When I was preparing last week’s Tea Time, I was experimenting with different types of whiskey to use in the recipe. After Tea Time went out, my wife and I had the following discussion:
Ashley: Why is the title “A Whiskey and Tea Cocktail?” I thought you used Bourbon?
Me: I did use Bourbon. Bourbon is Whiskey.
Ashley: Then why didn’t you just say Bourbon?
Me: Because I wanted to recommend Scotch as well.
Ashley: But, I thought you wanted to use Whiskey?
The conversation went on like this for a bit, kind of like, “Who’s On First.” And trust me, I’m not making fun of my wife (you should have heard her explaining different flowers to me before our Wedding). After talking for a bit about this, I realized that some people may be having the same conversation about tea. To help remedy this, I am going to write a series of articles over the next few months talking about the different styles of tea in the most basic sense. Today, we start with Green Tea.
Green Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant
This is something I have written about in the past, but it is important to go over once again. All proper tea comes from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis. The only difference between Green, Black, Oolong, White and Pu-erh Tea is the way it is processed. The most important step in the processing is oxidation.
Why “Green Tea” is green
After the tea leaves are plucked from the plant, they are allowed to oxidize. To give an analogy, oxidation is the process a banana goes through when it turns from green to black. Since Green Tea is slightly oxidized, the tea farmers need to find a way to stop the oxidation at the perfect moment. This is done traditionally by applying heat. The most popular ways of doing this is wither by pressing the tea leaves into a hot wok or by steaming them. The application of heat is what turns the leaves the bright green color than many of us know.
What Green Tea tastes like
Trying to explain what Green Tea tastes like is quite difficult because there are so many varieties. It would be like describing “white wine” or “cola.” In the most general sense, Green Tea has a slightly vegetal flavor with a hint of sweetness in the finish. The body should be light and you traditionally drink it without any milk or sugar.
Different styles of Green Tea
There are two main countries that produce Green Tea – Japan and China. While both of these are classified as the same style of tea, their taste and preparation styles are quite different. Because there are dozens if not hundreds of different styles of Green Tea, please note these descriptions are going to be incredibly general.
- China – Chinese tea is traditionally roasted in a wok or oven. This gives their teas a hint of flavor that is reminiscent of roasted vegetables over a charcoal grill.
- Japan – Japanese teas are traditionally steamed. The steaming gives the tea a bright, fresh flavor that reminds me of spring. Japanese teas also have a wonderful mouth coating sensation called umami that enhances the tea drinking experience.
- Other Countries – While not as popular as the two I mentioned above, there are other countries that produce Green Tea. India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Thailand also have some nice varietals, but, as a general rule, these teas are a far step behind China and Japan.
The health benefits of Green Tea are well documented in both scientific journals and the media. In the most basic sense, Green Tea is good for preventing cancer, increasing metabolism (slightly), preventing heart disease, lowering cholesterol and fighting off dementia. While there is a wealth of information about these topics on the Internet, be sure to talk to your doctor for all medical advice that relate to these topics.
So here you go. Just remember that while there are subtle differences in processing tea, the results can be dramatic. I hope this clears some things up as far as Green Tea is concerned so maybe you can avoid the “Who’s On First” conversation that we all seem to have from time to time.