An Amazing Leaf
Green tea is one of the most popular drinks in the world. It is also certainly one of the most famous and beloved of all teas, and for lots of good reasons. It has a storied history, immense cultural significance, scores of health-enhancing properties, and it's just downright delicious as well! Today we will learn a little more about this emerald monolith of the tea world.
Green Tea’s Origins
Many stories of tea are half myth and half fact. Green tea is no different. One story of green tea describes how about 5000 years ago China’s mythic god-emperor Shennong discovered tea sort of by chance.
While resting during his quest to personally sample every herb he could find to compile in his epic book of medicinal plants, something peculiar happened. He was drinking a bowl of hot water when leaves from a nearby tree were blown into his bowl. Not one to pass up a chance at sampling a herb, he took a sip. He discovered a beverage that reawakened his mind, body, and spirit. He then used this unique drink as a chaser when trying potentially poisonous herbs.
Another story stars the founder of Chan Buddhism, Bodhidharma. While Bodhidharma was meditating in a cave for years, he accidentally fell asleep! When he woke up he was so furious at himself he ripped his own eyelids clear off so he could never sleep again. When his eyelids hit the ground, a plant sprung up. He grabbed a handful of the leaves from this plant, chewed them up, and discovered he no longer felt sleepy. This forever cemented a role for green tea in the world of Chan Buddhism and its descendant schools of Buddhism in East Asia.
But for a more historical look, many experts believe green tea originated somewhere in Southeast Asia along the southern Chinese border anywhere from 3000 to 5000 years ago when people grabbed wild tea plant leaves from the forest while foraging. It is also believed that green tea was initially boiled in large cauldrons and used for medicinal or culinary purposes before developing over time into a tea art more similar to what we know today.
Green Tea Today
Practically all green tea comes from the Camellia sinensis (var. Sinensis) plant, and though China is not the sole country where green tea is produced, it still is one of the major producers today.
The processing method for green tea goes a little something like this: first, the leaves are plucked. Next, they are allowed to wither and oxidize or soak in oxygen for a short time, like anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. Then they are heated to cease the oxidation process.
Traditionally in China and other parts of mainland Asia, the heating method is to pan fire the leaves. This imbues the final green tea leaves with a crispy and bright flavour and aroma. Meanwhile, in Japan, almost all green tea leaves are steamed. The steaming method is actually the older of the two and also originates in China. But other the centuries as tea culture ebbed and flowed in China so too did the preferred processing methods used. Thus Japan kept the steamed leaf method while the rest of the continent moved on with pan firing. Steamed leaves are still incredible, though! Japan’s sencha leaves for example maintain a more moist, grassy, and umami flavour and aroma.
This brings us to flavour profiles! Like wine or coffee, many variables contribute to the different flavour and aroma profiles one can attain with any tea, green tea being no exception. As noted before Chinese green teas can have a wide flavour profile that includes some toasty, sweet, citrusy, fruity, and warm flavours. The liquor colour can range from a pale yellow to a deep emerald. Japanese green teas, which include matcha, are often grassy, astringent, bitter, and vegetal. Korean green teas may display a deep yellowish to jade colour. Their aroma may be toasty, bright, and slightly bitter. The flavour? A mix of astringent, toasty, and grassy. Many green teas possess flavour and aroma profiles that may be similar or a mix of these profiles.
Green tea, like all members of the Camellia sinensis family, possesses caffeine. Green tea usually possesses less caffeine than coffee, but still enough to be mindful of if you are planning on brewing a cup of green later in the evening.
Green tea can be brewed effectively in lighter brewing vessels and for shorter intervals at lower temperatures than black tea. Greens can be paired with many different accouterments for your drinking pleasure. But especially with prized Chinese greens lemon is usually the only advisable addition to a cup of one of these marvelous teas!
A final thought on this exquisite type of tea
So there you have it, some green tea info to brighten your day. Feel free to brew up a nice pot, and reflect on the majesty that is green tea!