A question I get just about every day is, “What do you have in green tea?” Some of these customers are seasoned green tea drinkers looking for something specific. But more often, the comes from people who are new to green tea and want to try it because they have heard about its health benefits. For those that are new to green tea, this article will provide a brief overview of what is green tea, as well as the distinction between the two main types of green tea that we carry. The next article will discuss the health benefits of green tea as well as the advantages of green tea over other teas.
Green tea, like all actual tea (referring to green tea, black tea, oolong, and white tea) comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, also known as the tea plant. The primary distinction between tea types is the level of oxidation. Other than white tea, green tea is the least oxidized type of tea.
For those of you who are curious what that means, here is a little of the science backstory. Oxidation is a process where a substance loses electrons and starts to break down. Some examples of oxidation are when an apple turns brown when you cut it, or metal rusting.
Makers of teas such as oolong, black tea, and puehr use the process of oxidation to chemically alter the tea leaves because of the way oxidation changes their tastes, colors, and aromas. The lack of oxidation in green tea is why it retains it green color. It also retains certain beneficial chemicals that are not as commonly found in other types of tea.
The two types of green teas that we carry are Chinese and Japanese green teas. In China, loose leaf green tea is the most popular type of tea. Examples of Chinese green teas are Dragonwell, Gunpowder, and Jasmine Pearls. In Japan, green tea is the only type of tea that is commercially produced. Japanese teas include Bancha, Sencha, and Genmaicha Matcha.
To stop the oxidation process, the green tea leaves must be heat treated. In China, the tea leaves are typically roasted in an oven, or pan fired in a large dry wok. It's a little different in Japan, where instead of a dry heat process, the tea leaves are steamed and then dried afterward.
The Chinese process creates a wide variety of flavors from woody, nutty, and smoky, to lighter-bodied citrusy teas. Chinese green teas are often a pale yellow color, rather than green. The steaming process of Japanese teas creates a completely different flavor that is described as more green, grassy, vegetal, or even a seaweed-like aroma and flavor. The color of Japanese teas is greener than the Chinese green teas. The color ranges from very light green to bright green, to a dark green in some varieties. Japanese teas tend to have a higher moisture content and are considered more delicate, requiring lower water brewing temperatures.
I hope this helps you understand green teas a little better. Try a few varieties, and taste them side by side in order to really appreciate the differences in flavor. And make sure, no matter what, that you don't overbrew green tea, or the bitter flavors will completely overwhelm the delicate nutty, sweet flavors that are so distinctive to green teas. Set a timer, and never let a green tea brew longer than a couple minutes.