Monday, June 25, 2007

Shopping for Tea in Chinese: Basics of a Working Vocabulary


[this version revised 070706]

More and more, I am hearing about tea enthusiasts who find they cannot resist making the pilgrimage to where it all began. There can be few experiences more exciting in a devoted tea-drinker's life than such a journey, and the opportunities you will find there for sampling and buying tea will be unmatched and often unrepeatable outside of Asia.

But the project is more of a challenge than you might initially think. Reports from those who have already made such a journey indicate that one often finds oneself dealing with a tea merchant who speaks only Chinese -- whether Mandarin, Cantonese, or some other dialect. (Which seems natural enough, when you consider how many Americans speak nothing but English.) If you have no fluency in Chinese, you may find yourself frustrated in the attempt to source the particular tea or tea-ware you had so hoped to find. In view of that, it might be worth your while to put together a 'tea lexicon' (or perhaps a set of flash cards) to take along with you to China and Taiwan, in order to facilitate your shopping.

Such a basic list of tea-related terms probably ought to include at least some of the following words and phrases. Please note that I regard this collection as only the beginning; with luck I will garner more items with which to augment the list, so check back periodically for updates. (I will change the revision date at the top of the post, for your convenience, whenever alterations are made.)

You are invited to copy and paste these terms into your own list or set of cards; the Chinese characters here are in a scalable font, so in a good word-processing program you should be able to enlarge or shrink them, as you please, for printing out. If your shopping plans are less ambitious, you can simply choose the words you're fairly sure you will need.

Some more notes to help you use this list:
• Sections will be alphabetized by Chinese term [in hanyu pinyin], except for §7, 'Purchasing Phrases,' since in that case speakers of English will naturally want to look up a Chinese phrase by its English equivalent.
• If you want to speak some Chinese, and not just show the written words to a vendor, you should try and gain at least some rudimentary sense of pronunciation. The pinyin system is not entirely intuitive (to say the least). You will find plenty of information (maybe too much) at; for a quick start, scroll down to 'Rules given in terms of English pronunciation.' You may just prefer the simpler treatment at
• Bear in mind that pronouncing Chinese also means getting the tones right. Mandarin Chinese, for example, has five basic tones. The same syllable, pronounced with a different tone, may have a completely different meaning. See e.g. sub uoc. 'Tones' for more on this.
• Teas listed in §2 under 'Taiwan' or 'Formosa' oolongs are given in traditional hanzi (characters), since if you travel to Taiwan, those are what you are most likely to encounter.
• The list of 'destinations' in §6 is still quite rudimentary at this point. This is a section I especially hope to augment over time.
• All suggestions for additions or corrections are most welcome; please send these to me [off-blog] at emailcorax {at} gmail {dot} com, rather than posting them in the comments section here. Thanks.

1. Tea Types ['cha' = 'tea' 茶]

bai cha [white tea] 白茶
hei cha [true black tea such as liu an or liu bao; see also §3 below] 黑茶
hong cha [red tea, i.e. what the English call 'black' tea] 紅茶
huang cha [yellow tea] 黄茶
lu cha [green tea] 绿茶
pu'er cha [pu'er tea; see also §3 below] 普耳茶
wulong cha [oolong tea] 烏龍茶 or 乌龙茶 -- some wulongs are referred to as 'qing1 cha' [blue-green tea] 青茶, but these are not identical categories

