With all the hype about green tea, you may have wondered about its origin and method of processing. You may also be interested in its taste or famous varieties. Without any further ado, let’s answer these queries one by one and also learn how to brew a perfect cup of your favorite tea.
ORIGINS OF GREEN TEA
According to Chinese folklore, almost 4500 years ago, there lived a Chinese Emperor Shénnóng. The legend goes that one day, the Emperor’s servant accidentally served him boiled water in which a tea leaf has fallen. Emperor drank this water, without noticing the change of color. He was utterly amazed by the refreshing taste and incredible flavor, thus discovering the mythical drink.
During ancient times, tea was considered a luxury and was only affordable to the elite class of Chinese society. Later, people who came to China for study or business were responsible for introducing tea to other parts of the world. Over time, everyone was able to access tea. Thus, drinking tea become an integral part of our diet.
Related Article: Learn the History of Tea in China, the Birthplace of Tea
HOW GREEN TEA IS MADE?
It may surprise you, but green tea is made from the same plant Camellia sinensis as other types of tea such as black tea, oolong tea, or white tea. However, it is the least oxidized tea, which means it goes through minimal air exposure and heat treatment.
The following flow chart briefly summarizes the green tea processing.
- STEP 1: Fresh Leaves or Buds
- STEP 2: Withering (almost negligible)
- STEP 3: Fixation (Green Fixation or Killing green)
- STEP 4: Shaping
- STEP 5: Green Tea
Tea leaf starts oxidizing (fermenting) as soon as you pluck it. Thus, to minimize this fermentation process, the stage of withering, i.e., exposure to air or sunlight, is extremely short or nonexistent.
Tea leaves then go through fixation to entirely stop fermentation. This stage involves moderately heating tea leaves using the cooking method of pan-frying, steaming, or oven-roasting.
Next stage is of rolling/cooling and drying the leaves to shape them. The shape and texture of leaves would depend on the number of rolling and drying steps it goes through. Hence, this stage may be repeated to obtain the desired shape.
Related Article: How Tea is Produced? Tea Processing and Production Steps
GREEN TEA TASTE
Although all green tea comes from the same plant, they vary in taste, color, and texture. One of the reasons for these variations is the slight changes in tea processing. For example, changing the duration of applied heat and the cooking method may alter the final taste of tea. Moreover, the final texture and shape of leave would also determine the amount of natural oil infused and released during brewing.
Hence, tea taste may vary depending on the location of tea grown, time of the year it is cultivated, part of tea plant used, and the method of processing it undergoes.
Usually, China style tea uses the technique of pan-frying and has more toasty, earthy, and nutty flavors. On the other hand, Japanese style tea mostly uses the traditional method of steaming and has grassy, vegetal, creamy, and sweeter flavors.
VARIETIES OF GREEN TEA
As you may have noticed, there are many numerous types of tea available in the market but the most popular tea comes from China and Japan. Some of these varieties are mentioned below.
Famous Varieties From China:
- Long Jing (Dragonwell): The tea leaves have a jade color and a sword-shaped appearance. It is one of the most popular tea with a classic toasty flavor.
- Pi Lo Chun (Green Snail Spring): This is a rare tea that grows in the area surrounding plum, apricot, and peach trees. As a result, this tea absorbs the fruity fragrance of neighboring plants.
- Hou Kui (Monkey tea): It has unique straight leaves, almost 60 mm, that are one of the longest tea leaves. This tea has a slight orchid flavor to it.
- Xin Yang Mao Jian (Green Tip): It is popular mainly because of its aroma that can diffuse in the air and create a mesmerizing peaceful ambiance.
Famous Varieties From Japan:
- Sencha: Almost 80% of the tea produced and consumed in Japan is Sencha. It is a high-grade tea that uses the top buds and leaves of the tea plant. When brewed, it has a yellow color and delicious, soothing flavor.
- Hojicha: This tea is made by roasting another variety such as Sencha. As it has extremely low caffeine content, the Japanese give this tea to their children.
- Genmaicha (Brown Rice Tea): Also known as, popcorn tea by Japanese, it is a blend of toasted brown rice and Sencha. The roasted rice gives this tea a creamy texture with a warm and nutty flavor.
- Gyokoro: It is one of the highest grade tea, made from shade-grown tea leaves. Using this shading technique results in a richer green color and a sweeter taste.
- Matcha: Also uses the technique of using shade-grown tea leaves. Unlike Gyokoro, it is a fine powder. Thus, when you drink Matcha, you are able to consume the entire tea leave.
HOW TO BREW GREEN TEA?
If you don’t follow the right steps of brewing, it is highly probable that your green tea will have an overpowering bitter taste. When brewed correctly, depending on the variety you use, high-quality tea would be yellow, green, or light brown. Most importantly, it would not have a biting bitter taste.
By following the steps given below, you would be able to enjoy the traditional taste of green tea.
- Try to use fresh and pure water.
- Use simmering water. For most varieties, it should be around 140°F -180°F. Never use boiling water.
- You can use almost 2 grams of loose leaf tea per 237 ml cup of water. Conversely, you can use specific recommendations on the tea package. Later, you can adjust the tea amount according to your taste.
- Generally, Japanese style tea is more delicate and can withstand steeping of only 20-30 sec. On the contrary, for the Chinese style, it is advisable to steep for 2-3 min. Thus, vary your steep time based on the tea variety used, and avoid steeping it for too long.
- To enjoy the natural flavors and aroma, avoid adding milk, sugar, or lemon.
- Although not recommended, as it may lower the health benefits of tea, but you can always add flavors of your choice such as lemon or honey. You can also drink it hot or cold, whatever you prefer. Hope you enjoy your cup of tea.