‘Heicha’ is a tea term that is sometimes used rather freely and requires some explanation. In this post we clarify its exact meaning along with other related tea naming practices.
Romanization versus translation
To be precise, ‘heicha’ is the pinyin romanization of the characters 黑茶, which mean dark tea. It therefore refers to a whole tea type, which comprises many different geographical varieties. For some reason calling dark tea ‘heicha’ has gained some popularity, while almost nobody calls green tea ‘lücha’.
When transcribing Chinese tea terms, choosing between phonetic romanization and translating their meaning is always a choice that has to be made. As a rule of thumb, names of place are never translated. Another rule of thumb is to translate the meaning when it adds to the comprehension.
The instance of Anhua Dark Tea
This is why for Anhua Dark Tea (安化黑茶), we use pinyin for 安化 which is the name of a place, but translate the meaning of 黑茶. Indeed, ‘dark tea’ conveys an immediate idea about the kind of tea that is meant, while ‘heicha’ creates a layer of tea mastery and leaves the non initiate completely lost.
A peculiarity of Anhua Dark Tea is that its name contains both its geographical place of origin as well as the name of the tea type. Other dark tea varieties like Pu’er Tea or Liubao Tea only have a geographical designation in their name. A possible explanation is that 黑茶 (dark tea) was first used in the 16th century specifically for dark tea from Anhua County.
A case by case decision
Sometimes translating the name of a tea creates more confusion and does not really provide any added information. In that case, using pinyin is the preferred solution. This is actually the case of many tea varieties and variations thereof.
As an example we will shortly discuss Qianliang Tea (千两茶) a variation of Anhua Dark Tea. 千 means ‘thousand’, while 两 is an ancient money and weight unit of about 37.5 grams, which used to be translated as ‘tael’. ‘Thousand Tael Tea’ does not sound less strange than ‘Qianliang Tea’ and does not add any information.
Naming teas is by no means a hard science and we have just expressed our own preferences and practices. Curious to know what you think about it …