A Guide to Green Tea - What is Green Tea?
Green tea is often misunderstood. There are hundreds if not thousands of green teas in China alone, and others cultivated across Japan. The best green teas are deliciously fresh and sappy – they taste green and alive. A common misconception, however, is not only a lack of awareness of the breadth of choice, but that green tea has an overwhelmingly bitter taste. It can be sweet and fragrant, or deep with umami flavours: it all depends on the cultivar, origin, processing, and on the infusion temperature and time.
Our tea sourcing takes us to the very best batches of fresh green tea each year in China and in Japan; qualified by authenticity and unrivalled taste, but here we discuss what makes green tea special, and how to get the best from your infusion.
Where Does it Come From?
Even avid tea-drinkers often don’t know that green tea originates from the very same plant species as black tea and all other tea types, known as Camellia Sinensis. What makes green tea different is: the method to “fix” (or prevent oxidisation) and cultivar selected by the tea master.
Green tea processing is characterised by an initial stage of short intense heat to deactivate enzymes in the leaf and prevent oxidisation (or the leaf going brown). The fresh leaves are picked and withered briefly before undergoing this first heating stage known as “kill green” (sha qing in Chinese). Sha qing can be achieved either steaming, baking or frying.
Thereafter the processing stages are combinations involving shaping and/or drying the tea until it reaches a minimal moisture content around 5%.
Tips for Making Green Tea
With over 10 varieties in our range; from large full leave varieties to rolled pearls and tea bags, it can be hard to know how to make Green Tea. Get hold of a good quality teapot. One big enough to allow the tea leaves to completely unfurl but not too big as to lose control of your infusion. Remember, whole large leaves take a little longer to infuse so a little patience is needed. Follow our simple tips to extract the very best flavour from these fresh teas.
Good quality water equals a great cup of tea. Use a water filter if you have one, but consider getting hold of some bottled mineral water (our preference is Highland Spring) if you’ve gone for a rare or super fresh green tea such as Gyokuro or Dragon Well Gold.
Water temperature is crucial to making green tea. We’ve tested each tea to find its optimum temperature, allowing the flavours to shine, but not to peak. If you don’t have a thermometer aim for between 70-80°C by adding a splash of cold water before adding the boiling. This lowers the temperature, teasing out the sweetness, but cool enough to avoid extracting bitter tannins.
We’ve not only tested temperature, but we have recipes for the proportion of water to leaf and infusion time. Each tea variety is individual in this sense, so carefully read the instructions on each tea’s page or packaging.
We want the full flavour of our tea to reach your cup, which is why we put so much care into its packaging. Our tea bags and tea caddies are designed to ensure that the tea stays fresh and flavourful – they’re airtight, sealed, and opaque to block out sunlight. Store your tea in a cool and dry area as well.
Picking the Right Green Tea for You
FOR THE NEWCOMER
Jade Sword, a firm customer favourite, offers an instantly accessible introduction to the world of green tea. It has a full, grassy flavour and will leave you feeling refreshed and uplifted without a hint of bitterness. We recommend using 2 tablespoons of tea leaves per 250ml of water for 3mins to achieve the best results. Available as both loose tea and tea bags.
FOR THE EXPLORER
China’s most famous green tea, Dragon Well, is produced in the Zhejiang region on China’s southeast coast. With grassy spring freshness and hazelnut sweet notes, this makes a great introduction to the classic pan-fried green tea. For the ultimate Dragon Well experience, we suggest 2 tablespoons of leaf per 250ml of water. Again, keep the temperature low at 80°C and infuse for 3 mins. The tea can be infused twice more.
FOR THE CONNOISSEUR
Our Gyokuro Green Tea from Shizuoka in Japan is shaded for 30 days before it is picked, in spring. Shading the leaves before picking them gives the tea a creamy density and condensed, rich flavour. Japanese green tea is different to Chinese green tea in that it is steamed processed after picking, rather than with dry heat, lending it rich umami notes.