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 and black tea. Green tea originated in China, but its production has spread to many countries in Asia.
Several varieties of green tea exist, which differ substantially because of the variety of C. sinensis used, growing conditions, horticultural methods, production processing, and time of harvest.
In about 600 AD, the most important book regarding tea was written in China. Lu Yu was the author of Cha Jing, or Tea Classic. The book is an important document both for historical purposes and as an insight into the lives of a country which introduced tea to the world. The book detailed exactly how a cup of green tea should be made and how it should be served. Outside of the interesting attention to detail, the book made it clear that tea is one of the oldest documented beverages we still enjoy today in almost its exact same form.
Over the centuries, different forms of green tea were introduced as they were discovered. Oolong and black tea were created much later than the country’s fascination with green tea was developed – black tea is a fermented version of green tea and Oolong is semi fermented. These two different tea versions are thought to have occurred in the 1600s, almost 5,000 years after the discovery of green tea and 800 years after green tea began its journey through Asia, beginning with Japan.
The Japanese contributed much to green tea by offering different variations on the tea leaves that are still enjoyed today. The Japanese also offered much formality to tea and integrated the drink into their culture in a very large way, particularly through the tea ceremonies. In countries such as Japan and China, tea and its presentation have become an art form.
Throughout the next centuries, tea spread throughout the globe and became a much sought after commodity, although green tea was not as popular in the western world as black teas for many centuries. Today the western world is still in the process of discovering the delicious variations of green tea and other tea types as they delve into the secrets and customs of the Eastern world – the land that created the sensation.
Steeping is the process of making a cup of tea; it is also referred to as brewing. In general, two grams of tea per 100 ml of water, or about one teaspoon of green tea per five-ounce (150 ml) cup, should be used. With very high-quality teas like gyokuro, more than this amount of leaf is used, and the leaf is steeped multiple times for short durations.
Green tea steeping time and temperature vary with a different tea. The hottest steeping temperatures are 81 to 87 °C (178 to 189 °F) water and the longest steeping times two to three minutes. The coolest brewing temperatures are 61 to 69 °C (142 to 156 °F) and the shortest times about 30 seconds. In general, lower-quality green teas are steeped hotter and longer, whereas higher-quality teas are steeped cooler and shorter. Steeping green tea too hot or too long will result in a bitter, astringent brew, regardless of the initial quality, because it will result in the release of an excessive amount of tannins. High-quality green teas can be and usually are steeped multiple times; two or three steeping is typical. The steeping technique also plays a very important role in avoiding the tea developing an overcooked taste. The container in which the tea is steeped or teapot should also be warmed beforehand so that the tea does not immediately cool down. It is common practice for tea leaf to be left in the cup or pot and for hot water to be added as the tea is drunk until the flavour degrades.
Growing, harvesting and processing:
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.