TEA KNOWLEDGE

Green Tea

WHAT IS GREEN TEA?

Green tea, also known as unoxidized tea, is made exclusively from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The tea is often referred to as “the original tea” since green tea is the source of all teas and provides a delicate, fruity or exquisite flavor depending on where it is grown.

When harvested, the leaves are slightly withered and then immediately boiled to preserve their green quality and prevent oxidation. Thanks to these methods, green tea has a much higher concentration of chlorophyll, polyphenols, and antioxidants than other teas.

The growing conditions for green tea can be distinguished between two different types of tea: sun-grown green tea and shade-grown green tea.

In general, the leaves are harvested three times a year, and the first harvest produces the highest quality leaves. The heating process varies greatly, depending on the region and the techniques used by the tea grower.

Some of the main methods used to prepare green tea are:

  • Pan -Frying – Most Chinese green teas are either pan- fried or Wok – fired /roasted in order to neutralize its natural enzymes and then dried, which usually results in a light green colored tea.
  • Steaming – Traditionally, Japanese green teas are quickly steamed quickly, resulting in a light green infusion.

Green Tea Origin

Where does green tea comes from?

The origin of green tea is undoubtedly considered to be China. In China, the term “tea” refers only to green tea, not to the general category of tea, as it does in the West. 

The Chinese province of Yunnan is said to be the birthplace of the plant species Camellia sinensis. More than 380 varieties of tea in the world, 260 can be found in Yunnan.

Green tea originates from the same plant species, but there are several types of green tea that are now cultivated and produced internationally around the world.

 The leading producing countries are China, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, and Sri Lanka. But other countries Taiwan and Bangladesh, but also in other continents and countries such as New Zealand, Hawaii and even South Carolina in the United States.

Green Tea History - Gräfenhof Tee GmbH
Tea History – China

Green Tea History

The non-fermented green tea has been consumed in China for more than 4,000 years. From there, green tea subsequently made its way to Japan and is nowadays also produced in other parts of the world.

Back then, freshly picked tea leaves were simply dropped into a cup and infused with hot water. Of course, this is how green tea could be enjoyed even today, provided you have a tea plant nearby.

Green tea cultivation dates back to the Han Dynasty (206-220), where it was primarily used for medicinal purposes, but it wasn’t until the early Tang Dynasty in China (600-900) that we hear of green tea being drunk for pleasure. At that time, green tea was only distributed in compressed cakes for easy transportation.

A groundbreaking book entitled “The Classic of Tea” or “Cha Jing” by Lu Yu was written during the Tang Dynasty describing the art of drinking green tea. The book is regarded as one of the most significant books of its era, as it is the first comprehensive exploration of the subject of green tea, including the methods of green tea cultivation in its entirety.

Also conceived during this period was the formal tea ceremony, especially due to the tools needed to prepare this ritual, which were only accessible to the wealthy elite. Consequently, drinking green tea became a status symbol in society.

The Evolution and Growth of Green Tea

Green tea is the oldest form of tea leaf processing and is increasingly appreciated by consumers throughout the world. While most people in the west have preferred black tea over green tea for many years, in the Far East – especially in China and Japan – green tea has always been the most popular.

As a result, many varieties of tea plants have been developed in the past 50 years in producing countries such as China, Taiwan and Thailand, but also a significant range of cultivation and processing methods, yielding a wide variety of green teas for consumption.

While green tea has been consumed longer than any other variant of the camellia sinensis plant, the ways in which it is processed haven’t really changed. 

In many tea producing countries, green teas are still hand-harvested and hand-shaped, and in some cases with the help of very simple age-old machinery that has been passed down from generation to generation. The ways in which it is consumed, however, have changed drastically.

In Europe – and in most western countries – we have traditionally drunk black tea and the industry focused mainly on the products we have developed a taste for: Balck tea bags.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that green tea made its way into European and more western cultures. Until the invention of the clipper ship, western cultures were only familiar with black teas, which were the result of freshly harvested green teas that were usually transported via camelback for months at a time by traveling merchants.

