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Green Tea - General Info and Health Benefits

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Shop for green teas.

Teas are made from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) or one of its varietals, cultivars, or clonals. Green tea is made from leaves harvested from this plant that have undergone a certain style of processing afterwards. There is a wide variety of resulting green teas, due in part to variations in that processing and in part due to terroir (location where grown, including elevation, and time of year when harvested). Green tea is sometimes referred to as a unoxidized tea, that is one where the leaves have not undergone oxidation (the natural chemical process that occurs right after harvest).

Harvesting and Production

Tea leaves are harvested either by hand or machine, the choice being determined largely by the version of green tea being produced. Teas such as Huang Mountain (Huangshan) Mao Feng from Anhui Province is made from young leaves at the tips of the branches harvested when those leaves are at a very young stage with only a bud and a single unfolding leaf. On the other hand Gunpowder is made from leaves that have been on the plant longer and have fully opened before harvesting.

Green Teas are generally harvested three times per year: late April to early May, June through July, and late July to early August. Sometimes, there will also be a fourth harvest. The leaves harvested in the spring are the best quality, with higher prices to match.

Green Teas undergo a multi-step process of steaming, pan-firing, and/or rolling before being dried to halt the oxidation process. Little oxidation occurs in most green teas, and the liquor is typically a green or yellow color, and flavors range from grassy to sweet with mild astringency.

Processed green teas (“aracha”) are stored unrefined under low humidity refrigeration in 30 or 60 kg paper bags at 0-5°C (32-41°F). They undergo a final firing before they are blended, the best leaves selected, and then packaged.

The leaves in this state will be re-fired throughout the year as they are needed, giving the green teas a longer shelf life and better flavor. The first flush tea of May will readily store in this fashion until the next year's harvest. After this re-drying process, each crude tea will be sifted and graded according to size. Finally, each lot will be blended according to the blend order by the tasters and packed for sale.

Preparation Techniques

To steep a green tea at its best use about two grams of tea leaves per 100ml of water (about one teaspoon of green tea per five ounce cup). With very high-quality teas like gyokuro, use more leaves and steep multiple times for short durations.

Green teas are generally infused in cooler temperatures (below boiling), varying with each tea.

  • Lower quality: 81-87°C (180-190°F) for 2-3 minutes, 2 infusions.
  • Higher quality: 61-69°C (140-160°F) for about 30 seconds, 2-3 infusions.

Infusing green tea too hot or too long is likely to result in a bitter, astringent brew, regardless of the initial quality, possibly due to a release of the tannin chemical which tends to be in a higher quantity in these teas. Warm the teapot beforehand to keep the tea warmer while it’s infusing. Keep the tea leaves in the gaiwan, cup, or teapot between infusions.

Specific Teas

Chinese green teas are grown in several provinces:2010-spring-handmade-premium-liu-an-gua-pian-4-.jpg

