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What is green tea?
Green tea is unfermented leaves of the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis.
How is green tea made?
There are several steps in tea production. Right after tea leaves are harvested, they are getting withered by blowing air on them until leaf’s veins are transparent. Then, the tea leaves are rolled into strips. Next step for some tea types is fermenting, or oxidizing. The type (“color”) of the tea depends on the level of oxidation. Black tea is fully oxidized. In green tea production, the oxidation process is prevented by applying heat to the leaves: by steaming or pan-firing.
Here are the main types of tea, classified by the degree of oxidation.
- White Tea leaves are simply cut and dried – no further processing required.
- Black Tea leaves are cut and then left to oxidize until they turn black.
- Green tea leaves are cut, withered, and then steamed or pan-fired to halt oxidation.
- Oolong Tea leaves sit between black tea and green tea with the oxidation stopped halfway before they turn black.
- Pu-erh Tea is partially oxidized and fermented. Its production involves living bacteria, similar to yogurt and leavened bread.
- Rooibos Tea is not made of Camelia Sinensis plant, but a South African herb, Aspalathus Linearis. Rooibos is available in green and oxidized varieties.
When shopping for the best green tea around, read descriptions carefully, paying attention to the following details:
- Origin. Most of the green teas come from China and Japan. India is traditionally known for its black tea, although Indian green Darjeelings become increasingly available. Other noteworthy green tea regions are Vietnam, Nepal, and Indonesia.
- Green tea types. The types of green tea vary significantly, depending on growing regions and methods of production. Some of the most popular green tea types on the market are Chinese green tea varieties, such as Longjing (Dragonwell), Zhu Cha (Gunpowder), Jasmine green tea. Japanese green tea has a very different flavor profile. Sencha, Genmaicha, and powdered Matcha are some of the most known Japanese teas. One has to try them to appreciate that savory, “umami” hint of flavor.
- Chinese green tea vs. Japanese. In China, tea is often processed using traditional artisan hand-making methods. The number of resulting tea varieties in China approaches infinity or at least the size of the Chinese population. On the other hand, in gadget-obsessed Japan, machines are generally used for any kind of job from plucking to steaming and packaging – with impressive results of high-quality teas. In Japan, teas are traditionally steamed, whereas Chinese teas are usually pan-fired, hence the difference in taste and aroma. Japanese tea has distinctive “vegetal” flavor, while Chinese teas vary from being “fresh and floral” to “smooth and toasty“.
How to prepare green tea?
It’s not that hard, really. One piece of advice: do not oversteep. The optimal temperature for a perfect brew is 80°C (175°F). So, your water should not be exactly boiling hot and a few minutes is enough to release the nutrients and flavor. Any method will do: teapot, fillable tea bag, or just a tea cup (better be covered for the time of steeping). Or, you can use gaiwan, if it tickles your fancy.
Keep in mind that all green teas can be “reused” for at least 3 to 5 infusions, if not more.