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Green Tea

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Japanese green tea versus Chinese green tea

Steaming or pan-firing green tea

Every type of tea, whether white, green or black, comes from the same plant, the camellia sinensis. So how do the different types and flavours arise? The type of tea is determined by the production process. Green tea, for example, is obtained by stopping the oxidation process of the tealeaves by steaming or pan-firing them. When the leaves are heated the enzymes that cause the leaves to colour are broken down.

Japanese green tea is made using steam – the tealeaves are steamed for between 20 seconds and two minutes. Chinese green tea, on the other hand, is not steamed but pan-fired.

When the oxidation process is not stopped by steam or firing, you get black tea. The Japanese steaming method still used to this day was created in 1738 by Sohen Nagatani, and his approach is called the Uji processing method. Thanks to this method the flavour of fresh tea is largely retained.

Different climates also mean different flavours

Different climates, soil types and growing conditions (such as the fact that there is less air pollution in Japan) all affect the plant. As a result, Japanese green tea varieties are greener because they are less exposed to lead present in polluted air and have higher antioxidant levels.

But the biggest cause for the differences between Japanese green tea and Chinese green tea is the method of production. Japanese green tea is steamed to stop the fermentation process, while Chinese green tea is briefly heated in a pan to end that process. This results in a major difference in flavours.

In Japan green tea is also shaded for certain periods before being harvested, and these are called shade-grown green teas such as Kabusecha Kagesakura, Shincha Harumi and Gyokuro Kimigayo. These teas are highly prized for their umami.

Some major differences between Japanese green tea & Chinese green tea

Japanese green tea

Chinese green tea

Tealeaves are steamed

Tealeaves are pan-fired

Rolled into needle-shapes

Rolled into a ball (gun powder), twisted (fanning), dried to become flakes (Soumi or Chunmi) or compressed into a brick (Pu-erh)

The colour of the drawn tea is green (high chlorophyll content)

The colour of the drawn tea is yellowish

A ‘grassy’, ‘green’ flavour

Tastes sweeter than Japanese green tea


Japanese green tea

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