Getting Into Green Tea

We’ve all read about the health benefits of Green tea. Its cleansing properties, full of anti-oxidants etc. etc. The only problem is its taste profile. Anything that tastes “grassy”, smells a bit like seaweed and if overly extracted could cut you in two with its astringency doesn’t potentially have much of a future with the mainstream consumer. It reminds me of “cod-liver oil” from my youth. Something to be endured rather than enjoyed!

It doesn’t have to be that way though, and I hope that the following might get you into a product that can actually be quite refreshing whilst doing you good at the same time.

The tea leaf comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. There are many sub-varietals but for the sake of this blog we’ll stay with the core plant. Once plucked the leaves are then withered which removes around 15-20% of its moisture and makes them easier to handle in the next phase.

We now have a divergence between Chinese and Japanese methods of production. Pan firing is a distinguishing characteristic of the Chinese process. The leaves are placed in a heated rotating drum. Here they are both dried and crushed to release the enzymes and arrest oxidation. In the Japanese method the leaves are steamed to denature the enzymes which would otherwise promote oxidation. This takes place whilst the leaves are still fresh. Steaming has the effect of “fixing” the deep green colour for which Sencha is known. Subsequent firing will take the moisture content down to 3%.

Stopping the oxidation process gives green tea its distinctive flavour and is why they taste so very different to Oolongs and Black teas where various degrees of oxidation has taken place.

Hopefully the above gives a better understanding as to why green tea tastes as it does. The next challenge is to get the product into a format you can enjoy. Enter the flavour merchants!

With the addition of familiar flavours such as Vanilla and Lemon the intensity of the green tea is reduced. A good example of this is our Sencha, spring tea. Sencha tea makes up around 90% of the product, so the health benefits are still to be had, but delivered within a far more familiar taste.

This concept had led to an explosion of “flavoured” green and white teas. Products on our website include “Angels kiss”, “Sunny passion”, “Kombucha” and just recently “Red ginseng”. They all make pleasantly refreshing drinks and will work for those of you who are new to this market. The next step will be unadulterated green teas such as “Gunpowder”, “Young Hyson” and “Sencha”.

I close this blog with one final important message. Green and White teas must be infused with water at around 75-80 degrees centigrade. This enables a gentler extraction of flavour and a smoother, softer taste. Green tea unlike black tea can be re-infused with limited detriment to its flavour. I would always look to under infuse the tea. If you really want to go truly traditional you should seek out a “Gaiwan”, a lidded pottery vessel which will give you a truly authentic experience from the East.

David Warr