2. Some Famous China & Taiwan Teas [grouped by type]

Green, Yellow, & White Teas

bai hao yin zhen cha ['white hair silver needles,' a bai cha, huang cha, or lu cha] 白毫银针茶
bai mu dan cha ['white peony' tea] 白牡丹茶
bi luo chun cha ['green snail spring' lu cha from Dong Ting Shan in Jiangsu province] 碧螺春茶
gu lao cha ['old work tea,' lu cha from Guangdong province] 古劳茶
hua cha [(flower-)scented tea: may be green, red, or oolong] 花茶
huang shan mao feng ['yellow mountain downy tip,' lu cha from Anhui province] 黄山毛峰
jun shan yin zhen cha ['sovereign mountain silver needle,' a huang cha from Jun Shan Island in Hunan province] 君山银针茶
liu an gua pian ['Liu An melon slice,' lu cha from Liu An county in Anhui province] 六安瓜片
long jing cha ['dragon well' lu cha] 龙井茶
--- ming qian ['pre-qingming,' i.e. first plucking] 明前
--- yu qian ['pre-rain,' i.e. second plucking] 雨前
lu shan yun wu cha ['hut mountain clouds-and-mist,' a pure-bud lu cha from Jiu Jiang in Jiangxi province] 庐山云雾茶
mei jia wu long jing cha ['dragon well' lu cha made from the mei jia wu cultivar] 梅家乌龙井茶
meng ding huang ya cha ['misty peak yellow sprout' tea, a pure-bud huang cha usually from Meng Ding Shan in Sichuan province] 蒙顶 黄芽茶
mo li hua cha [jasmine-scented tea; cf. hua cha] 茉莉花茶
qi jing bian zhen cha ['Seven-Views (Mountain) flat needle' lu cha] 七境扁针茶
shi feng long jing cha ['Lion Peak (Mountain)' long jing cha, i.e. lu cha made from tea grown on Shi Feng Shan] 狮峰龙井茶
shou mei cha ['longevity eyebrow,' a bai cha] 寿眉茶
tai ping hou kui cha ['monkey king' lu cha from Tai Ping in Anhui province] 太平猴魁茶
xin yang mao jian cha ['downy tip' lu cha from Xin Yang in Henan province] 信阳毛尖茶
xi hu long jing cha ['dragon well' lu cha from Xi Hu or 'West Lake,' reputedly the best source for long jing cha] 西湖龙井茶
zhen mei cha ['precious eyebrow,' a lu cha produced in Jiangxi province] 珍眉茶
zheng he yin zhen cha ['Zheng He silver needles,' a bai cha] 政和银针茶

Wu Long/Oolong Teas

Mainland Oolongs:
bai ji guan yan cha ['white cockscomb' oolong, a Wu Yi yan cha from Fujian province] 白鸡冠岩茶
bai ye dan cong cha ['white leaf' single bush] 白叶單樅茶 = ling tou dan cong cha
bei dou yi hao wu long cha ['big dipper first-of-the-month' oolong, from Fujian province] 北斗一号乌龙茶
da hong pao yan cha ['big red robe' oolong, a Wu Yi yan cha from Fujian province] 大红袍岩茶
dong fang mei ren wu long cha ['beautiful eastern woman' oolong, grown in Fujian province] 東方美人乌龙茶
feng huang dan cong cha ['single bush' oolong from Feng Huang Shan, i.e. 'Phoenix Mountain,' in Chaozhou, Guangdong province] 凤凰單樅茶
fo shou wu long cha ['Buddha hand' oolong] 佛手烏龙茶 [made from xiang yuan (香橼), a large-leaf cultivar]
huang jin gui wu long cha ['golden cinnamon' oolong, from Fujian province] 黄金桂乌龙茶
huang zhi xiang dan cong cha ['yellow twig fragrance' single bush] 黄枝香單樅茶
ling tou dan cong cha ['Ridge Top' single bush] 岭头單樅茶 = bai ye dan cong cha
mao xie wu long cha ['hairy crab' oolong, from Anxi county in Fujian province] 毛蟹乌龙茶
rou gui yan cha ['cinnamon' oolong, a Wu Yi yancha from Fujian province] 肉桂岩茶
shui xian wu long cha ['water spirit' oolong, grown esp. in Fujian province] 水仙乌龙茶
tie guan yin cha ['iron goddess of mercy' oolong, originally from Anxi county in Fujian province, now produced in numerous regions] 鐵觀音茶
shui jin gui yan cha ['golden turtle' oolong, a Wu Yi yan cha from Fujian province] 水金亀岩茶
tie luo han yan cha ['iron warrior monk' oolong, a Wu Yi yan cha from Fujian province] 铁罗漢岩茶
wu yi yan cha ['rock' or 'cliff' oolong from Wu Yi Shan in Fujian province] 武夷岩茶
xing ren xiang dan cong cha ['almond fragrance' single bush] 杏仁香單樅茶

