Tea questions (Chinese vs. Indian)

From George Orwell’s 1946 essay “A Nice Cup of Tea:”

  1. What is the difference between Chinese and Indian tea, that Chinese tea can be drunk without milk and Indian cannot?

  2. Why is Chinese tea more “economical”?

  3. Why is Chinese tea less stimulating? Is the caffeine content lower?

When he says Chinese tea, he’s talking about green tea, and when he’s talking about Indian tea, he’s talking about black tea. The British drank (and I think still do) black tea with milk, and green tea without.

Why, I wonder?

I find black tea perfectly palatable without milk or lemon. (And, since reading Orwell’s essay, I’ve taken his advice and learned to enjoy it without sugar or sweetener. Coffee, too.)

Chinese green tea with milk, though, not so much…

Green tea has about half the amount of caffeine as black tea.

Can’t see why not – is it that the milk would overwhelm the comparatively mild tea flavor? Whereas (to a Brit) milk is necessary to cut the strong flavor of black tea?

That explains that. So, what makes it “economical” compared to black tea? Is it cheaper? Why?

No, it’s just that the two flavours don’t go too well with each other. The only kind of green tea that sort of goes well with dairy products is Japanese matcha, but that’s really different from anything else.

Chinese green tea isn’t necessarily more economical. For example, some types of Longjing tea can fetch some incredibly high prices. I think it was just the case that the varieties that were available in England at the time (probably gunpowder) were indeed cheaper than Indian tea.

It’s cultural. We (Indians) generally drink tea like the Brits; a late afternoon tea, with treats or snacks, and it goes down better with some milk and some elaichi (cardamon) and strong seasonings.
The Chinese people drink tea with their meals, to wash down food or greasiness and so theirs goes better just plain; with milk, it would not wash down as well.

Personally, I don’t think green tea goes well with milk at all. And Indian tea - well boiling leaves in water just is tea. We drink chai, which is the aforementioned combination of tea leaves and milk and cardamon, boiled just so.