Green Teas are becoming more and more popular in the world and the varieties seem endless.
Almost every tea producing country is now producing a special green tea and the market is growing more and more. Green teas are more processed than white teas and have some oxidation in the processing.
After a withering process, leaves are fired to stop the oxidation and to retain the green color in the leaf. There are two main processes to accomplish this and it results in different types of green tea. Most green teas in China are pan fired before they are further processed. Green teas in Japan are steamed, very similar to what we do in the kitchen with broccoli and spinach. The result is a different texture and flavor.
Green teas are some of my favorite teas and I could write for hours about them but I will focus on some of my personal favorites only.
A good starter green for me always has been gunpowder (in China this tea is known as pearl tea). It got its name from its appearance as the rolled tea leaves look like little gun pallets. It is the tea I was drinking in the cafeteria below the hull in the Cutty Sark in London. It has a great taste, is very forgiving when brewing for a green tea, and is mostly reasonably-priced. It is a great everyday tea which you can drink throughout the day. Most famous is the Moroccan Mint tea variation, which is gunpowder tea scented with mint (sometimes combined with mint leaves). Very refreshing in summertime, cooling with a pick me up kick at the end.
A very popular green Chinese green tea is Dragon Well (Long Jing). I like the amazing flavor and great balance between floral and fruit aromas and flavors. The ‘green’ component of the tea is not overpowering and agreeable with most people’s palates. The key to finding a good long jing is to ask your tea vendor how much she or he knows about the origins of this tea. The best quality and the original comes from the Westlake region in China but demand is so high (and the best quality will stay in China for local consumption), that much more tea is ‘sold’ from this region then actually produced.
Another of my all-time favorite green teas is Pi Lo Chun, which has a wonderful fruit aroma and flavor. Tea plantations are planting fruit trees into the tea fields and somehow the fruit flavor makes it into the tea plant. A little hard to come by these days, but when I can get my hands on a few grams it is always a treat.
Another whole different word of green tea is that of Japan. Japan almost exclusively produces green tea. A very unique flavor due to the steaming used after the withering with an amazing vegetal and seaweed flavor. Somehow this taste does not agree with Ms. Tea’s flavor expectations so we drink it rarely in our house, but I have not given up and I am trying new types. Try Sencha tea, a common green tea in Japan as a starter into this word of tea. My favorite Japanese green tea is gyokuro, or shadow tea. The leaves are covered by shade planes for a while before they are plucked. This concentrates the juices in the tea. Quite pricy, but a treat.
One area of Japanese green tea which is gaining modern day popularity is Matcha. A green tea which is grounded by granite stones until it produces a fine green powder is in a class by itself. I truly like the color as it is the essential color of tea. When you look at a tea leaf at a tea plant the color is different as tiny air bubbles reflect the light. The matcha process removes the air bubbles and you see the pure color. Preparing matcha is also a unique process (although around for many hundreds of years as part of the Japanese tea ceremony). You add water to the powder and use a special bamboo whisk until the liquor becomes nice and frothy. Best to be enjoyed from an authentic Japanese matcha bowl. Matcha is also a great ingredient for cooking as it will not lose its amazing bright green color in the process.
Besides China and Japan many countries produce amazing green teas. My favorites are Darjeeling greens, although I am biased as I like everything Darjeeling (will explain in a separate blog post). Also Sri Lanka and many other Asian and African countries have great green tea. And last but not least, try some green tea from Portugal – the Azores, surely a crowd pleaser with Ms. Tea (who has Azorian family and roots)!
To brew green tea can be quite tricky as the leaf does not take too much hot water well and the taste can be bitter quite quickly. My favourite gyokuro can only be brewed at 45 degrees C (113 F)! Most green teas are around 70 C to 80 C (158 F to 176 F). Explore the online retailer world or your local tea store and I am sure you will find a truly unique green tea you enjoy. I would like to hear from you what discoveries you have made!