Taiwan Oolongs:
a li shan wu long cha ['Ali Mountain oolong tea,' grown in Chiayi (Jiayi) county] 阿里山烏龍茶
bai hao wu long cha [lit. 'white down,' also known as 'oriental beauty' oolong, grown esp. in Hsinchu (Xinzhu) county; cf. 'dong fang mei ren'] 白毫烏龍茶
bao zhong cha [Wade-Giles 'pouchong' = pinyin 'baozhong,' lit. '(paper-)wrapped type' oolong, grown esp. on Wen Shan in Taipei (Taibei) county] 包種茶
cui yu wu long cha ['emerald jade oolong tea'] 翠玉烏龍茶
da yu ling wu long cha ['Great Yu Mountain' oolong] 大禹嶺烏龍茶
dong fang mei ren wu long cha ['beautiful eastern woman' oolong, from Hsinchu (Xinzhu) county; cf. 'bai hao'] 東方美人烏龍茶
dong ding wu long cha ['Frozen Summit Mountain oolong tea,' grown on Dong Ding Shan in Nantou county] 凍頂烏龍茶
fo shou wu long cha ['Buddha hand' oolong, made from xiang yuan (香橼), a long-leaf cultivar] 佛手烏龍茶
gao shan wu long cha ['high mountain' oolong] 高山烏龍茶
jin xuan wu long cha ['golden day lily' oolong] 金萱烏龍茶
li shan wu long cha ['Pear Mountain oolong tea,' grown on Li Shan in Taichung (Taizhong) county] 梨山烏龍茶
shan lin xi wu long cha ['Pine Forest Creek oolong tea,' grown in Nantou county] 杉林溪烏龍茶
si ji chun wu long cha ['four seasons springtime oolong tea'] 四季春烏龍茶
tie guan yin wu long cha ['iron goddess of mercy' oolong tea, grown in Nantou county] 鐵觀音烏龍茶
wen shan bao zhong cha [Wade-Giles 'pouchong' = pinyin 'baozhong,' lit. '(paper-)wrapped type' oolong, grown on Wen Shan in Taipei (Taibei) county] 文山包種茶

Red Teas

bi luo chun hong cha [a Yunnan hong cha made tightly rolled, like bi luo chun green tea] 碧螺春红茶
dian hong cha ['Yunnan hong cha'; 'dian1' is an old name for part of Yunnan province] 滇红茶
--- jin si ['golden thread,' the highest grade of dian hong: pure golden tips] 金丝‬
--- jin zhen ['golden needle,' a variant of 'jin si'] 金针‬
huang zhen cha ['golden needle' hong cha from Fujian province] 黄针茶
jin hou hong cha ['golden monkey red tea,' high-grade hong cha from Fujian province] 金猴‬红茶
[lapsang souchong: see 'zheng shan xiao zhong']
long jing huang pao hong cha ['dragon well yellow robe (i.e. imperial)' hong cha -- long jing cha processed as hong cha; said to have been favored by the emperor Qianlong] 龙井黄袍 红茶
qi men hong cha [Keemun hong cha] 祁门‭ ‬红茶
--- hao ya [lit. 'fine/small sprout,' the highest quality of Keemun -- hao ya 'A' (甲) being even better than hao ya 'B' (乙)] 毫芽
--- hao ya 'A' [top-grade Keemun] 毫芽甲
--- hao ya 'B' [next-to-top-grade Keemun] 毫芽乙
--- mao feng [lit 'downy tip,' a grade of Keemun hong cha composed of small buds] 毛峰
yang xian hong cha [a hong cha produced in Jiangsu province; the favorite tea of the potters of Yixing, for which 'Yang Xian' is an old name] 阳羨‭红茶
ying de hong cha [a hong cha produced in Yingde county, Guangdong province] 英德‭ ‬红茶
zheng he hong cha [a hong cha made from a cultivar usually used for bai cha, 'white' tea] 政和红茶
zheng shan xiao zhong cha [= Lapsang Souchong, a heavily-flavored smoky red tea from Wu Yi Shan in Fujian province] 正山小种茶

3. Basic Pu'er and Heicha Shopping Vocabulary

Pu'er Genres:
pu'er cha [the generic term] 普耳茶
sheng pu'er cha [raw/green pu'er tea] 生普耳茶
shu pu'er cha [ripe/cooked/black pu'er tea] 熟普耳茶
jin ya cha [compressed tea] 紧压茶
san cha ['loose tea,' i.e. uncompressed pu'er or hei cha] 散茶
tai di cha ['table land tea,' i.e. flat-land or plantation tea as opposed to mountain-grown or tall-tree tea] 台地茶