These merchants would set up camp night after night, exposing the tea to their nearby campfires, therefore permeating the leaves and giving them a more charred appearance and taste. 

With the invention of the clipper ships, teas could be transported in less than half the time, allowing them to arrive in a more preserved and unprocessed state. This new method of transport revolutionized the way tea, and green tea, in particular, were perceived and experienced forever.

Until recently there was a limited product diversity available for sale. That has changed in the last century – with great advances taking place in th last 20 years – with new trends in health and lifestyle growing in popularity.

This new found demand further ignited an already strong development for the tea industry – growing and processing of tea – that has changed the landscape of tea growing nations in Asia.

This may be surprising and maybe new for western consumers, but the Green Tea market (as well as other specialty teas such as Oolong and Match)  have experienced massive expansion .

Still large sections of the society are still quite uneducated and often confused when it comes to green tea. That is due principally to the large variety of teas on offer, countries of origin, grades

Green Tea Today

Over the last two centuries, exports from Asia to large consumption countries such as England and the UK, Germany, Holland and France have increased dramatically. Today, We not only have access to a wider variety of teas, but we have suddenly been exposed to a very large, diverse and well established market for green tea.

Today, green tea can be found everywhere in the mainstream marketplace in forms from loose leaf to powdered (known as matcha), and in other consumables, such as baked goods and breath fresheners.

Matcha, the powder green tea, is an established product with huge demand in the USA and Europe. Oolong, once completely unknown tea category, is today available not only in specialty shops, but in large surfaces.

Despite the growth, large sections of the population are still quite uneducated and often confused when it comes to green tea. That is due principally to the large variety of teas on offer, countries of origin, grades available to consumers.

What does green tea taste like?

To begin with, not all green teas are the same.

As we all know, tastes are different. What tastes best and how to prepare it is a matter of personal taste. However, when it comes to green tea, following some ancient rituals and time-tested processes will enhance your experience.

And it all starts with the brewing of green tea: The brewing time of green tea affects the intensity and therefore the taste of the tea in the cup. 

The Japanese tend to steep their tea over a short period of time, from 30 seconds to a minute. The Chinese and Taiwanese, much longer periods of time up to 5 minutes.  After two or three minutes, green tea has a stimulating effect and tastes quite mild. The wide variety guarantees an equally wide range of tastes. 

Each of us has to discover our own favourite tea and develop our own rules for drinking it. It is important to know that the amount of tea leaves influences the taste, the more, the stronger. The size of the teapot or mug also determines the taste.

 We will describe the properties and origin of the most well-known ones. 

 Of course, you will find suggestions for your favourite tea in our assortment. 

Tea Taste Spectrum
Tea Taste Spectrum

Types of Green Tea

What varieties are available?

Green tea offers a very wide range of types and flavors. From subtle and elegant notes, to strong aromas and the delicate flavor of flowers.

Below is a list of the most popular types consumed:

 Japanese green tea: Japan is the land of green tea. Here, tea is not drunk with milk and sugar, but pure green tea. The varieties Hojicha, Sencha, or Genmaicha (mixed with puffed rice and corn) are well known Japanese green tea. A tea that stands out for its noble roots is the bright green Gyokuro (noble dew), which is harvested only once a year according to the so-called emperor’s method – buds in semi-darkness and only the buds of the uppermost leaves.

Flavored green tea: One of the reasons green tea is so widely used in blends is its versatility. There are many flavors that give green tea (or even black tea) its own special flavor and note. The ingredients can be: Spices, pieces of fruit, or flowers, as in the delicately flowered jasmine tea.

Oolong tea: A classic from China (and partly from Taiwan). The tea is semi-fermented, the leaves are only fermented at the edges. The flavor ranges from malty to fragrant, and sometimes the color can be deep orange.

Sencha Tea: This green tea comes from Japan and means “steamed tea”. In planting, it is usually grown in sunny places. The yield is particularly mild and thanks to an early interrupted fermentation, this green tea from Japan retains its very strong green color.

Matcha: And of course, there is matcha, the powdered green tea, one of the most popular green tea varieties in the world. 

Original from China, dating back as early as the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century, Matcha was introduced and started to be consumed in Japan as early as the 12th century .

