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Green Tea Guide: green teas are not all the same
The fact that you are reading from this green tea guide is good news; for you recognise, perhaps following our blog post An Introduction to Green Tea, that green teas are not all the same. There are many variations in taste dependent upon where the tea is grown and how it is made. Green tea is produced in many countries but we limit our range to those from China, Japan and innovative green teas made in regions well known for their black teas but that have now ventured to create green variants to – not only to appeal to the ever expanding market for green tea but to retain the character of the teas for which they are justly famous. I am thinking here of Darjeeling and Assam in particular although we at do stock others amongst our selection of nearly thirty green teas.
Chinese Green Teas
So, firstly, green China tea. Green tea is grown in many provinces but Zhejiang is probably the most famous, especially for its Gunpowder tea. This has a bluish green leaf rolled into small balls reminiscent of gunpowder. Ours is a high quality Pinhead grade where the balls are very small and tightly rolled. It is light, smooth and refreshing with slightly nutty notes. We also stock organic Xuan En Jade Dew Gunpowder which is slightly more floral and herbaceous.
Slightly akin to Gunpowder is Chun Mee or Precious Eyebrow from Anhui Province, so called because of its half-moon shape. It has a more muscatel character and has more body and depth of flavour than Gunpowder. Pi Lo Chun, also known as Spring Snail Shell, from Jiangsu Province, is a good example of China’s beautiful hand made teas. The dark green leaf is exquisitely twisted which uncurl when infused. It is fresh tasting, subtle and floral. From Guangdong Province Li Zi Xiang has bluish-green leaves which produce a soft, herbaceous tea; fabulous for the afternoon.
Chinese green teas best known as black
Several China green teas are better known in black form. These include Huang Shan Mao Feng from Anhui Province, the home of keemun teas – which have been exported to Europe for over two centuries. Mao Feng is one of the most famous and here the green version is floral, fragrant and slightly nutty. Yunnan is one of few China teas long produced as a black tea but we also offer a green Yunnan which is very popular amongst our customers. It is full bodied and rich with a vegetal character.
Chinese scented tea
China has long been highly regarded for its traditional flavoured green tea. These are made by layering flowers with freshly picked tea leaves. Most famous is jasmine, a speciality of Fujian Province, of which we offer four grades. Dragon Jasmine Phoenix Pearls has the most wonderful, heady aroma as the rolled balls of this beautifully produced tea capture and retain the jasmine aroma releasing it in the pot to yield a tea that is smooth, delicate and entirely captivating.
Several China teas are scented in a similar manner to jasmine. These include China Green with Rose and China Green with Magnolia. The former is delicate, fresh and light bodied with a lovely, inviting rosy warm aroma. The latter, a classic known as Yulan Huacha, is delicate, gently sweet smelling and aromatic. One of the best known blended teas is Earl Grey. We produce a green Earl Grey made with China green tea which has a keen following. It is not a traditional tea of course but makes a delightful cup where the smooth green tea combines well with natural oil of bergamot.
Japanese Green Teas
Comparable in status to China in the production of the world’s best green teas is Japan. Green Japanese tea is noted for its fresh, smooth, vegetal characteristics. Japanese Sencha Gyokuro Asahi (Precious Dew) is arguably its most famous, being grown in the shade for about twenty days prior to spring harvesting. Its pan-fired, dark-green, needle-like leaves produce a tea that is very smooth, refined and delicate. Matcha has received a lot of attention in the press and has been applauded for its health qualities. This is because the leaf is powdered and drunk as part of the beverage. Matcha is used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony and is produced in Kyoto region. Matcha tea is stone-ground from tencha which, like sencha gyokuro, is grown in the shade for twenty days. It is whisked to create a sweetish, mild and smooth drink high in antioxidants.
Sencha is the most popular, every-day tea drunk in Japan. We offer a beautifully aromatic Japanese Sencha Fuji and a superior grade Japanese Sencha Fukujyu. It is fresh, smooth, herbaceous and slightly smokey. It is very popular with our customers too. Picked later than sencha is bancha which used a more mature leaf. It has a milder taste than sencha and is well rounded making it a good accompaniment to food.
Japan’s unique green teas
Japan produces two unique teas which are worth trying: Genmaicha which is a combination of toasted rice and green tea which is deliciously toasty and nutty and bancha houghi cha in which the tea itself is actually roasted to make an even more distinctly sweet, nutty flavour.
Green teas from India and Africa
Outside China and Japan the most notable producer of green tea is India. Assam and Darjeeling, both famous as producers of some of the worlds best black teas now produce limited quantities of green tea which captures something of the character for which these tea growing regions are famous. Green Assam retains the malty note that draws many tea drinkers to the black variant. It uses the special Camellia assamica tea plant indigenous to the Brahmaputra valley of Assam. Green Darjeeling tea continues the muscatel style for which Darjeeling black teas have earned the reputation as the ‘Champagne of teas’. They are either oven fired like Barnesbeg or organic Arya. They may however use the Chinese pan frying method of firing like Badamtam, the latter giving needle like leaves and a more vegetal note. Read on…
Kenya produces much of Britain’s mass-market black tea, a major component of many of the major teabag brands. It is not widely known that is does produce some green tea. We stock Kenya Rift Valley Green tea which also distinguishes itself as being an orthodox tea, made using traditional methods. It has received an enthusiastic following.
Many other Asian countries produce green teas, the staple beverage of their peoples. Much however is of poor quality and does not reach Eastern markets.
Making green tea
Use fresh boiled water that has cooled to around 80 degrees Celsius: too hot and green tea will become bitter – a common mistake with many new to green tea. Infuse green teas for one to three minutes. The leaf can be infused a second time – just increase the brewing time a little. Finally, remember that green tea is more perishable than black tea and should therefore ideally be consumed within six months. Store away from heat, light and dampness in an air-tight container. For further information see our website page How to make a Perfect cup of Green Tea.
As you will have seen from this green tea guide, there are a myriad of green teas available and China and Japan are the king and queen of green tea production but there are a few other up and coming green tea producers. Remember though: like loose black tea loose green tea will always produce a better cup than teabags. Many green teas are not produced or sold in sufficient volume to be bagged anyway but large leaf loose tea enables the leaf to infuse slowly to give you a balanced, flavoursome tea.
See the Green teas section of our Tea Store.