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Dim sum wouldn’t be the feast that it is without yum cha, or tea drinking. Ever the perennial drink in a dim sum feast, most people just pour whatever comes in that teapot. But, did you know that when you elevate your tea game, you also get a whole new experience? Here are some tea facts that your busy server hasn’t told you.

Fried dim sum selections are best with white tea.

Any type of fried food goes well with white tea. Also known as Shoumei or Sau mei, this tea is roasted giving you a slightly bitter flavor of fresh leaves. It has a very light color and aroma and the lowest caffeine content. This tea is a good choice if you want to deviate from traditional favorites.

A high-grade option, which is also the most popular, is the white peony tea. It has a notable floral aroma and a unique refreshing fruity flavor. It is also said to help release the unhealthy “heating” effects of some dishes. So, if you happen to come across a higher grade in the menu, do not miss the opportunity to taste it.

“Steep” it up.

The steeping time for tea starts at one minute, and it varies for each type of tea. However, time needed for subsequent brews on the same leaves should be proportionally lengthened. Most teas can be re-steeped several times within a few hours from its initial infusion.

Beginner’s brew

Green Tea, or Luck Cha, is considered the safest choice for beginners because of its familiar flavor profile. This unfermented tea gives you that refreshing and grassy taste. This is a good option if you want to skip the usual jasmine served in most places. It balances out the sweetness of some dim sum desserts, although some would like to argue that sugar can bring out the bitterness in the tea. Generally, the flavor profile in green tea is the right match for light meats.

To drink or not to drink

Tea is customarily served first in dim sum. Drinking it on empty stomach suppresses the secretion of gastric juices reducing the acid and bile in the stomach. Those who want to enjoy their meals, but are watching their weight would benefit from doing so because this reduces your appetite. However, there are also claims that drinking tea on an empty stomach can create a bloating effect due to its alkalizing effect meeting the acidic environment. Therefore, it is deemed best to drink it with dim sum or after enjoying your feast.

Spice and tea

Teh kuan yin or tieguanyin, is a premium oolong tea that has a distinct flowery fragrance reminiscent of orchids. As a semi-fermented tea, it offers a bittersweet taste which perfectly complements spicy food. However, the catch here is that it might not be easily available in most dim sum places.

The story behind the fragrance

Fragrance is also a good determining factor to the quality of tea. If you can’t smell the tea or if it is very solvent, it means that it is expired. It may taste stale or it could completely lose its flavor. However, pu-erh tea should not be included placed under the same scrutiny as it is, by nature, almost odorless.

Water can make a difference

Did you know that the quality of water gives tea a distinct taste? Ideally, fresh water should be used because it does not alter the real taste of the steeped tea leaves. Mineral content in some water sources can create a marked difference, which is why it should be avoided at all times. Soft water, which has low mineral content, can be an agreeable alternative.

Black tea and heavier sauces

Black tea can either be earthy, fruity or smoky. It generally offers you robust flavors and aroma with pronounced tannins which fits perfectly with meat dishes, heavier sauces, and other full flavored foods. It also serves as the right antidote for the oiliness in fried dim sum dishes.

Don’t stress over your whites

The quality of white tea isn’t always evident by its color. If a restaurant serves you a white tea that seems to come in a certain hue, chances are it has been mixed with another tea. Most dim sum restaurants mix white tea with black tea to add a hint of color while enriching the taste at the same time.

No caffeine please

If you want to enjoy tea minus the caffeine, you can go totally free of it with chrysanthemum tea. Is may have a strong herbaceous flavor that is light and refreshing. Commonly known as Guk Fa, this tea is best paired with steamed dim sum dishes.

Now that you have these facts, why don’t you take this new insights for spin out on Chinatown. Book your table at Tak Po today through our online reservation and spare yourself the hassle so you can get right down to enjoying yum cha and dim sum with us!

Photo credit: chrisjtse via / CC BY-ND