kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake

茶 (chá) is the Chinese character for tea. As well as being used for tea itself, it also appears on menus as 茶樹 (chá shù gū) and 沙茶醬 (shā chá jiàng).

The English name for 茶樹菇 is a direct translation of the Chinese — "tea tree mushrooms". I've mentioned these previously, and asked if anyone knew where to get them in London. I finally found the dried version on the first floor of New Loon Moon in Chinatown, but I'm still looking for the fresh ones...

The English name for 沙茶醬 is basically a transliteration — "shacha sauce" or "sa cha sauce". I’ve also seen it translated as "barbecue sauce", but in my opinion this is so vague as to be useless. Shacha sauce is an oily, slightly granular sauce made from ingredients including garlic, shallots, spices, chillies, and dried fish — see its Wikipedia entry or PigPig's post on the joys of 沙茶醬 for more information.

Note that 沙茶 is also sometimes used to mean "satay", though in my experience (remember, my experience is mostly of menus in London), 沙爹 (shā diē) is more common. A post on the CantoDict forums suggests that 沙茶 is the Mandarin term for satay, whereas 沙爹 is more of a Hong Kong thing. I'm not sure if there's an easy way to tell whether 沙茶 on a menu refers to shacha sauce or to satay.

Here are some types of tea that you might see on a menu:

龍井茶lóng jǐng chádragon well tea (a richly-flavoured green tea)
jú huā cháchrysanthemum tea (a caffeine-free infusion of chrysanthemum flowers)
烏龍茶wū lóng cháoolong tea (a fairly wide classification of teas, with many subtypes)
鐵觀音茶tiě guān yīn cháa type of oolong particularly suitable for drinking with dim sum
普洱茶pǔ ěr chápu'er tea (a complex, aged tea)
茉莉花茶mò lì huā chájasmine tea (see Mr Noodles' comment for an alternative name)

Many, many more teas can be seen on, for example, the tea menu of the Royal China Club on Baker Street.

Some of the characters used here appear on menus in other contexts — I've already discussed 花 (huā/flower), and 龍 (lóng/dragon) is often used in an alternate spelling of 小籠包 (xiǎo lóng bāo/soup dumplings), as well as being part of the name of my recommended brand (龍口/Lóngkǒu) of 粉絲 (fěn sī/bean thread noodles). Others generally only appear on tea menus.

I don't recall ever having seen a Chinese-only tea menu here in London, but obviously the situation may be different elsewhere. In addition, knowing the Chinese name of your favourite tea may help you locate it on bilingual menus where the English translation is nonstandard or erroneous.

As pointed out in comments, when no tea menu is apparent, the way you find out which teas are available is simply to ask. If (like me) you don't speak a Chinese language, they may need a little persuading that you really do want something other than the default jasmine, and depending on the staff member they may not know the names of the teas in English.

茶: chá radical 140 (艸/艹) Cantodict MandarinTools YellowBridge Zhongwen

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Date: 2010-08-05 02:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com
I don't think there is a Chinese only tea menu. The usual method is you ask in Chinese what tea they have and you choose one.

Shame on you for omitting the best Chinese tea to accompany dim sum

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tieguanyin

RE: Jasmine, the Cantonese call it "hong pian" which is "xiang pian" in Mandarin pinyin i.e. fragrant slice

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