What Makes A Good Cup Of Chinese Tea?

So how do I know I have:

  • good quality Chinese tea leaves?
  • made a good cup of Chinese tea? Or a bad cup of Chinese tea?

Attributes to Look For in a Good Cup O Chinese tea

There is no one single Chinese tea that can give you all these pleasure but we can have them all on one list:

  • Gan, or even better, Hui Gan.
  • Flavor
  • Smoothness in the mouth after drinking
  • Aroma
  • Color
  • Sang Jin

They are not listed in order of importance as your personal preference is king. No one can tell you you should like flavor over aroma, etc., etc. Some, if not all, of these attributes come with the Chinese tea you are brewing, and you have to brew it right so you don’t kill any of them in the brewing process.


“Bitterness” means a bad cup of tea right? Yes and No. There are 3 types of bitterness described by Chinese, of which 2 are no good and 1 is heavenly. It’s hard to tell in English but here is my attempt.

TypeMandarin Pronun.Description
Plain BitterCould be the original taste of certain kinds of tea like Pu’er. Or could be too much tea leaves used in the process. Or could be the result of slight overbrewing.
Rough BitterThis is a result of bad overbrewing. Recommend to throw the cup of tea out or the Se taste will ruin your taste buds, and your tea day.
Minty BitterAlthough the attributes are not ranked, lots of Chinese tea drinkers pay for this Gan thing, and big bucks for Hui Gan (recurring Gan). So you can guess this is the heavenly attribute most tea drinkers are looking for in a good cup of tea.


There are 2 sides to the flavor attribute.

One is richer vs. thinner. Richer is always better than thinner. If you have good tea leaves but you are getting tea that tastes more like water than tea, it’s likely you have used a shorter-than-enough brew time, or lower-than-enough water temperature, or the wrong brewing process.

Two is heavier vs. lighter. But heavier is not necessarily better. Fully fermented teas have heavier flavor while less fermented teas have lighter flavor. It’s just the way the teas are.


Smoothness is one of the attributes that make Chinese tea expensive but it’s not a determining factor. Some teas are simply not the smooth type no matter how pricey they are. If you have a supposedly smooth tea, watch your brew time (don’t overbrew) and water temperature (don’t be too hot) and you will be fine.


This is another attribute that tea drinkers seek for. It’s not necessarily the thicker the better. The tea should smell fresh and natural as well, both before and after brewing. You can’t go very wrong brewing aromatic tea. Unless you have a flu, the aroma stays even if your overbrew (it doesn’t taste good though).


Color is something to appreciate during the tea drinking process. Choose the right cup to brew your tea. Say, a white cup for Tie Guan Tin to show against the background, a glass for green Dragon Well to dance around and you will be able to enjoy your Chinese tea to the fullest.

Sheng Jin ()

Ha, mandarin again. Sheng means “to generate”, “to produce”. Jin means “saliva”. When referring to Chinese tea, Sheng Jin means that the after taste of the tea remains in your mouth and keeps stimulating your salivary gland to generate saliva long after you finish drinking. It’s wonderful to feel the tea still working an hour after you finish drinking it. Just don’t overbrew your tea so it gets Se because Se tea definitely won’t Sheng Jin.

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