Japanese monks brought it back from the great Zen monasteries in China, where they had done their studies since the consumption of Matcha served as an aid to meditation and as a way to spread Zen. 

Zen buddhist’s developed a new method for cultivating green tea and that is how Tencha came to be.

Matcha was once a very rare commodity produced in very small quantities and regarded as a Status symbol.  Today, larger scale farming and production methods made Matcha a far more affordable commodity that is largely consumed and became very popular around the world.

Where is Green Tea Produced

Although several types of green tea originate from the same plant, they vary greatly in color, flavor, and taste. 

The characteristics vary not only according to the processing method that tea producers use, but also the cultivation practices that tea producers use. The list is long, but among the most important factors are the following:

  • What season is the tea harvested? 
  • Is the plant pruned? 
  • What part of the plant is uprooted? 
  • Are they chemically treated or organically grown? 
  • How is heat applied to the tea leaves to stop oxidation? 
  • What method is used to shape, roll and dry the tea leaves? 
  • Are the leaves left whole or cut into smaller pieces?

The “terroir” and climatic conditions of the region and environment in which the tea is grown will influence the final flavor of the tea. Therefore, it is important to determine whether:

  • Does it come from a cold, mountainous climate or a warm, tropical climate? 
  • Does the plant grow next to limestone and pine trees or sand and seaweed? 
  • Are the tea plants grown in regions near other crops or grown near rose bushes, coffee plants or vine crops that may affect its flavor?

The leading green tea  producing countries are China and Japan. 

They produce not only the highest quality, largest variety and  largest quantities but also the most popular and most consumed green teas in the world.

With increasing demand, other countries have embraced the challenge and started producing green tea. 

Countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka and Russia  import raw materials – seeds and plants – the production styles and best practices from either Japan or China.

World Green Tea Production Facts and Figures

CountryTotal Production Green Tea Green Tea %World Mkt. Share
China648,000480,00074%75%
Japan83,00083,000 100%13%
Indonesia152,00038,00025%6%
Vietnam47,00031,00066%5%
India648,0009,0001%+/- 1%
Chinesischer-Tee-vs.-Japanischer-Tee-Grüne Tees - Bio-Tee-Mischungen & Kräutertees -Gräfenhof Tee GmbH
Chinese Vs. Japanese Green Tea

Chinese Tea Vs. Japanese Tea

What is the Difference Between Chinese and Japanese Green Teas?

The main difference between Japanese and Chinese green teas is that traditional Japanese style green teas are steamed, while traditional Chinese green teas are pan-fired. Both processes produce very different flavor profiles and color. 

Japanese teas have another very distinctive characteristic: generally they are not withered, which is key step in the production of Chinese teas.

There are some Chinese teas that are steamed, such as the En Shi Yu Lu but the majority is pan-fired, while there is a single Japanese tea that is pan-fired – Kamairicha.

Chinese Green Tea - Gräfenhof Tee GmbH
Chinese Green Teas Gräfenhof Tee GmbH

Chinese Green Teas

The main characteristic of Chinese-style green tea is the pan-firing method, which consists of heating the tea leaves in a basket, pot, or mechanized rotating drum in order to stop the oxidation process.

Depending on the style of tea produced, Chinese green teas can be pan-fired more than once during processing. Depending on the desired flavor end result, these burns can occur in wicker baskets, wok type steel pots, metal drums, or other containers over charcoal, gas flame, electric heat, or hot air.

The color and flavor may be altered depending on the number and type of burn, but generally a Chinese green tea burned in a pot takes on a yellowish-green or greenish-green color and imparts an herbaceous, earthy, roasted flavor.

Junshan Yinzhen (Silver Needle Tea) 君山银针 

This tea is one of the ten most famous teas in China, like Huo Mountain Yellow Buds (霍山黄芽) and Mengding Yellow Buds (蒙顶黄芽). It is grown on Junshan Island, Yueyang City, Hunan Province (湖南省,岳阳,洞庭湖君山).

