About Green Tea. Discovering Tea's Mysteries
There are many great stories about green tea, which is often associated with a healthy life style. Let’s find out more about green tea history and traditions.
Green tea is made from the leaves of the tea plant known as Camellia Sinensis. For the tea leaves to become appropriate for green tea preparation, they have to undergo minimal oxidation during processing. This kind of tea is actually one of the most popular tea varieties due to its well known health benefits.
Green tea has its origins in China, but it has been associated during history with many cultures throughout Asia. About green tea we can find many stories, myths and even century long cultural traditions. Its popularity in the western countries is actually of recent date, unlike black tea which was long consumed in West Europe and USA for centuries.
Being so popular and a healthy alternative to coffee, green tea has become throughout time the raw material for extracts used in various beverages, healthy foods, dietary supplements and even cosmetic products.
Many varieties of green tea have been created in the countries where it is produced. The difference between a certain variety of green tea and another is due to variable growing conditions, horticulture, production, processing and, of course, harvesting time. With so many varieties, entire volumes can be written about green tea .
Amazing legends about Green Tea
Because of its popularity in Asia and its recent date popularity in the West, many stories, myths ans legends have circulated about green tea, especially in China. Two of them, very interesting tales, tell the story of how green tea firstly originated in China.
One such legend tells the story of a Chinese emperor called Shen Nung, who had an habit of boiling the water before drinking it. He first tasted green tea after a tea blossom fell into his cup of hot water by accident. He was so pleased with its taste and properties that he ordered that the small tea trees should be planted in the palace’s gardens establishing a tradition of tea drinking at the Chinese royal court.
Another Chinese legend about green tea discovery was about a man Shien Non Shei on his name, who one day took his wife and children mountain climbing. During the climb, a leaf brought by the wind, drifted onto his feet. He tasted the leaf and thought it had an amazing taste and also felt that this leaf could have healing properties and could help quench thirst, when brewed. Thus, according to this legend he was the first individual to actually drink tea.
A brief history about green tea
The use of green tea as a health aid goes all the way back in time to the year 2737 BC. Chinese elite and bureaucrats were the ones who could afford green tea, because at the time, being a new discovery, tea was really expensive and not at all a common drink as we think of it nowadays. They also included green tea among their dining habits. We can say about green tea that it became number two drink in the world without us even realizing it. It was love at first sight.
After being discovered, the tea leaves undoubtedly became a custom. The Chinese learned and understood green tea’s health benefits. Elaborate tea ceremonies were born becoming a traditional celebration of nature, etiquette and health.
Green tea eventually found its way to Japan in between 729 and 800 AD. The Japanese emperor gave powdered green tea as gifts to Buddhist monks. The monks started to use green tea in elaborate ceremonies making tea an important drink for Japanese also. In a few years they also started to cultivate it and produced their own tea varieties competing with the Chinese tea market.
Tea was introduced to the West in 1606. The very first shipment of tea to Europe was actually green tea. Paradoxically tea became popular in England really late during Queen Victoria’s reign in the 1800’s. It was the Portuguese and Dutch who first imported tea to Europe, while England being actually a late comer on the tea market.
Green Tea Varieties
Depending on the processing of leaves, harvesting, area of origin and growing conditions, a wide variety of green tea have been created and produced along the history. The most popular varieties in the world are the Chinese and Japanese ones.
Chinese Green Tea Varieties
Chinese green tea is really appreciated and features a great number of variations depending on the region in China where the tea has been grown and eventually produced.
Junshan Yinzhen known as the “silver needle tea” is one of the most popular green tea varieties, with a thick yellowish color once brewed. It is cultivated in the Junshan Island in the Chinese Hunan province.
Longjing which in translation means “dragon well”, is cultivated in Hangzhou and it features a very distinctive flat appearance. Falsification of this tea is actually very common.
Hua Ding tea originates in Tiantai and it is being named after a peak in the Tiantai mountain range. It features quite an unique taste, aromatic and powerful due to the high altitude where the tea plant used for this type of tea develops.
Bi Luo Chun is a Chinese famous tea also popular under the name of “Green Snail Spring”, from Dong Ting. As with Longjing variety, its falsification is common and most of the tea marketed under this name may, in fact, be grown in Sichuan.
Gunpowder is is a type of green Chinese tea produced in Zhejiang, China. Each of its leaves has been rolled into a small round pellet. It is believed to take its English name from the fact that the tea resembles black powder grains.
Japanese Green Tea Varieties
Japan also has an old tradition on producing green tea and features, of course, different varieties than the ones originated in China.
Gyokuro is a fine and expensive variety of Japanese green tea. It grows in the shade rather than the full sun for approximately 20 days. Its name has the translation of “jade dew” and actually refers to the pale green color of the infusion. This type of tea also features quite a sweet taste.
Sencha tea represents the first and second flush of green tea made from leaves that are exposed directly to sunlight. This is the most common green tea in Japan. The word “sencha” means “decocted tea”, referring to the method in which the tea beverage is made from the dried tea leaves.
Tamaryokucha features a tangy, berry-like taste, with a long almondy aftertaste and a deep aroma with tones of citrus, grass, and berries. In translation it means “ball green tea”. The name “tama-ryoku-cha” means “coiled-green-tea” refering to the comma-shaped, coiled leaves specific to this particular tea variety.
Matcha green tea a fine ground tea made from Tencha. It is expensive and is used primarily in the Japanese tea ceremony. Matcha is also a popular flavor of ice cream and other sweets in Japan.
Green Japanese tea varieties are numerous as in the Chinese case. Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, Kenya and Indonesia are also considered to be traditional producers for the international tea market, being specialized in making and exporting green tea varieties. It’s really amazing how one small plant can give birth to so many tea varieties, types and flavors and how these varieties at their turn are giving birth to custom, traditions and even literature.
Tea is inspiring and it represents an essential part of life for both producers and consumers. Tea is perfect for long solitary meditations or for casual chatting with friends and family. Tea ceremonies feature spiritual parts which have the role to connect one individual to God, nature and Universe.
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