  • Hunan Province — home of Junshan Yinzhen (Silver Needle tea), known as one of the ten most famous Chinese Teas.
  • Zhejiang Province — home to the famous Xi Hu Long-jing (Dragon well), Hui Ming (named after a temple in the area), Long Ding (from Kaihua County and also known as Dragon Mountain), Hua Ding (from Tiantai County and named after a peak in the Tiantai mountain range), Qing Ding (from Tian Mu, also known as Green Top), Gunpowder (also known as zhuchá and, due to its popularity, also now grown elsewhere in China).
  • Jiangsu Province — home of Bi Luo Chun (from Dong Ting and also known as Green Snail Spring, and so popular that falsification is common and most tea marketed under this name may be grown in Sichuan), Rain Flower (from Nanjing), Que She (Tongue of golden altar sparrow) from Jin Tan city, White Cloud, and Shui Xi Cui Bo.
  • Fujian Province — coastal mountains provide a perfect growing environment for tea growing where leaves for processing as green tea are picked in Spring and Summer; Famous tea varieties from this southeastern region of mainland China include Mao Feng (“fur tip” or “furry peak”), Cui Jian (“jade sword”) and Mo Li Hua Cha (“dragon pearl”) jasmine scented green teas.
  • Hubei Province — home of Yu Lu (a steamed tea known as Gyokuro, meaning “Jade Dew,” and made in the Japanese style).
  • Henan Province — home of Xin Yang Mao Jian (a Chinese famous tea also called Green Tip, or Tippy Green).
  • Jiangxi Province — home of Chun Mee (also called Precious Eyebrows and now also grown elsewhere), Gou Gu Nao (award-winning tea well known within China), Yun Wu (also known as Cloud and Mist).
  • Anhui Province — home to Da Fang (from Mount Huangshan also known as Big Square suneet), Huangshan Maofeng (from Mount Huang), Lu'An Guapian (also known as Melon Seed), Hou Kui (also known as Monkey tea), Tun Lu (from Tunxi District), Huo Qing (from Jing County, also known as Fire Green), Wuliqing (known since the Song dynasty, and since 2002 produced according to the original processing methods by a company called Tianfang), Hyson (medium-quality from many provinces, and harvested early).
  • Sichuan Province — Zhu Ye Qing (also known as Meng Ding Cui Zhu or Green Bamboo), Meng Ding Gan Lu (a yellowish-green tea with sweet after-taste).

Judging Quality of Green Teadafo5.jpg

Leaves of Chinese green tea should appear even and unbroken, with good color, and slightly shiny with their natural oil. The dry leaf should have a noticeable fragrance. The brewed liquor of most good quality green teas maintains a vibrant color with good clarity. Quality green tea is often determined by the leaf configuration of the plucked tea. One bud, one bud and one leaf, or one bud and two leaves are usual leaf configurations of good quality green tea. The leaves when brew should look exactly as the did when plucked. The color of the dry green tea can range from a light green to yellowish green for green tea that is primarily fried, to a dark green for green tea that is primarily baked.

Over the past two decades, green tea has emerged from obscurity in the western market. This trend, fueled by western studies into the health benefits of green tea has spurred a demand for better quality leaf.

Health Benefits of Green Tea (based on research studies)

While research is ongoing, there have been signs that drinking a freshly steeped cup of green tea per day is certainly helpful (but definitely not a cure-all). Longjing is often considered the healthiest green tea, being made from tender shoots with the highest levels of beneficial EGCG and ECG which decreases as they mature on the plant. However, generally speaking, delicate, sweet-tasting young tea shoots harvested in early Spring make the best green tea. And many have these same quality markers. A great plus for their wonderful flavors.

See full blog article.

See also 5 Things to Know About GABA Tea.

Cancer

  • High in antioxidants which may interfere with growth of some cancers (bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal)
  • Promotes healthy cell growth
  • Linked to the prevention of breast, lung, and stomach cancer
  • Reduces risk of esophageal cancer in women by 60%
  • May help protect skin from UV rays

Circulatory system

  • Reduces bad cholesterol – prevents clogging of the arteries and helps with heart and cardiovascular difficulties
  • Reduces risk of stroke

Weight loss

  • Increases metabolism
  • Promotes fat oxidation

Other

  • Has a relaxing and calming effect
  • Reduces risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease
  • Fluoride content may help prevent tooth decay
  • Matcha is specifically said to be a good wake-up tea

Which Form Is Best

Loose leaf is strongly recommended. As fresh as possible. Don’t oversteep (to avoid getting a bitterness to the tea flavor). That’s why we sell premium loose leaf green teas

A comparison by the USDA in 2007 of flavonoid content in almost 400 different kinds of green teas found that a cup of hot, regular (non-decaffeinated) green tea is the healthiest. A mere 100 milliliters (approx. 3.4 fluid ounces) of green tea contains 127 milligrams of catechins – twice the amount in decaffeinated green tea, three times more than in a flavored green tea, and ten times more than an instant or bottled green tea.

On average, a cup of green tea will have roughly 100 mg of EGCG per 8 ounces, but this will vary by brand, region grown, steeping time, age of the leaves, and so on.

Guides and Information

View our buying guide brochure (PDF).

View our guide for matcha (PDF).