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Decades ago, the tea in Chinese restaurants was black...

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Not the green tea you get today. What would I have to buy to get that great old black-tea taste?

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  1. Maybe a keemun....nm

    1. possibly an oolong tea?

      3 Replies
      1. re: twiggles

        Oolong would be to delicate for restaurant tea.

        1. re: Candy

          hello, oolongs run a big range,from nearly green(slightly oxidized/enzymized) to nearly black (blacks are fully oxidized/fermented)with fuller body, and there were/are cheap 'restaurant grade' oolongs used in some places. The better dim sum places will sometimes offer a choice of jasmine (mistakenly considered green, actually pu chong scented with jasmine flowers) or pu er (po nay) which is a deeply fermented and compressed black (the Chinese consider it red from the color of the infusion rather than the leaf). As fauchon notes, keemuns are used in restaurants, but a fair number of inexpensive places us commercial tea bagswhich aren't always Chinese teas. enjoy

          1. re: moto

            In NYC anyway, we never have a problem getting sweetened (with rock candy) chrysanthemum flower tea.

            And I suspect that a whole range of other exotics are available if you just ask...otherwise, they'll just serve you the house tea and it's generally a wicked witches brew.

      2. My personal fave blend, and what I think might fit the bill of what you're looking for is YUNNAN, which has a hint of smoky leaves blended in. Not anywhere near as strong as a Lapsang Souchong, which is at the strongest end of the spectrum.

        1. If you're looking for something very strong and robust, I'd consider a pu-erh, a fermented tea from Yunnan. Like wine, prices can vary from something very affordable to tens of thousands of dollars per pounds from tea with several decades or more of aging.

          1. Well, I can remember back almost 5 decades in SF Chinatown, and the tea is the same. We kids always called it "fish tea," because, well, it smelled slightly of fish, and still does. My Mom and Dad, both SF natives, said it reminded them of their childhood excursions into Chinatown with their parents. I think the color may have been darker, but the taste is the same.

            1. isn't that old restaurant tea just jasmine tea? you can get that anywhere.

              6 Replies
              1. re: choctastic

                Exactly. Jasmine tea was the standard for most of the 20th century, though green tea was always available on request.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  I remember that as well. That's when I started to fall in love with jasmine tea.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    To paraphrase the old nursery rhyme, "When it's good, it's very very good, but when it's bad it's horrid." I've been fortunate and had mostly good. I would most often order both teas, green to drink with the meal, jasmine to drink after. When I lived in Turkey, I had a real honest to god jasmine tree. It was amazing to be heading home of a balmy evening and smell my balcony two blocks away! Neighbors loved it too. And fresh jasmine makes amazzzzing tea!

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Oh, how lucky you were to have your own jasmine tree! One of my girlfriends gave me some jasmine flowers from her garden and we made tea out of it. Heavenly!

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        They're not all that difficult to grow. The only problem with them is that you have to love living with their perfume! The one I had in Turkey was night blooming jasmine and it bloomed in the evening, then all of the blooms fell off when the sun rose, so living with it wasn't a 24/7 sort of thing. You can dry the flowers in a really slow oven, then seal them in an air tight container for future tea. Or you can mix it with the tea, then store. Delicious either way.

                  2. re: Caroline1

                    That's what I was thinking too. The standard was/is always jasmine tea at the Chinese/Vietnamese restaurants here.

                2. I always thought that old time chinese restaurant tea (at least in the NYC area) was Swee-Touch-Nee. I still see it sold in some supermarkets in the NYC area. Am I mistaken?

                  1. Dear AR:

                    Don't know whether you found an answer to your Chinese Restaurant Tea search. I too have been looking for the tea served in the NYC Chinese Restaurants of my youth (circa 1950's and 60's).

                    The latest possibility is "Dynasty Chinese Restaurant Tea," which I've found online. I I haven't tried it yet, but am planning to order soon.

                    Would appreciate hearing about other finds.

                    Good hunting: Bagel Dog

                    1. From what I've seen in most Chinese restaurants, the default tea given is a rather cheap pu'er tea. It tends to have a woody, musty taste.

                      I don't know if this is what you mean by "black tea"

                      Oolong or chrysanthemum tea is usually available if you ask, of course.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: fuuchan

                        yup. that's what i think has been served for a long time at least since the early eighties.