No Leaf Unturned: Green Tea

WHAT IS GREEN TEA?

The mainstay in East Asian tea cultures, green tea is the least oxidized of the six types of tea.

Green teas are crafted with the application of heat in a step called firing. Firing denatures the enzymes that cause tea leaves to change in color from green to yellow, to amber and red, and finally brown in a natural process known as polyphenolic oxidation. Firing neutralizes the enzymes responsible for oxidation, halting the process and fixing the leaf color.

The degree of oxidation that is allowed before firing is applied determines the color of the tea, and is the defining characteristic used to distinguish the six tea types (shown below).
The Category Colors of Tea

Japanese tea steaming machine In Japan, firing is most often conducted with steam heat, which rapidly blanches the tea leaves and fixes their bright green color. By comparison, in China and other origins, "dry heat" techniques such as pan-frying, tumble-roasting, oven-baking, and sun-curing are used. Steamed green teas typically have a more vivid green color and umami-rich tasting notes such as "nori seaweed." Green teas that are fired with one of the dry heat methods typically develop a more floral or nutty character. For instance, "toasted chestnut" is a common taste descriptor for pan-roasted Chinese green teas. After firing, the leaves are shaped to create a variety of green tea styles, each with its own character, flavor and aroma.

Pan firing green tea Green teas as we know them today were originally developed out of more rustic styles of sun-dried tea, around the time of China's ancient Song dynasty (960 – 1279 CE). Today, most green tea is grown in China, Japan and Korea, with an increasing amount grown in Southeast Asia. Whatever the region, the most sought-after green teas are those picked in springtime.

As you begin to find your favorite types of green tea, consider the firing method, harvest season, and place of origin. We've included several recommendations for you to here.

RECOMMENDED GREEN TEAS: