Green tea is a type of tea that is made from Camellia sinensis leaves that have not undergone the same withering and oxidation process used to make oolong teas and black teas. Green tea originated in China, but its production and manufacture has spread to many other countries in Asia.
Several varieties of green tea exist, which differ substantially based on the variety of C. sinensis used, growing conditions, horticultural methods, production processing, and time of harvest.
Steeping, Brewing and Serving
Steeping, or brewing, is the process of making tea from leaves and hot water, generally using 2 grams of tea per 100 millilitres of water or about 1 teaspoon of green tea per 150 ml cup. Steeping temperatures range from 61 °C – 87 °C and steeping times from 30 seconds to three minutes.
Generally, lower-quality green teas are steeped hotter and longer while higher-quality teas are steeped cooler and shorter, but usually multiple times (2-3 typically). Higher-quality teas like gyokuro use more tea leaves and are steeped multiple times for short durations. Steeping too hot or too long results in the release of excessive amounts of tannins, leading to a bitter, astringent brew, regardless of initial quality. The brew’s taste is also affected by the steeping technique; two important ones are to warm the steeping container beforehand to prevent the tea from immediately cooling down, and to leave the tea leaf in the pot and gradually add more hot water during consumption.
Green tea extracts have been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine for a variety of uses.
Green tea leaves are initially processed by soaking in an alcohol solution, which may be further concentrated to various levels; byproducts of the process are also packaged and used. Extracts may be sold in liquid, powder, capsule, or tablet form. Decaffeinated versions are also available.
Green tea extract supplements are accessible over the counter in various forms. Standardized green tea extract is 90 percent total polyphenols, and 1 capsule equals 5 cups of tea.
In 2013, global production of green tea was approximately 1. 7 million tonnes, with a forecast to double in volume by 2023. As of 2015, China provided 80% of the world’s green tea market, leading to its green tea exports rising by 9% annually, while exporting 325,000 tonnes in 2015. In 2015, the US was the largest importer of Chinese green tea (6,800 tonnes), an increase of 10% over 2014, and Britain imported 1,900 tonnes, 15% more than in 2014. In 2015, Kenya was the largest exporter of green tea in the world (443,000 tonnes).
Growing, Harvesting and Processing
Green tea is processed and grown in a variety of ways, depending on the type of green tea desired. As a result of these methods, maximum amounts of polyphenols and volatile organic compounds are retained, affecting aroma and taste. The growing conditions can be broken down into two basic types – those grown in the sun and those grown under the shade. The green tea plants are grown in rows that are pruned to produce shoots in a regular manner, and in general are harvested three times per year. The first flush takes place in late April to early May. The second harvest usually takes place from June through July, and the third picking takes place in late July to early August. Sometimes, there will also be a fourth harvest. It is the first flush in the spring that brings the best-quality leaves, with higher prices to match.
Green tea is processed using either artisanal or modern methods. Sun-drying, basket or charcoal firing, or pan-firing are common artisanal methods. Oven-drying, tumbling, or steaming are common modern methods. Processed green teas, known as aracha, are stored under low humidity refrigeration in 30- or 60-kg paper bags at 0–5 °C (32–41 °F). This aracha has yet to be refined at this stage, with a final firing taking place before blending, selection and packaging take place. The leaves in this state will be re-fired throughout the year as they are needed, giving the green teas a longer shelf-life and better flavour. The first flush tea of May will readily store in this fashion until the next year’s harvest. After this re-drying process, each crude tea will be sifted and graded according to size. Finally, each lot will be blended according to the blending order by the tasters and packed for sale.
Green Tea in China
Loose leaf green tea has been the most popular form of tea in China since at least the Southern Song dynasty. While Chinese green tea was originally steamed, as it still is in Japan, after the early Ming dynasty it has typically been processed by being pan-fired in a dry wok. Other processes employed in China today include oven-firing, basket-firing, tumble-drying and sun-drying. Green tea is the most widely produced form of tea in China, with 1. 42 million tons grown in 2014.
Popular green teas produced in China today include:
Produced in Jiangsu, this tea is named after the shape of the leaves, which are curled like snails.
- Chun Mee
Known in English by its Cantonese name, and popular outside China. It has a plum-like flavour.
- Gunpowder tea
A tea which is tumble-dried so that each leaf is rolled into a small pellet that resembles gunpowder.
- Huangshan Maofeng
A type of maofeng tea grown in the microclimate of the Huangshan mountain range in Anhui province. Maofeng teas are harvested by plucking intact two equal-sized leaves and a bud together.