Longjing (龙井) a.k.a. Dragon Well Tea

Probably the best known of all Chinese green teas, Longjing, is stir-fried and has a distinctive flat appearance – flat sword shaped leaves – and vibrant jade green color. 

It has a very mild and clean flavor and mild aroma. The flavorless frying oil that helps produce this unique characteristic is obtained from tea seeds and other plants. This green originated in Hangzhou (杭州), the capital of Zhejiang province.

Longjing in Chinese literally means Dragon Well.

An important consideration is the fact that most of the readily available Dragon’s Well tea is produced in Sichuan province, rather than Zhejiang. Therefore, this tea is not the authentic Longjing, despite the many claims by tea producers.

Gunpowder (平水珠茶 )

Original from Zheijang, the popular Gunpowder tea (also known as zhuch), is nowadays grown elsewhere in China. 

This tea is the key ingredient used to produce the world famous Moroccan green tea with fresh mint.  Its slightly brisk and smoky flavor helps balance the sharp moroccan mint taste.

Gunpowder bears its distinctive name from the very process in which it is produced.  The leaves are hand-shaped into small beads resembling gunpowder.

Yun Wu (云雾 )

Yun Wu or Cloud & Mist Tea is harvested at the foggy mountain gardens of the the Anhui Province, a region famous for its cloudy mountains and beautiful nature.

 The resulting cup has a light and slightly sweet taste.

Japanese Sencha Tea - Gräfenhof Tee GmbH
Japanese Green teas Gräfenhof Tee GmbH

Japanese Green Teas

The history of the tea plant is closely tied to the history of Japan. Tea was introduced to Japan in the 9th century by a Buddhist monk who had visited China and brought back tea seeds. 

Japanese-style green tea is characterized primarily by steaming, in which the tea leaves are briefly treated with steam heat a few hours after harvesting in order to halt the oxidation process and bring out the rich green color of both the tea leaves and the freshly brewed tea.

Steaming produces a unique flavor profile characterized as sweet, vegetal, or seaweed-like. Certain Japanese green teas can be grown in shade or roasted during processing, with the goal in both cases of creating unique flavor characteristics.

So just as there are many different kinds of black tea and green tea in China, there are many different kinds of green tea in Japan. These teas are divided into sencha, a tea that is made from older leaves, and bancha, a tea that is made from younger leaves.

Gyokuro (玉露)

Gyokuro is the most precious and highly prized of the green teas. Also known as Jade Dew tea, its selected leaves are grown in the shade for periods of up to 21 days, then harvested and immediately steamed to maintain high levels of chlorophyll. 

The tea belongs to the Ichiban – First Flush – type in Japan. One of its unique characteristics is the very rich green leaf color once it gets in touch with water during steeping. The leaves also have a unique ripped look when they open up.

The result is a bright green tea cup with a sweet, grassy touch. 

Sencha 煎茶

The most popular and most common variety of Japanese green tea is sencha. It is known for its grassy flavor and full body. It is the tea that most people think of when they think of green tea.It usead often usead as the basis for many green tea fusions. 

Sencha tea is made from tea leaves that have been steamed, dried, and rolled. Sencha is the most popular type of green tea in Japan.

Sencha is produced in two steps. First, tea leaves are steamed to soften them. Next, the leaves are rolled into a ball-like shape. Unlike Gyokuro, Sencha leaves are exposed to direct sunlight. The decoction method is the origin of the name Sencha, which results in a slightly astringent herbal cup with bright herbal notes.

Sencha tea has a distinctively sweet flavor. Modern production methods have made Sencha tea very mild.

Kukicha (茎茶)

Kukicha (Kukicha, 粗茶, 硬茶, 生茶, 生粗茶) is a Japanese green tea made from the stems of the tea plant.

An interesting aspect of this tea is that it consists of the stems and leaves remains from Gyokuro and Sencha harvest.  The leaves are separated from the stems and rolled into thin filaments. Next, the stems are cut into thin strips, and dried.

Traditionally, Kukicha is served in a small bowl with appetizers or sweets. The tea is to cool before drinking.

It is gently roasted and slightly more oxidized than most other green teas, lending a nutty flavor with a rounded, spicier taste to the tea.

