Green Tea

Green Tea: An Unoxidized Tea

Two main countries are traditionally known as producers of quality green tea: China and Japan. Green tea is not oxidized. It undergoes an initial fixation stage, which can take place in two different ways.

  • With dry heat: the leaves are heated in a large wok over a flame or placed in a revolving cylinder into which hot air is blown- these are the two traditional Chinese methods. The shoots then take on a green-yellow color and develop dominant cooked-vegetable notes when infused.
  • With wet heat: the leaves are placed in large bamboo baskets suspended above steam baths- this is the traditional Japanese method (formerly used in China). This method does not alter the pigment of the leaves, which retain their grass-green color, and develop dominant marine and green-plant notes.

    The next stage is the rolling, which gives tea its final shape and color. In both China and Japan, the visual qualities of tea are as important as its aroma.

  • In China, hand rolling is still the preferred method for the finest qualities of green tea, as this allows the delicate bud on the young shoot to be protected by the leaves. The shoots can be rolled into pearls or twists, be formed into flattened sticks or needles, or be knotted together to form flowers, shells, fruit, or other shapes.
  • In Japan, the leaf is formed into the shape of a pine needle with a dark, green glossyh appearance. The stages leading to this result are many and various- rolling, pressing, kneading. The shoot is therefore no longer whole, unlike Chinese green tea, although this in no way affects its quality. In the case of maccha, the leaves are fixed, the dried just as they are- this is known as tencha - before being ground into powder in a marble mortar.

    These teas are delicate and quickly lose their aromas. Ideally they should be consumed within the eight months following harvesting. Their price varies according to quality, ranging from $2.50 per 3.5 ounce (100 grams) for the poorest-quality teas to over $173 for the finest-quality spring teas.

    -p. 93, Alchemy of Tea in Tea: Aromas and Flavors Around the World by Lydia Gautier (2005)

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