Green tea is made from tea leaves that have undergone only minimal oxidation. To stop the oxidation process, they are subjected to heat. In China, this is usually done through roasting in a pan; in Japan the leaves are steamed.
Due to the different heating methods, Chinese teas are generally sweeter, milder and easier to brew, while Japanese teas are more delicate and sensitive, with a slightly more bitter and grassy flavor.
How to Prepare Green Tea
Green teas can be a little difficult to brew correctly, especially when it comes to the Japanese varieties. The method of brewing varies from tea to tea, so I will only give very general amounts here. For detailed instructions on each variety of tea, please refer to the pages for individual teas given below.
In general, you’ll want to use about 2 grams of tea per 100ml of water (about 1 tsp per teacup). The water temperature should be between 60 and 85°C (140-185°F) and the steeping time should range from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
As a rule, for higher quality teas, you’ll use more tea leaves, a lower water temperature and a shorter steeping time; lower quality teas will need fewer leaves, a higher temperature and longer steeping times.
For the most part, Japanese varieties of tea are best brewed using a traditional Japanese-style teapot, either a side-handled kyusu
or a tetsubin cast iron pot.
Any glass or ceramic pot will do, though.
The ultra-healthy and recently popular Japanese tea matcha is the exception and requires a whole set of specialized equipment, although it is possible to substitute everyday utensils for most of them. See the matcha page for some tips. You will also often find everything you need pre-packaged in a matcha kit.
While Chinese teas can certainly be brewed in a teapot, most Chinese people will use a simple tall 8oz glass or a traditional lidded cup called a gaiwan:
For detailed instructions on using some of the more specialized equipment, please see the pages for the individual teas listed below.
Japanese Green Teas
Most Japanese green teas are steamed to stop the oxidation process, rather than roasted, making them more delicate and thus more difficult to brew. They generally taste grassier and slightly more bitter than the milder Chinese teas.
Here are the six most popular Japanese green teas, from the highest quality tea to the lowest:
Matcha: very high quality green tea powder that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony; the healthiest of all teas; an increasing number of people in the west sprinkle it on food or use it in lattes; difficult to brew correctly
Gyokuro: one of the finest teas available; expensive; high number of nutrients in the leaves; slightly difficult to brew correctly
Sencha: the most common tea in Japan; can be a little difficult to brew correctly
Genmaicha: green tea with toasted brown rice; has a unique taste; easy to brew
Houjicha: a roasted green tea; easy to brew; milder taste than other Japanese teas
Bancha: the lowest quality Japanese tea; easy to brew; inexpensive
Chinese Green Teas
Most Chinese green teas are roasted to stop the oxidation process. As a result, they are generally a little more forgiving to small mistakes when brewing. Chinese green teas as a whole are milder and slightly sweeter than Japanese varieties.
Here is a selection of six popular Chinese green teas:
Dragon Well Tea: the most famous Chinese tea; high quality; sweet flavor; high concentrations of catechins
Biluochun: a tightly rolled tea resembling snail meat; slightly fruity taste
Lu’An Melon Seed: holds the “China Famous Tea” designation; smooth, sweet, nut like flavor
Lu Mt. Cloud Mist Tea: has traditionally held the “China Famous Tea” designation; high number of nutrients in the leaves; sweet flavor
Gunpowder Tea: small, round pellets that resemble gunpowder grains; thick, strong, slightly smokey flavor
Jasmine Green Tea: the most famous scented tea; sweet, smooth taste; good for stress relief