Matcha (抹茶)

Matcha is a finely ground tea powder made from Tencha leaves. tea leaves that have been ground into a fine powder. The tea leaves are ground in a stone mill, which gives the tea its characteristic color and flavor.

Matcha tea is produced in two steps. First, the tea leaves are picked and dried. Then they are ground into a fine powder.

The stems and tips of the tea leaves are removed from the tea leaves before they are ground into a powder. The stems and tips are not used to make matcha tea.

It is prepared by pounding the powdered tea with hot water in a ceramic bowl. Matcha is the main form of tea used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. 

The amino acids present the matcha powder that define its flavor. The flavor is often described as mild and sweet. The higher the quality, the deeper and sweeter the flavors. 

Tencha (碾茶)

Tencha is a shade-grown tea and is harvested primarily for matcha production. The leaves are laid flat to dry rather than rolled up like most other tea leaves and are dried completely out of sunlight or indoors. This helps preserve its darker green color, which aids in the production of amino acids.

Tencha are the leaves used to make matcha. Tencha is the term meaning “mortar” and cha obviously refers to “tea” (genmaicha, sencha, etc.). There is a strong connection of Tencha to gyokuro, both in its cultivation and in its flavor profile.

As for cultivation, like the gyokuro, Tencha is left in the shade for about 3 weeks when it is ready for harvesting. The similar theanine leaves are responsible for the mild, mild flavor of both tencha and gyokuro. 

Once harvested, the tencha leaves are like stems similar to gyokuro. However, the tencha leaves are then dried rather than mashed. The main purpose is to facilitate the removal of the vapors and to help obtain a soft leaf for matcha production

If matcha is made from freshly harvested tencha leaves, it is then uncut and sorted. The process consists of thinning and removing the leaves to ensure quality. The remaining leaves are slowly sorted and ground in a stone mill, which is where the name “matcha”, meaning “ground tea”, comes from.

Genmaicha (玄米茶)

Genmaicha roughly translates to brown rice tea, and the word is derived from Japanese. 

It consists of a mixture of Sencha leaves and roasted brown rice. The Japanese also referred to this green tea as popcorn tea because of the popcorn sound produced during roasting, plus the popped rice looks like popcorn.

The addition of roasted brown rice gives the green tea a healthy quality and a unique flavor. Much of the Japanese enjoy this green tea because of its sweet taste and very pleasant aroma.

Genmaicha was also called folk tea in some parts of Japan, because brown rice was used as a filling to reduce the price of tea. In the beginning tea was a luxury and reserved only for the elite. 

Thanks to the lower prices, it was accessible to everyone, and every part of society enjoyed Genmaicha.  It is also said that Genmaicha was born out of necessity during World War II as a result of the lack of supplies and rationing of tea.

For a traditional and cheaper option, the traditional and more affordable variation is produced with less expensive bancha leaves instead of Sencha. 

 This tea has a slightly golden hue and has a crisp, yet roasted finish.

Hojicha (焙じ茶)

Hojicha tea is a unique tea among Japanese green teas as its leaves are charcoal roasted. This is done in two steps. First, the leaves are roasted in a pan. Second, they are roasted in a heated drum to make the tea smoother.

The tea leaves used to make Hojicha tea are roasted longer and at a higher temperature than the tea leaves used to make regular green tea. This process gives the tea a rich, brown color and a distinctive flavor.

In addition to the tea leaves, Hojicha tea is also produced from some of the tea plant stems. These stems are left after the tea leaves are picked and then roasted. The stems are not as bitter as the tea leaves and give the tea a sweeter flavor.

Hojicha tea is available in two forms: 1) whole leaves and 2) powdered. 

One of the main differences between these two forms is the color of the tea. The whole leaves are darker in color than the powdered variety.

The tea is dark in color and has a rich, nutty flavor. It is good to drink any time of the day, but some people prefer to drink it in the afternoon or evening.

The best leaves for green tea

There is a golden rule when it comes to the selection of green tea leaves: “Two leaves and a bud”.

