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Tea 101: All about green tea

What is green tea?

Of all the different types of tea, green tea is the least oxidised and stands out for its bright, fresh and grassy flavor profile.

It is the most popular type of tea in China. In 2020, China produced more than 2.9 million tonnes of tea, and more than 60% of that was green tea. 

Green tea: how it’s processed

First, a little note about oxidation: When tea leaves are exposed to air after harvesting, oxygen breaks down the cell walls, turning the leaves brown—just like how an apple turns brown when sliced. Oxidation turns the tea leaf’s catechins into flavanoids, changing the flavour from grassy and bitter to sweeter and more aromatic.

For green tea, the leaves are heated in a wok almost immediately after harvesting to halt oxidation in a process called “kill-green” (殺青). This means the catechins are left largely intact and the tea leaves keep their chlorophyll, green colour and vegetal flavour.

Kill-green sha qing Longjing Green Tea | Plantation by teakha

Chinese vs Japanese green teas

Green tea is not only the dominant tea in China, but also in Japan. The biggest difference between Chinese and Japanese green teas is in the “kill-green” processing stage: in Japan, green teas are steamed to halt oxidation, while in China, they are pan-fired or roasted, giving them a distinctive nutty flavour. 

Japanese green teas are further divided into two main sub-categories depending on the cultivation process: (a) tea grown under full sunlight, and (b) tea grown under shade to induce a stronger umami flavour. Teas grown under full sunlight include sencha 煎茶 and the banchas 番茶 (yanagi, hojicha, and genmaicha). Teas that are shade-cultivated include matcha and gyokuro. 

Fun fact: if you go back a thousand years in China, you’ll find that green tea was made and drunk more like how it is in Japan nowadays. In the Tang and Song dynasties, green tea was steamed, ground into powder, and prepared very similarly to today's matcha in Japan. 

In that period, China had incredible sway in terms of cultural influence, and its matcha tea culture spread to Japan. While the Japanese took it further, refining and polishing the craft of steamed green tea, China went down a very different route and started experimenting with other dry heat kill-green techniques, resulting in the delicious flavours we know and love today.  

Green tea from China

Pre-Qingming Longjing, Meijiawu, Hangzhou, China 
Longjing (Dragon well) tea is one of China’s most famous green teas, and ours comes from a tea farm in Meijiawu, one of the five certified core Longjing production areas in Hangzhou, China. You’ll recognise Longjing tea for its distinctively flat jade-green leaves, shaped during the pan-firing stage, which also gives this green tea a nutty aroma with notes of chestnut and roasted beans.

This tea is harvested before the Qingming Festival, and is made of spring's first bud and two tender leaves, high in nutrients. Pre-Qingming tea is considered the most sweet, delicate and aromatic, while later harvests give a greener, more full-bodied tea.

Taiping Houkui, Houkeng, Anhui, China

Taiping Houkui has the biggest leaves of any green tea—up to 6cm long! It is grown in the foothills of Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in Anhui, and yields a smooth, velvety tea with a grassy brightness and deep notes of bamboo and seaweed. Taiping Houkui is baked as well as pan-fired and dried flat using a series of bamboo baskets at various temperatures.. 

Green tea from Japan

Kuki Hojicha, Uji, Kyoto, Japan

Kuki Hojicha is a traditionally roasted Japanese green tea made mostly of leaf stems, or “kuki”. It gives a rich chocolatey, nutty flavour with notes of roasted coffee beans and smoky tobacco, and has lower levels of caffeine than most green teas with no bitterness!

Jou Netto Gyokuro, Uji, Kyoto, Japan

Jou Netto Gyokuro is a vibrantly green Japanese tea with an intensely savoury, umami flavour and a thick broth-like texture. It is made from a high quality kabusecha (a class of Japanese tea leaf) and is shaded to a lesser extent than other gyokuros, allowing it to retain a sencha-like earthiness, whilst keeping its signature seaweed flavour. 

First Flush Driftwood Matcha, Uji, Kyoto, Japan

Our First Flush Driftwood Matcha has a bright vegetal flavour, with unmistakable woodsy notes. We named it “First Flush Driftwood Matcha” because it is made from the first harvest (first flush) of tender leaves newly opened after winter. Also, the flavour has a woodiness to it and a minerally seaweed edge—reminiscent of a piece of driftwood in the ocean. 

The health benefits of green tea

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, green tea is said to be inherently cooling and detoxifying. It helps reduce heat and inflammation in the body, whether it’s drunk hot or cold. It's the perfect tea for hot summer days!

Not only is green tea cooling, it’s also packed with health benefits. The combination of ingredients inherent in the tea leaf, including polyphenols, EGCG catechins, caffeine and L-theanine, have been shown to improve brain function and delay dementia, speed up the metabolism, reduce the risk of cancer, and more.

How to brew green tea

When it comes to green tea, the key is to use lower temperature water, as you do not want to over-extract the bitterness. Most green teas turn bitter with oversteeping or with boiling water, so we generally advise using water in the region of 80°C.

How to brew green tea: Grandpa style

Grandpa-style brewing is the easiest way to enjoy green tea. Simply put some tea leaves in a drinking glass, add 80°C water and enjoy! You don't need to cover the glass, as its better to let the steam escape, and you can keep topping it up with water until the flavour runs out. 

Taiping Houkui Green Tea Brewing Guide | Plantation by teakha

Another great shortcut is to use this Tea Infuser & Cup Set by Kanaami-Tsuji, an exquisitely designed tea-for-one set you can easily use in the office. Just add the tea leaves and water, strain, and enjoy!

Tea Infuser and Cup Set with Gyokuro Japanese Green Tea | Plantation by teakha

How to brew green tea: Gongfu style
When brewing in a gaiwan, use ~80°C and keep each infusion short (45s-1min) to avoid bitter tea. An exception to this rule is for Japanese green teas like gyokuro, which are often brewed for 2 minutes in 60°C water. Our Jou Netto Gyokuro, however, can take 80°C well.

How to brew green tea: Western style
If you're brewing loose leaf green tea in a large teapot, we recommend using a leaf-to-water ratio of 2g per 100ml, with 80°C water steeping for not more than 3 minutes. When pouring the tea, try to pour it all out at once with no water left behind in the teapot, to avoid the leaves stewing too long.

We hope you have learnt a few interesting things about green tea in this article. Most importantly, we hope you enjoy exploring the vast world of green teas out there! Happy sipping :)

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