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Green Tea

Famed for its health and medical benefits, green tea has found its popularity rise in recent years thanks to a healthier outlook from the public in general. Whereas before it may have been seen as something only socialites would drink to try and “stand out” from the crowd, now green tea is drank everywhere from restaurants to fast food outlets. But where did it originate from, and what has made this more popular than others?

There are different claims as to how old green tea, or the drinking of green tea, really is. Since there are variations in the tea, with many South Asian countries having their own type, no-one can really state for certain how long this tea has been consumed. However, records show that it’s been drank for at least 5,000 years in both India and China, although you can find variations in Thailand and Japan as well.

Indeed, in 1191, there was even a book written on how beneficial green tea can be by none other than the famous Zen Buddhist, Eisai. Not only did he describe how good green tea was for your body and internal organs, but also how it could ease various bodily ailments such as indigestion and fatigue. This knowledge has carried itself through the centuries, so that even today these are major reasons for people to drink green tea.

Depending on which country the green tea comes from, there are various ways to brew it. However, as a guide, the following is pretty much standard practice:

For each individual cup, use one teaspoon of green tea. This equates to approximately 2.25 grams of tea should be used, with a measuring of six ounces in water.
Use water that is extremely hot, but NOT boiled, as this will ruin the flavour completely. For best results, aim for a temperature between 82 88 degrees centigrade.
Let the tea steep for between two to three minutes, for optimum flavour, before pouring into measured cups.

Although many people would say that tea is tea and that green tea is no different, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The taste can vary from country to country; even green tea from different provinces in the same country can taste different from other provinces. Therefore, depending on your taste, you may find that you prefer one country or region’s tea to another.

For example, the most commonly known green tea is that from China, and this can vary wildly in taste dependent on the province. The most famous green tea, Xi Hu Longjing, is found in the province of Zhejiang, and is pan-fried. Due to this method, it has a slightly richer taste than other variations from nearby locations.

Then there is Gunpowder tea, which is also founding Zhejiang but is of a lower quality. This tea is “only” 1500 years old at most in its origin; the name comes from the way it is rolled into small pellets before being brewed. The lower grade leaf tends to not lend itself to as nice a flavour as Xi Hu, but it is still a very popular cup.

In fact, with China being such a proponent of green tea, it’s not surprising that there are over twenty variations from six different provinces, all with their own little variation in taste. Whilst you have the range from lower quality to higher, such as the two afore-mentioned Zhejiang teas, you can also find teas that are somewhere in between. Hyson, which is mainly from the Anhui province but can be found elsewhere, offers a more mellow tasting tea, usually from the leaves being harvested earlier.

It’s not just China that green tea is associated with these days, though. Now, Japan, Thailand and India all have their own variations. Japan, perhaps more so than other countries, is now finding itself popular for importers of green tea, who don’t wish to manoeuvre through the minefield that can be trying to get through customs and costs with the Chinese government.

Although Japanese green tea is thought to be less palatable than its Chinese counterpart, that would be to dismiss some extremely appetising teas. Some of the best Japanese green tea, as found in the Kyoto district, can more than hold its own with the Chinese variation. For instance, Matcha is a powdery green tea of very high quality, and is so popular that it is actually used in the Japanese “tea ceremony”, which many Westerners will recognise from various Hollywood films that portray a server in traditional garb serving tea whilst in a sitting position. A proper ceremony can last up to four hours.

Another popular type is the Kabusecha green tea, which is more delicate in flavour due to the leaves being left to grow in the shade whilst they are being harvested. Although not quite as widespread or popular as Chinese green tea, Japanese tea is still found in over ten different provinces of Japan, and is becoming just as popular as their neighbour’s version.

If you wish to try other teas from different countries, you may wish to look to the ones from Darjeeling or Ceylon in India, which use similar methods to the Chinese and Japanese tea brewers but infuse it with slightly different herbs to create a more varied flavour, or from Vietnam, Indonesia or even Brazil, which lends a South American slant to this ever-growing drink.

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Source:

  1. Tea Buyer's Guide and Steeping Tips – EatingWell
  2. The Hacker's Guide to Tea – Lifehacker