Text and Photography by Bruce Richardson (elmwoodinn.com)
Every harvested tea begins as green tea, the oldest of all tea families. The freshly plucked sets of two leaves and a bud are either pan-fired in woks or placed in large mechanical steamers, where a steam bath kills the enzymes and prohibits oxidation. The leaves are then flattened or rolled by hand or machine and dried. Since they are not bruised and oxidized, the dry leaves retain their natural dark olive green color and their vegetative aroma and taste.
Green tea is sought after for its health benefits. The buzzword among tea research scientists for the past decade has been EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate, an antioxidant polyphenol), green tea's principle catechin and a strong antioxidant.
For centuries, China, Japan, and Taiwan were principle sources for green tea production. With the worldwide increase in demand, every major tea-growing country now produces green tea.
Spotlight on Green
While the list of green teas is expansive, a few of the best-known include:
Presented as small, round, yellow green pellets, the tea leaves are hand-rolled to resemble their namesake. This earthy Chinese tea was a favorite of frontier America and is still common in North Africa.
A young, early-spring, twisted-leaf Chinese tea, Chun Mee produces a golden-yellow infusion with a pungent aftertaste. Twelve chests of this tea variety (known by its East Indies Tea Company name, Hyson) were thrown overboard at the Boston Tea Party December 16, 1773.
This is the most popular Japanese tea; however, the growing worldwide demand for Sencha has prompted Chinese gardens to also produce it. The long, flat, emerald green leaves make a light golden yellow liquor with a distinct aroma and flavor reminiscent of freshly mown grass. Tea from the March to April harvest, now done mechanically, is preferred.
Originating in the Chinese town of Dragon Well, the best grade of Lung Ching is made of only the bud and one new leaf. It is not rolled but left in its natural pointed form. The clean, well-balanced aroma suggests freshly cut grass and toasted chestnuts.
Green Brewing Tips
- Fill the kettle with filtered cold water, and heat to less than a boil, approximately 180°.
- Warm a small teapot with hot tap water.
- Discard the water in the teapot.
- Place 1 tablespoon of dry tea per cup directly into the pot or infuser basket.
- Cover with water directly from the kettle.
- Brew 3 to 4 minutes according to taste. Remove the wet leaves to prevent overbrewing.
- An exceptional green tea may yield multiple infusions.