Monday, March 4, 2013

The 5 Tea Siblings: Green Tea

Hello Tea Readers!

So here it is, finally the last post of the tea family. After two months (whoa!), we are going to get to know the youngest of the tea siblings: green tea.

If you're looking for the pure and clean "leaf & water" experience, then green tea is where you should start. Ignoring it's numerous and abundant health benefits (full of antioxidants!), green tea is also unique since it is the purest form of a tea leaf, one that is the least altered in the creation process. It's oxidation process is very tightly regulated and restricted which gives, both the leaf and the resulting brew, the green colour associated with the name. As green teas are mostly unoxidized, long term storage of green tea can lead to a change of flavour and colour as the leaves will oxidize over time. This is why I recommended to not be stingy and enjoy your green teas to their fullest by having them within a respectable time frame after purchase (also make sure that they have not been sitting on the store shelf for very long)

Unlike some other types of teas, greens teas are produced in many countries and with a variety of techniques and conditions, giving each cup a personality and unique aspect. Green teas are known to come from China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan and though the basic 'no fermentation rule' is shared, teas from each country can vary greatly. A future post will explore the different techniques used by these countries in picking and preparing green teas.

As green tea comes from a large variety of climates, it is produced year round (though temperate zones can only produce certain months of the year). Though this might sound like good news to green tea lovers, it is a double edged sword as the quality of green tea is influenced by the number of times the plant was harvested in a given year as well as the time of year of the harvest. Surprisingly, some bushes can be plucked (harvested) as often as every three weeks, depending on the region and climate of course. Though this yields high amounts of tea, the best quality often comes from plants that have fewer pickings. The most sought after harvest is the early spring harvest when the buds are still young, soft, and bursting with gentles aromas and wholesome nutrients. The first teas of the new season are greatly anticipated and stores are known to clear their inventory to make room for the first arrivals of spring, followed then by the mid-spring harvests. Unfortunately, these teas can be quite expensive back home as there is a high demand, and limited supply (like most things...)

The style of green teas varies greatly depending on its region of source so do not be surprised when you see a variety of shapes and sizes, some even resembling other types of teas. Green teas can share the sparrow-tongue shape common to white teas, be spiralled + compressed + crimped, or even rolled into little pearls (such as Jasmine tea discussed in Als' post).



Not only do the styles vary greatly, but quality does too and knowing what you are looking for when buying a green tea is critical to enjoying a perfect cup. This applies not only to green tea, so expect a Buyer's Guide post to be out soon, full of little tips about buying teas, questions to ask, and the quality scale of each type.

How does one enjoy the perfect cup of green tea? Let's say that you are lucky enough to get your hands on a first spring pluck, pay extra close attention not to ruin the tea during steeping! Since green teas are young and delicate, they like their baths to be a comfortable temperature (unlike the scalding baths of black tea). It is recommended to use water that is brought down from a boil and allowed to cool before steeping the leaves, but I will take this advice one further. Use water that is just under a boil and allowed to cool as I feel that boiling the water can change it's tastes and how it interacts with the leaves. I found an incredibly interesting guide to visually tell the temperature of water and I will make sure to post it up. If the water is too hot, the leaves will be burned and bitter as opposed to the hidden sweet qualities that green tea will shyly reveal.

Depending on the country of origin, green teas require different temperatures and different amounts.
  • China: 1-2 teapoons for buds, 1-2 tablespoons for leaves @ 71-81c (160-190F) depending on age of leaves
  • Korea: 1-2 tablespoons 76-81c (170-180F)
  • Japan: 1-2 teaspoons 71-76c (160-170F)
Green teas offer 1 to 3 steepings with a steeping time ranging from 90 seconds to 2 minutes. You can arguably try for more steepings and I promise that the tea police will not knock on your door. I will admit that with particularly young and soft leaves, I've been known to eat a few leaves after I finished my brews. In fact, it is for this reason that my tea teacher in Taiwan nicknamed me the Canadian Cow (Jianada niu)...you might laugh, but it is a habit that quickly caught on with both my fellow students and the teacher as it is a surprisingly good way to tell the quality of the leaves!

So that wraps up our tea family introductions. As I mentioned, I'll be bringing future posts about buying and quality tips! If you did miss the other tea siblings, make sure to check them out:





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