Various Pu'er Shapes:
bing cha [flat cake-shaped compressed pu'er] 饼茶
fang cha [square brick-shaped compressed pu'er] 方茶
gu cha ['old tea,' as e.g. of aged pu'er, or tea from an ancient tree] 古茶
jin cha ['tight tea,' mushroom-shaped compressed pu'er (or lu cha)] 紧茶
jin gua cha ['golden melon' pu'er] 金瓜茶
lao cha tou ['old tea head(s),' i.e. the nuggets left over at the bottom of a wo dui pile of pu'er] 老茶头
tuan cha ['round tea,' i.e. ball-shaped compressed pu'er] 团茶
tuo cha [bowl-shaped compressed pu'er; note: there are several characters pronounced 'tuo2'; the original meaning of 'tuo cha' is disputed] 沱茶
xiao tuo cha [mini tuo cha] 小沱茶
zhuan cha [oblong brick-shaped compressed pu'er] 砖茶

Some Hei Cha Types:
guang xi liu bao cha [basket-compressed hei cha produced in Liu Bao, Guangxi province] 廣西六堡茶
liu an cha [hei cha produced in Liu An county, Anhui province] 六安茶
qian lang cha ['thousand tael tea,' a hei cha produced in Hunan province, compressed into a 40-kg cylindrical shape] 千两茶
xiang liu an cha ['fragrant Liu An' tea] 香六安茶
zhu qiao cha [= zhu ke cha, 'bamboo shell/crust tea,' a hei cha produced in Guangdong province] 竹壳茶

Other Useful Terms:
chen nian pu'er cha [lit. 'old year pu'er tea,' i.e. aged pu'er tea] 陈年普耳茶
da ye ['big leaf,' a type of pu'er processed from large-leaf tea plants] 大叶 or 大葉
gan cang ['dry storage'] 干倉
ji zhi qing ['machine dried,' lit. 'machine-made blue/green,' said of mao cha that is mechanically dried rather than sun-dried] 机制青
mao cha ['rough/unprocessed tea,' the loose dried leaf ready to be compressed into pu'er] 毛茶
mian zhi ['cotton paper,' the paper wrapper for pu'er cakes] 棉纸
nei fei [lit 'inside quick,' the identifying label embedded in a pu'er cake] 内飞
nei piao [an 'inner ticket,' wrapped with but not embedded in the cake] 内票
qi zi ['seven sons,' i.e. a stack of seven bing cha] 七子
sha qing ['kill green,' the heating process whereby oxidation is halted] 杀青
shai qing ['sun dried,' lit. 'sun blue/green,' said e.g. of mao cha that has first undergone sha qing, and is then spread out to dry in the sun] 晒青
shi cang ['wet storage'] 濕倉
tong ['tube,' a qi zi stack of seven bing cha] 筒
wo dui ['wet pile,' a storage process for making shu pu'er] 渥堆

4. Tea-Ware [cha ju, 茶具]

Teapot Terminology:
ce bei ['side cup' or 'auxiliary cup'; essentially a gai wan with handle and spout] 側杯
cha cheng [teapot platform, e.g. of clay, for gongfu cha] 茶承
cha chuan [lit 'tea boat' -- hot-water dish for keeping teapot warm] 茶船
cha hai [lit 'tea sea' -- either the pitcher (cf gong dao bei) or a tray (cf cha pan and cha chen)] 茶海
cha hu [teapot, although this can cover a number of different shapes of vessels, like the ce bei or gong dao bei] 茶壺
duan ni2 [lit 'layered clay'; a pale clay that can be colored; used for some Yixing teaware] 段泥
gong dao bei [lit 'justice vessel,' i.e. sharing pitcher for gong fu cha] 公道杯
hei ni ['black clay' used for some Yixing teaware] 黑泥
hong ni [ordinary 'red clay' sometimes passed off as true zhu ni, which is now extinct] 紅 泥
huang ni ['yellow clay' used for some Yixing teaware] 黄泥
lu ni ['green clay' used for some Yixing teaware] 绿泥
tiao sha ['mixed/blended sand,' the composite of clay and sand that gives some Yixing pots their grainy 'pearskin' texture] 调 砂
yang hu ['pet pot' -- a favorite or cherished teapot that is carefully collected, tended, and 'raised' for its appearance] 養壺
Yi Xing [county-level city in Jiangsu province where real 'Yixing' clay is dug] 宜兴
zhu ni [the 'vermilion clay' so prized for Yixing pots -- genuine zhu ni pots being rare and costly nowadays] 朱泥
zi ni ['purple clay' used for some Yixing teaware] 紫泥
zi sha ['purple sand,' the dark substance commonly used for Yixing teaware] 紫砂

