Green Tea 101 | The History & Processing Methods

The Origin Story

Green tea originated in China, tracing back to 2737 B.C. The discovery occurred accidentally when the Chinese Emperor Shennong mistakenly drank water with a dead tea leaf boiled inside. He found the flavor refreshing; thus, a new beverage was born. Green tea was costly and only available to the highest tiers of Chinese society. It was not until the 14th century that green tea became accessible to the general public for enjoyment and medicinal purposes.

Around 800 A.D., during the Tang Dynasty, an innovative book titled "Cha Jing," also known as "The Classic of Tea," was written by a Chinese man named Lu Yu. When he was a young boy, Lu Yu was adopted by a Buddhist monk and grew up brewing and serving tea. His interest in tea blossomed as he grew older, and his ability to make tea improved. He decided to take time away from the public to research and write down his findings, and "The Classic of Tea" became the first written work to explain green tea culture and art.

The highly favored green tea eventually traveled West in the 19th century with European explorers. Due to its incredible flavor, it was a huge commodity and became Great Britain's national beverage, along with black tea. Soon after, English settlers traveled overseas and introduced the great taste of green tea to America. Green tea was called "bullet tea" because it resembled the shape of bullets when sent. The colonists quickly obsessed over the tea, which became so popular that Parliament imposed a Tea Tax in 1767. As we all know from our history books, the colonists were quite upset, and the Boston Tea Party took place. As a result, 45 tons of precious green tea were dumped into the harbor.

In the last few decades, the popularity of green tea has steadily increased. At most coffee and tea shops, one can find numerous green tea beverages ranging from hot jasmine green tea to an iced matcha latte. In addition to its versatile flavors, green tea contains many health benefits due to its high number of antioxidants. The more we learn about this fantastic tea, the more impressive and beneficial it becomes. 

Green Tea Processing Methods

Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Whether black, green, or white, the amount of oxidation allowed during the drying cycle determines the color of the tea. Green tea is among the leaves with a shorter drying period to prevent further oxidation. A shorter drying time ensures that the leaves retain their green color. When the moisture evaporates, they transition the leaves to the heating process for cooking and curling. The heating methods can vary due to the techniques and region. Chinese green teas take the pan firing approach where the tea is pan or wok roasted, leaving them paler in color. The Japanese method is to deep steam the teas, giving them a brighter green color. The last step is to roll, curl, or twist the tea leaves by hand to wring out any excess water or sap. This part of the process also helps define the different tea types.

Tea Types (From China):

*There are way more types of green teas than the ones I have listed below. These teas are my favorite and the ones that you will most likely come across. 

Gunpowder: The most popular type of Chinese green tea, grown in the Zhejiang Province of China. Gunpowder gets its name because the tea leaves are rolled into tiny pellets, giving off a smoky flavor. 

Dragonwell (Long Jing): Like Gunpowder, this tea grows in the Zhejiang Province of China. The tea leaves are flat, have a bright jade hue, and have a clean and mellow flavor. 

Yun Wu (Cloud & Mist): This tea is grown in the higher altitudes of the Zhejiang Province mountains. Due to the higher elevations, the tea leaves get hovered by clouds resulting in a tea flavor that is light and sweet. 

Tea Types (From Japan): 

Sencha: Japan's most familiar green tea and  is often regarded as an "everyday tea." This tea is directly exposed to sunlight and is processed using the boiling (decoction) method, which gives it a bright grassy flavor. 

Jade Dew (Gyokuro): A tea highly sought after in Japan. The leaves are flat and pointed and, unlike Sencha, are grown in the shade. Jade Dew has high levels of chlorophyll and brews a tea that is bright green in color and sweet in flavor. 

Matcha: A powdered green tea from the Uji region of Japan. Matcha is made from high-quality green tea leaves that grow in the shade. The grinding process of the whole leaves gives the tea a lot of flavor and texture and much more caffeine than a typical cup of steeped tea. 

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