When customers come into our shop and ask for green tea the first question we ask is “from China or Japan?”. The answer to this “big” question gives us an indication of the flavour profile the customer prefers and helps us find the right type of tea for that customer. Japanese teas for example are famous for their “umami”. Much greener and “thicker” than Chinese teas, there are eight categories of Japanese green tea, the most popular of which are Sencha, and the powdered tea, Matcha. In this guide we hope to help you understand more about loose leaf green tea.
Which countries have the best green tea?
Many countries produce green tea but China, Japan and Korea have the longest history of developing distinctive tea cultures and the teas they produce are based on centuries of learning and expertise. We have tried many green teas from other regions, including India and Sri Lanka but in our experience the very few successful attempts have been produced after much time spent studying and replicating the methods used to make such tea in China.
Is green tea healthy?
Definitely! All tea from the tea plant is healthy but green tea has certain antioxidants (polyphenols) that help protect the body against disease and are not found in black tea. The polyphenols are flavonoids, the most potent of which being catechins and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). About half of the catechin content is EGCG, and that is the reason why there is so much research regarding the benefits of EGCG in tea.
The type of tea you choose, the water temperature and the brewing time will have an impact on the levels of polyphenols in your tea. Lower temperatures are best to retain antioxidant compounds. Because matcha is made of leaves that have been ground to a powder you are drinking the whole leaf, not just making an infusion. For this reason, matcha has more EGCG, but also more caffeine, than loose leaf tea.
Popular green teas
Known for their clean, fresh flavours and elegant looking leaves, Chinese green teas are pan-fired. Japanese green teas are steamed, resulting in a grassier, more vegetal flavours.
- Sencha is the best known type of Japanese tea and, depending on how long the leaves were steamed for, can be divided into three main types: asamushi, chumushi, and fukamushi.
- Dragon Well (Long Jing) is one of China’s most famous teas. Mild and fragrant, this tea typically has a light chestnut flavour and a long, sweet lingering aftertaste.
- Spring Snail Shell (Bi Luo Chun) is a fine example of a tea that has been rolled between the palms of the hands whilst being processed in a wok. Highly aromatic, the flavour combines vegetal and fruity notes.
- Jasmine Pearls are hand-rolled balls made of freshly spring picked buds of green tea, naturally scented with fresh jasmine flowers.
How green tea is produced
Green tea can be made of just buds, or from leaf-sets consisting of a bud and one, two, or there leaves. What makes the tea stay green, is that the leaves are not allowed to oxidise. This important “fixing” stage of tea production is called “kill green”, and can be applied using dry heat or steam.
- After careful plucking, a short period of withering.
- Application of heat to de-enzyme the leaves.
- Rolling or pressing of the leaves to develop flavour.
- Final drying to remove moisture content to 2-3%.
How to brew green tea
- Water temperature: Premium tea is suitable for 2 – 3 infusions and should be steeped at 80°C or, depending on the type of tea, less. If the tea is made using water that is too hot the leaves could scorch, which would result in a bitter, astringent, and unpleasant cup of tea. Subsequent infusions must also be prepared with cooler water, just bear in mind that there is just no such thing as a “piping hot” cup of premium green tea.
- Water quality: The quality of your water will affect the quality of your tea. More information on what type of water is best for tea along with a link to a white paper on this subject published by the UK Tea Academy can be found in our magazine.
- Amount of tea: With the exception of gyokuro and some premium Japanese teas, where you use more tea to get a more intense flavour, the general rule of 12 – 15 g of tea for 1 litre of water applies to green tea. Having said that, as you are likely to make two or three infusions, we recommend using less water and calculating the amount of tea accordingly.
- Brewing time: There are many flavour nuances in the tea that can be discovered by adjusting the steeping time. Steeping time varies between 1 – 3 minutes. Unless otherwise specified on the pack, we suggest you start with a 2 minute steeping, and taste a tea that is ‘new to you’ every 30 seconds after to see which steeping time you prefer.
- Choice of teapot: In the case of green tea, small is beautiful! Traditional Japanese teapots (kyusu) and small Chinese teapots (yin xin) made of unglazed, porous clay, are ideal for celebrating premium Japanese teas and brewing Chinese teas gong fu cha style. A more modern, practical solution of multiple infusions of green tea are the smaller size teapots from Zero Japan.