The main characteristic of green tea is its delicate leaves, which are generally smaller than those of black tea. Only the top two shoots (two leaves) and the bud (bud) are harvested. The reason: better quality and an exquisite taste.

As mentioned above, the production process determines the result in the cup: The unfermented leaves affect the color and flavor in particular.  When brewed, it produces a light yellow to greenish-yellow cup of tea.

Green Tea Preparation 

When it comes to preparation, there are some general rules you can follow:

  • Green tea is best prepared at a mild water temperature of about 80/85% degree celsius, with a steep time ranging from 30 seconds to about 3 minutes. 
  • One of the main reasons to avoid water that is too hot is the fact that it can result in the release of tannins from the leaves. This affects the taste of the tea, which can become astringent. 
  • Today, most people resort to a Electric Water Cattle with temperature control. However, tea experts prefer to boil water and let it cool down. 
  • Higher quality green teas can be steeped for up to 3 times, depending on the grade, before the flavor begins to degrade. It is suggested to use about 1 teaspoon per 8 ounce cup for best results.

How to make your Japanese Green Tea?

To enjoy your Japanese green tea to the fullest, you will need to use a teapot, especially if you are preparing green tea in the traditional way. This is an important part of the process, as you should use loose leaves and a teapot so that you don’t have to strain the tea leaves.

By following this process, you will prepare a very pleasant and smooth green tea. And, of course, it is ideal for keeping the tea nice and hot!

The first step is to boil the water. You need to boil it or it will not be hot enough. The next step is to wait for it to cool down. You need to let it sit for a few minutes to let the water temperature drop to about 80 to 85 degrees. If you don’t wait, the tea leaves will burn and you will end up with a burnt taste in your tea. 

Once the water has cooled, place the tea leaves in a pot. Start with one teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup of water. You can make more tea, if you like, using more tea leaves.

Bring the tea to a boil and then turn off the heat. Let it sit for a few minutes. Your tea is now ready to drink. The longer you let the tea boil, the stronger your tea will be. It is up to you how long you want to let the tea boil.

Japanese Tea Ceremony - Gräfenhof Tee GmbH
Tea Ceremony Gräfenhof Tee GmbH

CAFFEINE CONTENT

Green tea contains about half the amount of caffeine found in black tea. The caffeine content in green tea is affected by several factors, including climate, altitude, and the amount of time the leaves are exposed to air.

In general, a 240ml (8oz) cup of green tea contains approximately 15-48mg of caffeine per serving. 

Important to note that Depending on how long the tea is steeped, this measure varies. Longer the steeping, the higher the caffeine content will be. Also, it will decrease the caffeine content each time the tea is re-steeped.

Buying and storing green tea

The shelf-life for green teas originally packed and kept sealed is generally 3 years.

Although tea doesn’t really expire and go “bad,” it can get old and lose its flavor. That is specially true Aroma rich blends or flavored teas.  For blended teas it is wiser to consume the tea sooner, as these varieties tend to loose their properties faster once the package is opened.

An old tea is not pleasant to drink. In fact, many people who claim they do not like the taste of green tea because they have probably drunk old or low quality green tea.

The first step to ensure that you purchase a green tea that is worth drinking is to select not only the type of tea, but also to look for a supplier that shares important information such as when and how the tea was processed and packaged. 

Furthermore, do not forget to ask your tea supplier for instructions on how to prepare the best cup of that particular variety of tea.

As green tea is less oxidized than black tea, which makes it both technically fresher and more delicate, it therefore must be consumed sooner for optimum flavor. We recommend consuming green tea within six months to a year after purchase.

Storage in a cool, dark place away from light, oxygen, moisture, and away from products with strong, dominant odors in your pantry such as coffee or spices is ideal for green tea 

Please visit our How to store tea page for more information on how to best care for your tea.

RECOMMENDATIONS 

Whether you are discovering the fascinating world of green tea or are looking for a specific variety, or just looking for a product to satisfy your palate, we have a wonderful selection of teas and blends to try.

Green teas at Gräfenhof

We invite you to visit our online shop where you can order a fine selection of organic Green teas for fast delivery!

Ready to order organic tea wholesale at Gräfenhof
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