Bowls and Cups:
cha bei [lit 'tea cup,' which can also include modern mugs] 茶 杯
cha wan [tea bowl, esp. the larger size used in the Tang, Song, and Yuan dynasties] 茶碗
cha zhong [cf 'zhong'] 茶盅
cha zi [tea mug, typically with lid; probably shorthand for cha(bei)zi; note: this is cha2 zi5, not cha1 zi5 叉子, which is 'fork'] 茶(杯)子
gai bei [ ~ gai wan or zhong] 盖杯
gai wan [lit 'covered bowl,' i.e. the lidded cup used for brewing tea: see also 'gai bei' and esp. 'zhong'] 盖碗
pin3 ming2 bei [tasting cup, lit 'produced/made tea cup'] 品茗杯
tuo pan [lit 'support/hold tray,' i.e. individual tray for the pin ming bei and wen xiang bei in gongfu cha] 托盘
wen2 xiang1 bei [aroma cup, lit 'sniff fragrance cup'] 闻香杯
zhong1 [Cantonese for gai wan] 盅

Tea Implements: [cha dao, 茶道]
cha chi [tea scraper, lit 'tea spoon,' for nudging tea into the teapot] 茶匙
cha jia [tea tongs] 茶夾
cha diao [tea pick] 茶雕 [also cha tong 'tea open(er)' 茶通]
cha lou4 [tea funnel] 茶漏 [note that this is different from cha lou2, 'tea house']
cha shao [tea scoop] 茶勺 [also cha ze 'tea chooser' 茶則]
cha zha chi [tea dregs scraper, for cleaning out a teapot] 茶渣匙

Other Tea-Ware Vocabulary:
cha gang [tea-leaf jar] 茶缸
cha he [lit 'tea lotus,' a small dish for measuring and displaying dry tea leaf before brewing] 茶荷
cha ji [small tea-table] 茶几
cha jin [tea cloth, for spills] 茶巾
cha pan [tea tray, e.g. of bamboo, for gongfu cha] 茶 盤
cha qi [tea set] 茶器 [note that this is different from 茶气 , also cha qi4, 'vital energy of tea,' and from 茶沏, cha qi1, 'brew tea']
cha yu ['tea basin,' i.e. a waste-water bowl for gongfu cha; cf 'shui fang'] 茶盂
Jing De Zhen [city in Jiangxi province, famous for its porcelain kilns] 景德镇 or, now, 景德镇市 ['Jing De town city,' marking its prefecture-level size]
shui fang1 ['water vessel,' typically a pot for storing fresh water for brewing tea; cf 'cha yu'] 水方

5. Locales

cha chang [tea factory] 茶厂
cha cun [tea farm, lit 'tea village'] 茶村
cha dian4 [tea shop -- a place to buy tea leaves for brewing at home] 茶店
cha fang [tea house] 茶坊
cha guan [tea house] 茶馆
cha ju dian [tea-ware shop] 茶具店
cha lou2 [tea house] 茶楼 [note that this is different from cha lou4, 'tea funnel']
cha ye dian [tea leaf shop = cha dian] 茶叶店
cha yi guan [tea arts house, i.e. a cha guan where the elaborate preparation and serving of tea is a form of entertainment] 茶艺馆
cha yuan [tea-garden, -plantation, -estate; note: yuan2] 茶园
cha yuan [tea-garden, -park, -house; note: typically yuan4] 茶苑
cha yuan [tea-academy, -institute; note: yuan4] 茶院

