Herb_Master wrote:I have been reordering some of my tea research notes and paused for thought over the idea of oolong as a 'blue' tea.
Pu-erh as 'black - I will come across when I move on from oolong. I hope my 'Pu-erh' cakes don't fade too badly while I am going through my Oolong stocks.
We've been having a discussion recently about what exactly black (hēi) tea is, and how commonly the term is used.http://teadrunk.org/viewtopic.php?id=26
The consensus so far:
1) A lot of native speakers say that "hēi chá" doesn't "sound good", and say that it's not a commonly used term.
2) Some people argue that it only refers to a certain set of teas which may or may not include some or all pǔ'ěrs. In general, there seems to be some agreement that young shēng is probably not considered black tea.
But oolong as 'blue'
I appreciate that it is (or rather was) a comparitive assessment alongside 'greens' and 'reds' and may have been 'greenish blue' or 'reddish blue' or 'yellowish blue' but in modern day oolongs that I have encountered I can't (even by stretching my imagination) conjure up any faint suggestion of "blue".
I don't think blue or blue-green is the only possible meaning of that word (青茶, qīng chá in hanyu pinyin). Maybe someone with a better knowledge of history / culture can say better, but my understanding is that that meaning of qīng by itself typically refers to anything that's kind of blue-green or green-blue.
Qīng can also mean black or grey, and that may be a more traditional meaning of the word - for example, 丹青 (dān qīng) refers to a style of old Chinese paintings with red and black ink, where dān is a cinnabar type red, and qīng refers to black.
The term / genre of tea has been around for a long time, so the meaning of the character may not have been exactly the same as it is now. Wūlóng, especially traditional roast ones can definitely be black in appearance, with green on the inside greenish. There may have been some poetic license taken, or it may have had a slightly different meaning in the old days.
I know that when the term is translated into English, people usually say "semi-green" - that's the main English term besides "oolong" I've seen used to describe this sort of tea. I don't think "blue tea" is a good translation of the word we're talking about.
I know Robert found some stuff about qīng chá in his research on hēi chá (see link above), so if he finds more out about the historical background of this, I'll post a follow-up.
I think the terms (qīing chá / wūlóng) are usually used synonymously in actual practice, but my understanding is that qing cha is a top level category analogous to 'lu cha', 'hong cha', etc., and that wūlóng is the primary or only member of this category.