It is probably fair to say that many people have a less than pleasant experience the first time they try Green Tea. This is usually down to the not so great Green Tea that sometimes finds it’s way into teabags! It is also easy to brew Green Tea slightly wrongly.
Despite this, sales of Green Tea still form one of the biggest growth sectors of the tea industry. This is largely down to the positive press Green Tea gets in relation to its reported health benefits.
But what is Green Tea?
Like all real tea, Green Tea is also a product of the Camellia Sinesis plant. China and Japan are likely the most famous Green Tea producing countries, although plantations the world over are now also producing some fine green tea. Green Tea undergoes virtually no oxidation at all. Indeed one of the crucial steps in processing Green Tea is to “fix” the leaves or “kill-green”, effectively halting any natural oxidation at all. This is a step in tea processing peculiar to Green Tea. Fixation is achieved by heating the leaves soon after they have been harvested. There are two common methods of doing this. One is to steam the tea leaves, normally associated with Japanese methods, and the other is to heat the leaves in a pan – usually more common in Chinese production. Once the leaves have been treated in this way, they will keep their green colour. This step is usually followed by shaping or rolling the leaves before they are fully dried and ready for consumption.
Green Tea has been drunk religiously in many parts of Asia for literally thousands of years. Many of the worlds famous tea drinking ceremonies centre around the preparation and enjoyment of Green Tea. It is thought the first Green Tea drunk in China was as far back as 2737BC.
Something to be careful with when making Green Tea, is the brewing process. We are perhaps all used to just boiling the kettle and pouring the still very hot water over our ususal brew. Green tea requires a little more attention. Ideally, you should use water about 80c, and brew the tea for 1 to 2 mins. Using water that is too hot, and steeping the leaves for too long will generally result in a strong bitter astringent flavour. Green tea ought to be a thing of delicacy. Using lovely large leaves, and getting the brewing right will result in a very pleasant and refreshing tea drinking experience. The best bit is – you can often brew the leaves 2 or 3 times!!
Get your hands on some good loose leaf Green Tea – perhaps a Chinese Gunpowder Green, or a Japanese Sencha – take a minute to brew it right and put aside those memories of nasty strong bitter flavours. A well made pot of Green Tea – is truly a delight!