The Lab

Brief Guide to Green Tea

Green tea is the most common style of tea consumed in China. It has been around since the Tang Dynasty 2000 years ago. Various styles and cultivars have been developed over this expansive period of time, and many are surrounded in myth and lore. Tea is not static and many green teas are produced around the world, far from where they were originally developed. There are many teas that are best produced in a specific region with a certain terroir and using the ancestral processing style.

Zhejiang – This province in Eastern China grows many of the most well known teas in China: Longjing, Gunpowder, Anji Bai Cha, and many others.

Anhui The Yellow Mountains or Huangshan produces some of the most notable green teas: Mao Feng, Tai Pin Hou Kui, and Liu An Gua Pian.

Shizuoka – The largest tea producing region in Japan. It accounts for about 40% of production, primarily in the form of heavily steamed Sencha.

Kagoshima – The second largest tea production region in Japan accounts for about 20% of production. It produces the greatest variety of tea types in the country.

Processing

Most green tea will follow the same basic processing steps, but there will be some variation depending on the region and type of tea being produced.

Plucking

Plucking or picking will generally occur in early spring. The first flush or budding is typically the most delicate and expensive. These fresh young buds and 1-2 leaves are what produces the highest quality teas, but there are some styles that use older leaves and no buds.

Green tea being mechanically harvested in Japan

Withering

Withering is a partial drying of the tea which softens the leaves. For green tea it is very brief, only lasting a few hours in the shade. The leaves must then be very carefully collected to avoid any bruising or maceration which would cause release of enzymes and oxidation.

Sha Qing – Kill Green

Green teas are oxidized as little as possible, but there is no way to completely prevent oxidation from the point the leaves are picked. In order to destroy the enzymes that cause oxidation, the tea is heated and dried just after withering. This is known as Sha Qing or Kill Green. The most common methods of kill green in China are pan heating in a wok or baking. In Japan steaming is most prevalent. Asamushi, Chomushi, and Fukamushi are the steaming levels from light to heavy steaming.

Green Tea being steamed for Sha Qing

Shaping

The shaping is generally part of the Sha Qing step. The Sha Qing method will traditionally inform the shape. Pressing and turning back and forth will produce flat leaves, while spiral shaped teas are rolled continuously. The tea may also be needle, string, pointed, or bead-shaped. Shaping the tea is responsible for releasing aromatic oils responsible for flavor.

Drying

This step stabilizes the aromatic oils and prevents oxidation or the growth of mold. It usually is done using hot air or low heat coal fires.

Brewing

Brewing green tea is less forgiving than black or herbal teas. Using standard western brewing methods like tea infusers, bags, and pots, it should be brewed at a lower temperature (175°F) for shorter periods of time (1-3 minutes) to achieve optimal extraction.

Sencha is brewed very quickly in Japan ~1 min

Most commonly in China, green teas are brewed Grandpa Style. Brewing this way allows for the consumer to view the leaves and cup liquor more clearly. The tea is brewed in a large clear mug or cup, and as the tea is consumed, more water is added to dilute the astringency.

What you will need:
Large Glass Vessel
Kettle
0.25g/fl oz loose leaf tea
Water at 175°F

Step 1: Add tea to glass
Step 2: Add hot water and stir
Step 3: Drink tea and admire leaf grade and cup liquor
Step 4: When the tea becomes too astringent or
intense, add more water

Patrick McKeown

Patrick began his coffee journey on Long Island at a small coffee bar and roasting at home. Since then he has been a barista, manager, and craft roaster in NYC.