6. Destinations for the Tea Traveller

Hong Kong:
cha ju wen wu guan [Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, lit 'tea ware culture museum'; 10 Cotton Tree Drive, Hong Kong Park] 茶具文物馆
cha yi le yuan [Best Tea House, lit 'tea art happy garden'; Flat B, 8/F, Ka To Ind Building, 2 Cheung Yue Street, Lai Chi Kok, Hong Kong -- one of the best places in HK to buy tea to brew at home] 茶藝樂園
lian xiang lou ['Lin Heung Tea House,' Cantonese cuisine and dim sum; 160-164 Wellington St, central Hong Kong] 蓮香樓
luk yu cha shi ['Luk Yu Tea Room,' famous old-style Hong Kong dim sum house; 26 Stanley Street, central Hong Kong] 陸羽茶室

Mainland China:
hu pao3 (meng) quan ['Tiger Run (dream) Spring,' the famous spring in Zhejiang province near where long jing cha is grown, and from which it is said the best water for long jing cha is drawn] 虎 跑 (梦) 泉
lu4 tai2 cha guan [the 'Terrace Tea House,' traditional tea house in Beijing, just east of the Forbidden City; address: 东华门大街 69号] 露台茶馆
Ma Lian Dao [Xuanwu district, Beijing] -- a street over 1.5 km long with over 600 shops selling tea and tea wares! Be sure to check out the 4-storey Maliandao Tea City, which houses about 200 famous tea companies from all over China. 马连道
wan ling cha wan3 ['Wan Ling Tea House'; shop A22 at 1829 Beijing West Road, Shanghai] 婉玲茶宛
zhong guo cha du ['China Tea Capital,' a large center in Anxi, Fujian province, showcasing wu long teas] 中国茶都
zhong guo cha ye bo wu guan ['China National Tea Museum,' Longjing Road, Shuangfeng Village, Hangzhou, Zhejiang province -- Tel 86-571-7964112] 中国茶叶博物馆

bie cha yuan ['Tea Academy Annex,' known in English as 'Off-Chaism'; No. 6, Lane 12, Yong Kang Street, Taipei; tel: 886.2.2341.8272] 別茶院
chan yuan ['Zen Garden,' known in English as 'Shann Garden'; No. 34 Youya Road, Bei-Tou District, Taipei 112; tel: 02.2896.5700 or 2896.5709] 禅園
hui liu ['Return & Remain' -- No. 9, Lane 31, Yong Kang St., Taipei; tel: 886.2.2861.9840 or 2392.6707 -- vegetarian food, wild tea, ceramics] 回留
ping lin cha ye bo wu guan [Pinglin Tea Trade Museum, No. 19-1, Sung Chi Keng, Shui Te Tsun, Pinglin; tel: 02.2665.6035] 坪林茶業博物館
yeh tang [No. 20-2, Lane 31, Yong Kang Street, Taipei; tel: 886.2.3393.8988] 冶堂
zi teng lu [Wistaria Tea House, lit 'Purple Cane Hut,' 1 Xin Sheng South Road, Section 3, Alley 16, Taipei] -- a historic landmark, meeting-place for political activists, literati, and artists; part of the movie 'Eat Drink Man Woman' was filmed here] 紫藤廬