Also known as Dragon Well tea, the English translation of its name. Grown near Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, Longjing is the most well-known pan-fired Chinese green tea. Its flavour derives partly from the terroir of the region in which it is produced.
- Lu’an Melon Seed
Grown in Anhui province. Unlike typical Chinese teas, two leaves are plucked separately from each branch, with no bud and no stems. Harvested later in the season, it has a grassier flavour than typical Chinese green teas.
- Taiping Houkui
Grown in Anhui province. Uses a cultivar with an unusually large leaf. The production process flattens the tea leaves, creating the so-called two knives and a pole shape from the leaves and stem.
- Xinyang Maojian
A type of maojian tea grown in Xinyang, Henan province. Maojian teas are harvested by plucking a bud and one leaf together.
Green Tea in Japan
The oldest tea producing region in Japan is Uji, located near the former capital of Kyoto. It is thought that seeds sent by Eisai were planted in Uji, becoming the basis of the tea industry there. Today, Japan’s most expensive premium teas are still grown in Uji. The largest tea producing area today is Shizuoka Prefecture, which accounts for 40% of total Japanese sencha production. Other major tea producing regions include the island of Kyushu and the prefectures of Shiga, Gifu, and Saitama in central Honshu. All commercial tea produced in Japan today is green tea,though for a brief period black tea was also produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Japanese tea production is heavily mechanized, and is characterized by the use of modern technology and processes to improve yields and reduce labor. Because of the high cost of labor in Japan, only the highest quality teas are plucked and processed by hand in the traditional fashion. Japanese green teas have a thin, needle-like shape and a rich, dark green colour. Unlike Chinese teas, most Japanese teas are produced by steaming rather than pan firing. This produces their characteristic colour, and creates a sweeter, more grassy flavour. A mechanical rolling/drying process then dries the tea leaves into their final shape. The liquor of steamed Japanese tea tends to be cloudy due to the higher quantity of dissolved solids. Most Japanese teas are blended from leaves grown in different regions, with less emphasis on terroir than in the Chinese market. Because of the limited quantity of tea that can be produced in Japan, the majority of production is dedicated to the premium tea market. Bottled tea and tea-flavoured food products usually use lower-grade Japanese-style tea produced in China. Although a variety of commercial tea cultivars exist in Japan, the vast majority of Japanese tea is produced using the Yabukita cultivar developed in the 1950s.
Popular Japanese green teas include:
A lower-grade tea plucked from the same bushes used to produce sencha. It has a somewhat bolder flavour, and is plucked each season after sencha production is finished.
Made by combining sencha tea leaves with toasted puffs of rice.
Grown under shade for three weeks prior to plucking, gyokuro is one of the most exclusive varieties of tea produced in Japan. The shading technique imparts a sweeter flavour, and produces a particularly rich colour thanks to the higher amounts of chlorophyll in the shaded leaf. Gyokuro tea is associated with the Uji region, the first tea-growing region in Japan. It is often made using smaller-leaf cultivars of the tea plant.
This type of tea is made by roasting sencha or bancha leaves with kukicha twigs.
Similar to gyokuro, kabusecha is shaded for only a week prior to plucking. Its flavour is somewhat between that of gyokuro and normal sencha.
A blended tea made of sencha leaves and stems.
Like gyokuro, matcha is shaded before plucking. The plucked and processed leaf is called tencha. This product is then ground into a fine powder, which is matcha. Because the tea powder is very perishable, matcha is usually sold in small quantities. It is typically rather expensive. Matcha is the type of tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It is prepared by whisking the tea with hot water in a bowl, until the surface is frothy. If the water is too hot, the tea may become overly bitter.
This type of tea is produced throughout the tea season, and is the standard style today, representing 80% of all tea produced in Japan. 90% of sencha is grown from the Yabukita cultivar.
The first early harvest of tea, plucked before the first flush, is called shincha. Shincha is made from the youngest new growth leaves, and is plucked from early April to early May. Shincha typically refers to the early harvest of sencha, but can refer to any type of tea plucked early in the season, before the main harvest. Because of the limited quantities in which it is produced, shincha is highly prized and expensive to obtain.
