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Green tea is the oldest form of processing tea leaves and one that is increasingly familiar to Western tea drinkers. Whilst the preference in the West has been for black tea for many years now; green tea has always been most popular in the Far East – specifically China and Japan. This has given rise to a diverse range of varietals of the tea plant, and also a significant number of different growing and processing methods that produce a huge variety of green teas for consumption.
Whilst we were drinking black teas in Europe and acclimatising to a particular flavour, limiting diversity until quite recently; this huge agricultural phenomenon of cultivation and processing was transforming the landscape of East Asia.
In the last two centuries as exports from Asia to the UK have vastly increased; we have not only gained access to a wider variety of teas, but we have also been exposed all of a sudden to a huge, well-established and varied green tea market that has been cultivating for centuries whilst we were looking the other way.
The result is that we in the UK are still, for the most part, fairly uneducated about green tea, and also the sometimes bewildering array that is available from large tea gardens to the village processing leaves in the town square
Although green teas are most well known as originating from East Asia; in fact “green” refers to the processing method and not the plant itself. Due to this, green tea can come from anywhere in the world where Camelia Sinensis is grown
Whilst green tea leaves might hail from anywhere in the world, the processes to create them are Chinese through-and-through. This ancient method of processing leaves is said to be around 2,500 years old.
You will often hear that all teas come from the same plant, which is astonishing when considering how widespread tea is throughout the world. However, what is not usually discussed is that from this parent plant many cultivars have been produced. This is the key to many types of green teas, and how the leaves and flavour can be so varied even when exactly the same processing method is applied.
Japanese green teas are very distinct in cultivation and processing methods and tend to be more industrialised than Chinese teas. However, this has resulted in very distinctive (and expensive) tea types to emerge to take advantage of the resulting differences in flavour, For example Genmaicha and Gyokuro Asahi
First, once the tea leaves are ready to harvest the pickers go out into the fields and pick the tea leaves by hand. This is the method used to harvest tea leaves used for centuries. Although time consuming, this method ensures that only leaves that are perfectly ready and of the best quality are picked. Usually mature leaves are best for producing green teas.
Once picked, the leaves undergo a first process called “fixing” which is where the leaves are treated in order to stop the oxidation process. This usually takes the form of steaming or pan-frying and whilst this destroys the enzymes that cause oxidation, but it also serves to develop that familiar “green” tea flavour
Next the leaves are shaped, usually by breaking or rolling or twisting, this gives the familiar tea leaf shapes that we are most familiar with. Many are rolled on to tightly curled leaves, others are tightly rolled into balls, sometimes the straight leaves are tied into a bulk to form the famous flowering teas.
Finally, the leaves are dried to remove all remaining water and prepare the leaves to be transported and consumed. Drying is often done naturally and locally; but more industrialised methods are sometimes used for more popular varieties, particularly some of those of Japanese origin such as Sencha Fukuyu
Green tea leaves are known for their diverse leaf shapes and sweet, herbaceous aroma. The shapes can be achieved due to the processing method and the fact that full oxidation does not occur which would cause brittleness preventing advanced shaping
In general, roasted leaves are richer in flavour and steamed varieties are more intense in colour.
When brewed, green teas provide an array of flavours depending on the leaves steeped. However, to determine real quality the aroma once brewed should be sweet, fresh and herbaceous. To taste, there is variety but should be very low in astringency and have a dry mouth finish.
Green tea requires a lower steeping temperature than some other common types of tea; this is because the higher the water temperature, the better the chance to renew oxidisation and cause bitterness and astringency in the cup. It is generally accepted that brewing green tea leaves at just below the boiling point (approximately 85◦) for best results.
As you would expect, Tea Palace sources only the finest green teas. When considering adding a new tea to our selection we do extensive taste-testing and sampling to ensure that every tea in our range is of the highest possible standards
For many or our green teas, we have developed relationships with tea gardens that we trust to produce leaves of the finest quality and trusted supply
In addition to the purest, most distinctive green teas such as Sencha, Lung Ching Dragonwell, White Monkey and Mao Feng; we also have a range of jasmine infused green tea and fruit and floral blends that truly demonstrate the range and diversity of flavour that can be brought out from these delicious leaves
We also stock some of the rarest and most exclusive varieties of tea for the green tea lovers including Japanese Matcha, Genmaicha, Gyokuro Asahi and of course our stunning flowering teas