Records of green tea drinking go back to China in 2700 BC, but it was its popularity with sailors as protection from scurvy that helped green tea spread around the world. Today, this beverage is renowned for its ability to boost metabolism and strengthen the body against cancer, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. Yet, many underestimate the variety of green teas and related brewing methods.
Green tea is also very closely related to yellow tea, with a slightly different process along the way that makes them distinct.
Popular Types of Green Tea
China and Japan are the main sources for green tea, with Japanese blends tending toward lighter, herbal notes and Chinese options taking on more robust, toasty flavor. Here are some stand-out varieties:
- Gunpowder tea is a popular Chinese variety grown mainly in Zhejian province that is processed as pellets to preserve its sweet, earthy taste against odors and damage.
- Dragonwell or Long Jing is high quality tea named after a mountain village where these flat, jade leaves were first grown to create a smooth, sweet, and delicate taste.
- Gyokuro is the best of Japanese green teas with flat, pointed leaves that are covered 20 days before picking to produce a smooth, light fragrance and a rich flavor.
- Sencha tea is the most common Japanese tea, produced later in the cycle with leaves that are steamed, rolled, dried, and baked to create a grassy, mellow flavor like seaweed.
- Genmaicha is a Sencha tea that is pan fired and blended half-and-half with roasted and popped rice to create a kid-friendly, low caffeine brew.
- Matcha is a stoneground Japanese tea powder produced in the Uji region from mainly shade-grown leaves. It is used in tea ceremonies and froths when mixed with hot water.
There are also teas for the first picking of the season in both countries, including the low caffeine, refreshing Shincha tea of Japan that is made from lush spring shoots and leaves.
Brew It Yourself
Green teas have relatively delicate leaves, which can make brewing a bit tricky. Since their primary flavor compounds are soluble at lower temperatures, green teas should be steeped for longer periods, typically several minutes, at lower temperatures of 140 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
As a general rule, high-grade leaves should be brewed at lower temperatures within that range, while those with unique aromas will require greater heat. This will ensure a full infusion of each variety’s unique flavor set, though further instruction can be found through tea enthusiast and manufacturer websites. One major exception is matcha, which is made by stirring the powder with a specially-designed, bamboo whisk.
Making the Perfect Cup
Much of the brewing process will depend on the particular variety of green tea. High-grade Sencha and premium Gyokuro specifically fare better with a small teapot, while Genmaicha is generally brewed in a larger one.
Sweetening your Green Teas
In terms of sweeteners, honey best complements green teas with assertive floral and citrus flavors that blend well. Other options include neutral agave syrup and potent artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, stevia, and aspartame. However, sweeteners will likely shift green tea’s zero-calorie status, as in the case of matcha with sugar, which contains 30 calories per serving.
However you customize your tea, remember to enjoy the experience of tea; consider using tea cups that are white on the inside to help appreciate the color of your brew or small cups to ensure that you enjoy every sip of a premium tea.