There is vast number of green teas, and for green tea lovers its quite an interesting world with an acquired taste. Legend has it, in around 2732 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea when leaves from a wild tree blew into his pot of boiling water. From this day forth tea drinking started so technically we can say the first tea to be drunk and enjoyed is green tea.
Today, green tea is very popular throughout the world, especially Asian green teas as this is where the culture of drinking green tea originated from. All teas basically come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis plant. The difference is in the processing, and region the tea is coming from. For instance, unlike black tea we do not ferment the leaves. Instead we stop the fermentation process so that our tea leaves stay green, hence the name green tea. After tea leaves are carefully plucked the orthodox way (two leaves one bud), they go through a long process up until it’s the tea you enjoy in your cup.
In China, originally green tea was drunk in powder form that looks similar to modern day Matcha tea. Tea drinking then made its way into Japan through Japanese monks who were inspired when they travelled to china and they carried the seed with them. Over the centuries different processes were developed for processing tea.
The Chinese has refined the art of processing tea in many different ways, from roasting, oolong teas that are half fermented, to the smoke of Lapsang. One of the most popular tea processes from China is pan firing or pan heating. In Japan, the most commonly used method is steaming, although roasting also exists.
The heat is necessary to prevent oxidation. Adding heat stops the “growing” and oxidation of the leaves which makes our leaves stay green. The pan-fired method popular in china, is when after plucking the leaves, they are fired in a large wok by hand. Because it’s done by hand, it is quite labour intensive and is an artisan skill. As a result, the pan-firing method tend to be more expensive comparing to steaming. The Japanese method is immediately after picking tea leaves, it goes through the steaming method is when we place the tea leaves in a steam tunnel. By forcing the steam through the leaves, we destroy the enzymes that aids oxidation.
Pan fired tea has these green brownish colour, while steamed tea tends to have a green leafy colour. Pan fired tea, have aromatic, delicately tart, with a mildly smoky note. It has a shimmering, golden yellow cup colour. Steamed tea on the other hand, has a fresh, medium-tart, grassy taste with a shimmering, brilliant green cup colour.
One would assume that the steaming method is healthier, it may not be the case as pan firing is only done for a short period hence they both retain their attributes especially the anti-oxidants. Many green tea drinkers have a preference when it comes to this process. Do any experiment buy try both tea and let us know what you think. Next week we will go deeper on the different types of green tea that are popular on the market