What is green tea?
Loose leaf green tea is basically unfermented leaves of the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis.
How is green tea made?
There are several steps in tea production. Right after tea leaves are harvested, they are getting withered by blowing air on them. Then, the tea leaves are rolled into strips. Next step for some tea types is fermenting, or oxidizing. The type (“color”) of the tea depends on the level of oxidation. Black tea is fully oxidized. In green tea production, the oxidation process is prevented by applying heat to the leaves: by steaming or pan-firing.
Here are the main types of tea, classified by the degree of oxidation.
- White Tea leaves are simply cut and dried – no further processing required.
- Black Tea leaves are cut and then left to oxidize until they turn black.
- Green tea leaves are cut, withered, and then steamed or pan-fired to halt oxidation.
- Oolong Tea leaves sit between black tea and green tea with the oxidation stopped halfway before they turn black.
- Pu-erh Tea is partially oxidized and fermented. Its production involves living bacteria, similar to yogurt and leavened bread.
- Rooibos Tea is not made of Camelia Sinensis plant, but a South African herb, Aspalathus Linearis. Rooibos is available in green and oxidized varieties.
When shopping for the best green tea and looking to buy tea online, read descriptions carefully, paying attention to the following details:
- Origin. Most of the loose leaf green teas come from China and Japan. India is traditionally known for its black tea, although Indian green Darjeelings become increasingly available. Other noteworthy green tea regions are Vietnam, Nepal, and Indonesia.
- Green tea types. The types of green tea vary significantly, depending on growing regions and methods of production. Some of the most popular green tea types on the market are Chinese green tea varieties, such as Longjing (Dragonwell), Zhu Cha (Gunpowder), Jasmine green tea. Japanese green tea has a very different flavor profile. Sencha, Genmaicha, Kukicha, Hojicha, Gyokuro and powdered Matcha are some of the most known Japanese teas. One has to try them to appreciate that savory, “umami” hint of flavor. Japanese teas are mild, smooth, might be grassy or vegetal.
- Chinese green tea vs. Japanese. In China, tea is often processed using traditional artisan hand-making methods. The number of resulting tea varieties in China approaches infinity or at least the size of the Chinese population. On the other hand, in gadget-obsessed Japan, machines are generally used for any kind of job from plucking to steaming and packaging – with impressive results of high-quality teas. In Japan, teas are traditionally steamed, whereas Chinese teas are usually pan-fired, hence the difference in taste and aroma. Japanese tea has distinctive “vegetal” flavor, while Chinese teas vary from being “fresh and floral” to “smooth and toasty“.
What does green tea do for your body?
Green tea doesn’t go through as much oxidation as black tea, and as such retains plenty of antioxidants, polyphenols and minerals that are good for the body and mind. Antioxidants in green tea minimize free radicals in the system and prevent cell damage, which in turn keeps you younger and healthier. Polyphenols have anti-inflammatory properties and have shown potential as cancer-preventing agents. Green tea also helps with weight management as it boosts metabolism and energy expenditure. Further, several studies have found associations between green tea and lower risk of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Besides its long-term health benefits, green tea offers an excellent balance of energy and focus, thanks to its combination of caffeine and L-theanine.
How to prepare loose leaf green tea?
It’s not that hard, really. One piece of advice: do not oversteep. The optimal temperature for a perfect brew is 180°F. So, your water should not be exactly boiling hot and a 2 minutes is enough to release the nutrients and flavor. Any method will do: teapot, fillable tea bag, or just a tea cup (better be covered for the time of steeping). You can always use gaiwan for an authentic experience.
Keep in mind that all green teas can be “reused” for at least 3 to 5 infusions, if not more.