7. Purchasing Phrases

Delicious! [lit 'good eat'] 好 吃 hao chi!
Do you accept credit cards? 信用卡可以吗 ?xin yong ka ke yi ma?
Do you speak English? 会说英语吗 ?hui shuo ying yu ma?
Do you understand? 懂吗 ?dong ma?
Excuse me ... [a polite way to get attention] 劳驾 lao jia ...
Good afternoon! 下午好 xia wu hao!
Good evening! 晚上好 wan shang hao!
Good morning! 早上好 zao shang hao!
Good night! [lit 'evening peaceful'] 晚 安 wan an!
Goodbye! [lit 'again meet'] 再见 zai jian!
Hello! [lit. 'Are you doing well?'] 你好吗 ni hao ma? [answered with 'I (am) very well,' 我很好 wo hen hao]
How much does it cost? [lit 'How much money?'] 多少钱 ? duo shao qian?
How old is it? 有多少年份?you duo shao nian fen?
I don't understand Chinese. 我不懂中文 wo bu dong zhong wen.
I need an interpreter. 我需要翻译 wo xu yao fan yi.
I want to buy ... 想买。。。xiang mai ...
I'll take both of them. [lit 'both item both request'] 两个都要 liang ge dou yao.
I'll take this one. [lit 'please, allow me this item'] 请给我这个 qing gei wo zhe ge.
I'm just looking. 随便看看 sui bian kan kan.
Is that so? ['Indeed?'] 是吗?shi ma?
It goes down smoothly. [lit 'smooth/favorable mouth'; said of delicious tea] 順口
May I ask you ...? [lit 'please inquire'; a polite way of getting conversational attention] 请‭ ‬问 。。。 qing wen ...
May I have your (sur)name? [lit 'you valuable (sur)name?'] 您贵姓?nin gui xing? -- answered with 'my (sur)name (is) ...'] 我姓 。。。 wo xing ...
May I taste this tea? 我可不可以品试这个茶 ?wo ke bu ke yi pin shi zhe ge cha?
May I use a credit card? 信用卡,可以吗? xin yong ka, ke yi ma?
No. 沒有 mei2 you3
No problem! [i.e. 'Not to worry!' or 'Never mind!'] 没关系 mei guan xi!
No problem! [i.e. 'Sure!' lit 'not inquire thing'] 没问题 mei wen ti!
Okay, I'll buy it. 好,我买了 hao, wo mai le.
Please show it to me [lit 'allow me look at it'] 给我看一下 gei wo kan yi xia.
Please show me ... [lit 'please allow me take a look at ...] 请让我看看 。。。 qing rang wo kan kan ...
Please write it in hanzi [Chinese characters]. 请用汉字写。qing yong han zi xie.
Please write it in pinyin [roman letters]. 请用拼音写。qing yong pin yin xie.
Pleased to meet you! [lit 'meet you, I very high interest'] 见到你,我很高兴 jian dao ni, wo hen gao xing!
Thank you! 谢 谢 xie xie! [answered with 'you're welcome!' 不客气 bu ke qi! (lit 'not guest energy'), or 不用 谢 bu yong xie! (lit 'not use thanks')]
Thank you very much! [lit 'not ordinary feel thanks'] 非常感谢 fei chang gan xie!
This is my e-mail (address). 这是我 的 e-mail。zhe shi wo de e-mail.
This is the best (one). 这最好。zhe zui hao.
Very good! 很好 ! hen hao!
What is the price? 是 什么价格? shi shen me jia ge?
Where can I find ...? 我 能在哪里找到 。。。? wo neng zai na li zhao dao ...?
Yes. 对的 dui4 de5.
Yes. 是的 shi4 de5.

