Tea Basics

Tea Classification

Tea is a perennial plant called Camellia Sinensis; a shrub native to the mountainous southwest region of China. Tea does not pollinate itself. It spread east & south by human cultivation, not by natural means. It is cultivated differently depending on climate, geography, and process. Teas cultivated in eastern regions are short bushes with small leaves. Those grown in southern regions are tall trees with large leaves. Layering and cutting are the normal modes of cultivation. Teas are usually categorized into two types:

  • Chinese (Variety Sinensis) and
  • Assam (Variety Assamica)

It’s the method of processing that differentiates tea types into green, black, oolong etc.

green tea plantation tawonga

How is Green Tea Different

Black tea undergoes a fermentation process, which oxidizes the leaves and turns them “black”. This process deactivates many of the polyphenols, and creates a bitter taste.

Oolong tea is oxidized about half as long (semi-fermented) and is then steamed to stop oxidation, and has bitter taste.

Green tea is not fermented at all. It is steamed to stop oxidation before it starts, which preserves most of the polyphenols. Green tea contains 60% more polyphenol content than black tea, and has less bitter taste. Green tea is also referred to as unfermented and is primarily produced in China, Japan and Taiwan.

different types of tea

Flavour

Taste components

Catechin – Bitterness & Astringency

Caffeine – Bitterness

Theanine and amino acids – Flavor & Sweetness

Green tea flavour

Powdered tea, called fanning, is mostly the tea which left over from processing, and is the cheapest tea. Since powdered tea steeps quickly in teabags, it is a convenient and inexpensive way to ship tea, and it makes it easy to use a portion for a cup. But powdered tea has an increased surface area, and therefore is immediately exposed to the air, which oxidizes it very quickly.

For this reason, the highest-quality green tea is not ground or powdred. The best tea is kept in whole leaves, carefully packaged to be airtight, and used within two years-more preferably, within 12 months packaging.

water temperature and green tea flavour

Important Principles for Preparing Delicious Green Tea

Tea leaves are placed in a teapot, hot water is added to the tea leaves and left to infuse for a certain amount of time. Of course, preparation will vary according to such factors as local customs, personal tastes, occasion, time of day or season. Below is a number of key points to help you prepare delicious green tea and an explanation of various standard methods of preparation.

When preparing tea, the type of water used, water temperature, time the tea is left to infuse and the amount of tea leaves used are some of the main points in determining the flavor and aroma of the tea. To prepare the “perfect”cup of tea, it is best to choose a preparation method that suits the particular characteristics of the tea being prepared.

Choosing the right water

Generally, the best type of water to use in making green tea is soft water (low in calcium and other minerals) that is very slightly acidic. If using tap water, it is best to boil it first to remove any chlorine odor. If using bottled mineral water, hard water (high in calcium or magnesium) should be avoided.

Relationship between water temperature and flavour and aroma

Water temperature plays an important part in determining the taste and aroma of tea, and different types of tea require different water temperatures. This is because different components of tea dissolve at different temperatures. The astringency components (catechins) will be drawn out at temperatures over 80 degrees C, while the flavor components (amino acids [theanine]) require a lower temperature of around 50 degrees C to dissolve. For this reason, if one wishes to drink Sencha that is not very astringent, a temperature of around 70 degrees C is recommended, while for Gyokuro, a lower temperature is recommended to draw out the flavor more slowly.

On the other hand, for teas such as Hojicha and Genmaicha, which have unique aromas, boiling water or water close to 100 degrees C should be used. For people who prefer astringent Sencha, water should be over 80 degrees C.

green tea flavours and preparation