We love sipping a cup of green tea full of health benefits. But have you ever wondered how it is made? Well then, read on about the production process of green tea while you wait for yours to brew!
All green teas are made from the unfermented leaves of Camellia sinensis plant, we know that. What differentiates one type of green tea from another is the parts of the tea plant used, growing conditions and the processing.
There are mainly two varieties of Camellia sinensis plant that are used to produce tea, Camellia sinensis sinensis and Camellia sinensis assamica. The former, which is native to the cold regions of China, is typically used to make green teas.
Ideally, there are two types of basic growing conditions for green teas:
- in the sun
- under the shade
Green tea plants are grown in rows and generally harvested three times in a year. The first harvest takes place in early spring and also yields the best-quality tea leaves.
The tea leaves are harvested during the spring season.
In traditional methods, the leaves go under the process of withering, heating – pan firing or steaming, rolling and drying. There are a variety of ways in which these leaves are processed and that is what makes the different types of green teas.
From the time the leaves are plucked, the process of oxidation begins and they begin to ferment. This action is halted by steaming or pan firing. In case of black tea leaves, they are allowed to oxidize before heating and drying.
The production styles differ in China and Japan, the two greatest producers of green tea in the world.
Production Style in China
In China, the heating is done by pan firing in large woks or drums. This process can be repeated many times for some types of teas. After heating, the tea leaves are rolled into desired shapes and dried.
The flavor can depend upon the number and type of heating. Generally, Chinese green teas are more grassy or earthy in flavor.
Production Style in Japan
The Japanese steam the plucked leaves on a bamboo tray or a steaming machine before rolling and drying.
For matcha green tea, the powdered green tea, the rolling process is substituted with grinding.
At this point, the tea leaves are known as crude tea. Crude tea leaves are the semi-finished product awaiting further processing and blending. Crude tea is subjected to secondary processing and made into the final product, packaged and then sent for sale.
How does green tea differ from other teas?
Unlike other teas, green teas are made from the unfermented tea leaves. Black and oolong teas go under varying degrees of oxidation before they are heated. This gives them their distinct taste but also somewhat strips them of the antioxidant activity. In contrast to this, tea leaves are not allowed to get oxidized when it comes to green tea. This lack of oxidation is responsible for its bitter taste and high antioxidant activity.
Processed green teas are known as ‘aracha’. The tea leaves are stored in low humidity refrigeration at 0-5°C. Before they are blended and packaged, they go under a final firing to ensure longer shelf life and flavor.