8. Miscellanea

bei di xiang ['cup bottom fragrance,' the aroma left in the cup after the tea has been drunk] 杯底香
cha qi [to brew/infuse (tea); cf. pao4] 茶沏 ; note that this word is qi1. cha qi4 茶气 [traditional form 氣], a different term, would signify the vital energy (qi or ch'i) in tea.
gong fu cha [skilled preparation and serving of tea, esp. oolongs] 工夫茶 or 功夫茶
hou zi cai ['monkey-picked,' said of rare or difficult-to-harvest teas] 猴子采
hui gan ['recurring sweetness,' the sweet aftertaste experienced by breathing in after swallowing certain teas, esp. oolongs] 回甘
jia ji ['Grade A'] 甲级
ji pin ['top grade,' best quality] 级品
ke4 [gramme of weight] 剋 [克]
kou gan ['mouth feel,' the perceived texture and density of the tea liquor in the mouth] 口感
ming qian ['pre-qing-ming'] harvested before the qing ming festival 明前
nai xiang ['milk fragrance,' a characteristic taste/aftertaste of prized Taiwan oolongs typically produced from the jin xuan cultivar] 乃香
nong xiang [lit 'dense fragrance,' due to heavier oxidation; cf. qing xiang] 浓香
pao4 [infuse, steep] 泡
qing1 ming [the 'clear-bright' festival in April; for the most part, ming qian tea, i.e. the tea harvested pre-qing-ming, is reputedly the best] 清明
qing xiang [lit 'clear fragrance,' a result of little or no oxidation; cf. nong xiang] 清香
shan ['mountain,' whether a single peak or an entire range] 山
you ji ['organic'] 有机
yun4 ['aftertaste,' lit 'rhyme'] 韵

~~~~~~~~~~ · ~~~~~~~~~~

Many more friends and colleagues have inspired and helped me than I can easily acknowledge here. But to mention a minimal few: thanks to Geraldo, who unwittingly provided one of the original impetus for the compilation of this list. Thanks too, as always, to Danny Samarkand, inexhaustible fund of knowledge in matters of Chinese culture in general (and tea lore in particular). Steven Owyoung is a Living National Treasure, and beyond praise. Warren Peltier, friend and tea brother, is endlessly generous with his vast expertise in things Chinese. Will Chen's zest for cha dao, in its various manifestations, is inspiring and nourishing. Josh of Cha Xiu Bao, Hugh Crymble, Keith Dickson, Hong Wei, Huang Chi-Fang, MarshalN, and Wu Shaojing were all helpful and encouraging with various kinds of information. (None of these people, it goes without saying, is responsible for any of my errors here.)

A special tip of the hat is due to my learned friends and colleagues Lew Perin and Mike Petro. Mike's site has become the 'Rosetta Stone' for all things pu'er, including such terminology as one finds here. Lew's ingenious, indispensible, and ever-burgeoning Babelcarp site should be the first recourse for anyone looking for tea terms in Chinese. It is meticulously researched, extraordinarily user-friendly, and far more comprehensive than this brief handlist.

Finally, the online
Xuezhongwen dictionary is an inexhaustible and convenient scholarly resource, and can be heartily recommended.

-- corax


Unknown said...

corax, old bean--This be a great resource you cranked out. On my next trip to the tea-lands, I'll take a printed version of your lexicon. I would recommend a small, plastic three-ring binder with each page devoted to a category--small so it can fit in the book bag, plastic so constant use does not chew it up. In my experience, these lexicons often fascinate vendors. They sometimes took mine from my hands to page through it. The lexicon will also go far toward elevating one's status as a tea purchaser.

Sometimes vendors in Taiwan would call an English speaking friend on the phone, and the phone would pass back and forth translating for us. That was a hoot.

The act of sharing tea, of course, universally communicates a shared fellowship. A second visit to a shop is calm.

I wish you well. And thanks again for your list.

As ever,

corax said...

esteemed grasshopper, thank you for your kind words. you know i could not have done it [such as 'it' is] without you.

i love your idea of a binder. that's a definite 'must' for my next trip.

i also love your stories of the vendors! i can just see it all, in my mind's eye ...

warm regards,

Anonymous said...

Is 單丛, is not 單樅.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone please tell me if there is a tea called Babao? Or, could I have the spelling wrong? If it's correct, can you please give me the definitio in English for me please?

Kit said...

I am impressed with the depth and breadth and appearance of this blog...and I have an odd question that is important to me: recently here in Beijing our language teacher took us with a "tea expert" to a number of shops...of the thousands selling every possible variety of tea. In the high end shops, we were shown (and we purchased) small packets...freeze-dried...of frozen oolong...said to be "very special". The roughly ounce packages are thawed, and then tea is brewed...with what appear to almost be raw leaves. The tea is absolutely doubt about that. Now, where can I learn about this "freeze-dried frozen oolong tea"? Google has zip!

Anyone who knows and can direct me will be thanked!


Wan Ling Tea House said...

Brilliant post. Thanks for a useful resource.

We wanted to up date the contact information you have for Wan Ling Tea House in Shanghai. The new address is: 上海市静安区昌化路261弄亚洪文化艺术品市场67铺,靠近康定路 or shop 67, 261 chang hua road, (ya hong wen hua yi shu pin shi chang) - Ya Hong Culture and Art Centre
Near Kang Ding Road. All the latest details can be found at:

Hope to see you in Shanghai soon.

Wan Ling Tea House said...


Most high quality Oolong such as Tie Guan Yin should be kept in a freezer. The majority of these quality teas will also be vacuum packed in individual servings (5-10g) for optimal freshness. Most of your local tea specialist should be able to help you out.

Good luck and happy tea drinking,

Wan Ling Tea House

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent resource. It's practically all a person would need to navigate to the desired hotspots in China. I already have a place you listed I'd like to go, the China Tea Capitol in Anxi that showcases the Oolong Tea. --Jason