pu'er, brick tea and Hunan black tea. Southern areas such as Fujian Province are noted for oolong and white teas.

"The old saying goes that oranges taste different when planted in different regions," says Shu Man, executive member of China International Tea Culture Institute. Tea is influenced by geology and earth mineral content, altitude, sunshine, rainfall, humidity and other factors.

Of course, great plants alone won't make great tea - processing methods perfected and passed down generations contribute greatly to quality.

Drinking tea is not only to relieve thirst and maintain or restore health, says Shu of the international tea culture institute. Ideally, it also represents the way Chinese people see nature, other people and themselves.

The exhibition also provides Chinese paintings, calligraphy and traditional music.

"We hope visitors can immerse themselves in Chinese culture while drinking teas and thinking about the spirit of tea," says Shu.


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