Green Teas: Japanese vs Chinese Green Teas

Green tea has been and is becoming an increasingly popular beverage of choice for more than half of the world’s population. I am a member of the new generation of tea-drinkers who have discovered that green tea is not only a delicious but also a healthy drink.

Tea is grown and produced commercially in over 50 countries around the world. China has been consuming this healthy beverage for nearly 5000 years, while the Japanese have been producing and drinking tea for about 500 years.

Both Japanese and Chinese green teas come from the flowering evergreen plant, Camellia sinensis, which grows best in tropical regions. There are thousands of varieties of Chinese green teas, and fewer than a dozen Japanese varieties.

Knowing the subtle differences between these green teas will increase your tea-drinking pleasure.

Japanese Green Teas:

  • harvested from spring to fall
  • two options: Sencha – small tender young leaves; Bancha – larger, more mature leaves
  • only one cultivar (yabukita) in production
  • steamed
  • machine processed and rolled into long uniform “needles” (Sencha) or powdered (Matcha)
  • steep between 180-185°F for one to two minutes
  • a bold, grassy flavor

Chinese Green Teas:

  • plucked in early spring
  • two leaves and a bud
  • more than 600 cultivars of the tea plant used in production
  • pan-fired, with some varieties oven-dried, sun-dried, or steamed (rarely)
  • mainly hand processed into about nine different shapes, including tight balls, pearls, spirals, twists, swords
  • steep between 180-185°F for two to three minutes
  • light, fresh flavor; sweeter than Japanese green teas

If you’re trying green tea for the first time, I suggest choosing Chinese green teas. They have a lighter, less intense flavor than Japanese green teas. One of my favorite green teas is Jasmine Pearls, with its sweet floral flavor and aroma of jasmine blossoms.

Brewing Green Tea Tips — prevent bitterness:

  1. steep for the correct length of time according to brewing directions, usually 1 – 3 minutes
  2. steep in recommended water temperature, between 180-185°F

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