Overview and information on the types of green teas, ranging from Sencha, Bancha, Matcha, Gyokuro, as well as Gunpowder, Chun Mee, Ling Ching, Mao Feng.
It has been estimated that in ancient China there were more than 8000 types of green teas. Today, it is estimated that there are more than 1500 varieties of green teas worldwide. This multitude comes mainly from China and Taiwan, while in Japan, the attention of tea masters and producers has long been focused on a relatively small number of methods and varieties of green teas. The current world production of green tea is concentrated on the following countries:
Several other regions produce and export limited quantities of green tea, including India, Nepal, Tibet, CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), Sri Lanka, Bangladesh.
Type of Green Tea by Region
Basically, green tea production can be divided into two types of regions with different methods. Firstly the “Japanese Method” which uses steam to roast the tea leaves, i.e. to stop the enzymatic fermentation. And secondly, the “Chinese Method” which uses roasting in metal vats similar to large Woks. Obviously the so-called “Japanese” method is not exclusive to Japan, but it is mostly used in this country
, and vice versa for the “Chinese” method.
Japanese green tea
Japanese variety teas are distinguished by the fact that fermentation is stopped directly after the harvest by an extremely delicate steam roasting process. This method has the advantage of not damaging the leaf too much, allowing the essential medicinal properties of the plant to be preserved. In Japan, production is concentrated around the following varieties: Sencha, Bancha, Kabusecha, Tamaryokucha, Tencha, and Gyokuro. These are differentiated by their varying levels of chemical components and the health benefits they provide. The question therefore arises as to which green tea should be drunk? and how much tea should be drunk to achieve a particular effect? The Japanese green tea market has many brands, houses, and tea shops selling the same product. We estimate that there are 700 teas originating from Japan. An important issue concerning tea from Japan is radioactivity (Fukushima), especially in products from the northern part of the archipelago. It is preferable to choose products from the south of the island from Kyūshū. In addition, some merchants report that mixtures with polluted products are circulating on the market. For more information, you can read the article pesticides in tea.
Chinese Green Tea
The main roasting method used in China is the wok method. Green tea leaves are heated at a very high temperature (300°C) in large metal vats. Unfortunately this process damages the leaves enormously and reduces their medicinal properties. It is therefore recommended that people who want to benefit from the healing power of tea choose steam roasted teas. Another important issue concerns the healthiness of tea gardens or tea plantations (chemicals, pollution, radioactivity). In Japan, there are very demanding standards and protocols in terms of agricultural quality that guarantee the quality of teas available on the market. This is not always the case in China and other producing countries (Nepal, Tibet, India, Sri Lanka, etc.). It is rare for teas from China to reach an extremely high quality. It is always useful to test the levels of pesticides present in the product. Sadly the figures are often very high.
The Camellia Sinensis
The Camellia Sinensis plant, also sometimes called Thea Sinensis, is the origin of all kinds of teas in the world. In the wild, the Camellia Sinensis plant variety Sinensis is native to southern China. Its younger sister, Camellia Sinensis variety Assamica was discovered in the 19th century by the English in India (by a Scottish Major named Robert Bruce), in the Assam region. The Sinensis variety, grows at a higher altitude and has smaller leaves. The Assamica variety is more robust (up to 20m high in its natural state!), and less demanding in terms of maintenance, in addition it offers a much better yield. Tea is grown in almost 50 countries around the world.
Types of teas
The essential factor of differentiation between the different types of teas is the degree of fermentation that the leaves undergo after harvesting. The leaves oxidize on contact with oxygen and enzyme. Through this process their chemical properties evolve and are globally damaged. This process offers a clear gustatory interest because the fermentation of the product alters certain bitter chemical compounds of the plant (the catechins) which become aromatic compounds or pigments (the theaflavins in black tea). Unfortunately, this process also alters some of the medicinal benefits of the plant. Depending on the degree of fermentation, there are 6 main categories of tea: Green, White, Yellow, Oolong, Pu-Erh, and finally black tea. For more information, you can also consult the article type of tea. The highly revered green tea comes mainly from the Sinensis variety, the shrub native to China. This delicate and frugal plant grows in regions with extreme conditions (high altitude, great sun exposure, lots of rain but no stagnant moisture in the soil) and is distinguished by its great nutritional and medicinal richness compared to the Assamica variety. To obtain green tea, the leaves are roasted within a few hours of harvesting, which is how they retain their green colour and most of their chemical and medicinal properties. Fermentation (other types of teas) modifies and damages these properties.
Green tea production
The differentiation factors for the types of green tea are as follows:
- Choice of plant variety (pure strain / cross / hybrids),
- Stopping the fermentation by steam or wok roasting,
- Slight fermentation (in some cases)
- Harvested and processed plant part
- Shading (duration, degree, method) or not
- Other peculiarities of the production field or process (e.g. hand work or use of machines)
Quality of green tea
They say there are as many qualities as there are producers. The quality gap is as wide as that which exists within any traditional industry (e.g. wine). This is clearly reflected in the extreme price differentials that exist within this category. For 100g of green tea one can pay a few euros or up to several hundred for the rarest and most sought-after products. Here are the fundamental factors that influence the quality of tea.
- Selection of a good plant (Sinensis variety)
- Location and climate (extreme climate, highgrown tea altitude, ample sun exposure, frequent rainfall, no stagnant moisture, quality of rain, quality of soil)
- The rate of plant growth
- Attention to fertilization (organic manure or chemicals)
- Biodynamic Agriculture Label (no chemical products for more than 15 years)
- No radioactive pollution
- Fast and respectful harvesting and processing (harvesting by hand in some cases)
- 100% waterproof and opaque packaging
- Tea freshness (for Shincha transported by plane)
- Purity of the tea and confidence in the producer (blending with inferior qualities to increase the volume)
The above-mentioned factors mainly help to distinguish the possible medicinal qualities sought in tea. In terms of taste and price, there are other factors to be taken into account:
- Maturity and bitterness of the plucking (bud and young shoots: “First Flush, two leaves and a bud”)
- First, second, third, or fourth harvest of the season
- Shade tea is significantly more expensive.