Green Tea in Korea
According to Record of Gaya cited in Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, the legendary queen Heo Hwang-ok, a princess of the Ayodhya married to King Suro of Gaya, brought the tea plant from India and planted it in Baegwolsan, a mountain in current Changwon. However, it is a widely held view that systematic planting of tea bushes began with the introduction of Chinese tea culture by the Buddhist monks around the 4th century. Amongst some of the earliest Buddhist temples in Korea, Bulgapsa (founded in 384, in Yeonggwang), Bulhoesa (founded in 384, in Naju) and Hwaeomsa (founded in Gurye, in 544) claim to be the birthplace of Korean tea culture. Green tea was commonly offered to Buddha, as well as to the spirits of deceased ancestors. Tea culture continued to prosper during the Goryeo Dynasty, with the tea offering being a part of the biggest national ceremonies and tea towns were formed around temples. Seon-Buddhist manners of ceremony prevailed. During the Joseon Dynasty, however, Korean tea culture underwent secularization, along with the Korean culture itself. Korean ancestral rite jesa, also referred to as charye (tea rite), has its origin in darye (tea rite), the practice of offering tea as simple ancestral rites by the royal family and the aristocracy in Joseon. Tea culture of Korea was actively suppressed by the Japanese during the Japanese forced occupation period (1910 – 1945), and the subsequent Korean War (1950 – 1953) made it even harder for the Korean tea tradition to survive. The restoration of the Korean way of tea began in the 1970s, around Dasolsa. Commercial production of green tea in South Korea only began in the 1970s,. By 2012 the industry was producing 20% as much tea as Taiwan and 3. 5% as much as Japan. Green tea is not as popular as coffee or other types of Korean teas in modern South Korea. The annual consumption per capita of green tea in South Korea in 2016 was 0. 16 kg (0. 35 lb), compared to 3. 9 kg (8. 6 lb) coffee. Recently however, as the coffee market reached saturation point, South Korean tea production doubled during 2010 – 2014,as did tea imports during 2009-2015,despite very high tariff rate (513. 6% for green tea, compared to 40% for black tea, 8% for processed/roasted coffee, and 2% for raw coffee beans).
Korean green tea can be classified into various types based on several different factors. The most common is the flush, or the time of the year when the leaves are plucked (and thus also by leaf size).
Ujeon (pre-rain), or cheonmul-cha (first flush tea), is made of hand-picked leaves plucked before gogu (20–21 April). The ideal steeping temperature for ujeon tea is 50 °C (122 °F).
Sejak (thin sparrow), or dumul-cha (second flush tea), is made of hand-picked leaves plucked after gogu (20–21 April) but before ipha (5–6 May). The tea is also called jakseol (sparrow tongue) as the tea leaves are plucked when they are about the size of a sparrow’s tongue. The ideal steeping temperature for sejak tea is 60–70 °C (140–158 °F).
Jungjak (medium sparrow), or semul-cha (third flush tea), is made of leaves plucked after ipha (5–6 May) until the mid May. The ideal steeping temperature for jungjak tea is 70–80 °C (158–176 °F).
Daejak (big sparrow), or kkeunmul-cha (final flush tea), is made of tea leaves plucked in late May and after. It is usually made into tea bags or used in cooking. The ideal steeping temperature for daejak tea is 80–90 °C (176–194 °F).
The mode of preparation also differs:
- Ipcha (yeopcha)
The synonyms ipcha (leaf tea) and yeopcha (leaf tea) refer to loose leaf tea, often in contrast to tea in tea bags. As the words mean leaf tea, they can also be used in contrast to powdered tea.
- Garucha (malcha)
The synonyms garucha (powder tea) and malcha (powder tea) refer to powdered tea.
Leaf teas are processed either by roasting or steaming.
- Deokkeum-cha (bucho-cha)
Roasting is the most common and traditional way of tea processing in Korea. Also translated into pan-fried tea, the deokkeum-cha (roasted tea) or bucho-cha (roasted tea) varieties are richer in flavour.
Steaming is less popular in Korean green tea processing, but the method is still used in temple cuisine. Tea prepared with steamed tea leaves, called jeungje-cha (steamed tea), are more vivid in colour.
Southern, warmer regions such as Boseong in South Jeolla Province, Hadong in South Gyeongsang Province, and Jeju Island are famous for producing high quality tea leaves.
Banya-cha (prajña tea) is one of the most renowned Korean green tea. The steamed tea is developed by Buddhist monks in Boseong. The tea is grown on sandy loam near mountains and sea. The word banya is a Korean transliteration of the Buddhist concept prajña.
Jungno-cha (bamboo dew tea) is one of the most renowned Korean green tea. The roasted variety of tea is made of tea leaves grown among the bamboo in Gimhae, Hadong, and Jinju in South Gyeongsang Province.
Green tea can be blended with other ingredients.
Nokcha (green tea) blended with hyeonmi-cha (brown rice tea) is called hyeonmi-nokcha (brown rice green tea).
Nokcha (green tea) blended with lemon is called remon-nokcha (lemon green tea).