All About Tea
Tea was first discovered about 5,000 years ago in China, it has been consumed hot or iced throughout the world ever since. True tea comes from the Camellia Sanensis plant and there are five true teas: green tea, oolong tea, white tea, black tea and pur-erh tea. The difference among these five teas lies in the parts of the plant that are used and the process in making them. Black tea and oolong are processed through oxidation by exposing the enzymes in the tea leaves to oxygen causing the leaves to darken. White tea and green tea, on the other hand go through a simpler process that does not involve oxidation. The leaves to make white tea are the youngest of the plant and they are dried through direct sunlight. Green tea goes through the same process as white tea, but for a slightly longer period of time. The leaves are heated to prevent oxidation during the process. Green teas produced in China are dried by roasting or pan-fired. In Japan, they are steam dried. The distinct flavors of green tea are owed to the difference in production from these two countries.
Varieties of Green Tea
Green tea comes in a variety that will suit the tea connoisseur's taste buds and induce a spiritual mind-body rejuvenation. The tea type is based on the part of the tea bush that is harvest, the length of steaming, the covering process, the crop season, oxidation level, location of the farm, and by selective breeding (cultivar).
Here is a list of green teas:
Matcha - The history of matcha in Japan began sometime in the 12 century when Zen Monk Eisai (1141-1215) brought tea seeds from China along with the Chinese methods to produce the tea, and under his advice Buddhist Monk Kozan-ji (1173-1232) began cultivating tea bushes. The tea was mainly produced in powdered form. Over time matcha gained popularity and became commonly used outside of monasteries and military elite. The Japanese word matcha comes from "ma" (ground) and "cha" (tea). Known for its therapeutic benefits, Eisei referred to the tea as the "elixer of the immortals".
Tencha - The tea leaves undergo the same process to make matcha, except they are not ground.
Genmaicha - Japananes brown rice kernels are roasted and mixed with Bancha tea leaves resulting in a mild, toasty and nutty flavor.
Shincha - The first harvest of the tea leaves known as first tea or first flush of the year. The word Shincha means "new tea". The tea is relaxing and has a refreshing flavor due to the leaf alcohol created by linolenic acid. It is in the second crop of the year (Niban Cha) and the third crop of the year (Sanban Cha) that the least leaf alcohol is produced.
Konacha - The tea is made from what is left after processing Gyorkuro or Sencha tea. The greener the infused tea, the finer the tea leaf dust used to produce this fine and often difficult-to-find supply.
Fukamushicha - The leaves are steamed twice as long or more than other processes when preparing green tea, resulting in a darker tea.
Kukicha (bocha) - The tea is blend of twigs, stalks, and stems. Its unique taste is due to the parts of the tea bush not used in other teas. It has a sweet and soothing taste.
Bancha - The mature the leaves and stems are harvested during the autumn season, and they are pan-roasted providing a mild nutty flavor.
Gyokuro - The tea bushes are shaded for a longer period than Kabuse for this process
Sencha - The tea bushes grow uncovered in direct sunlight, and they are harvested in the first and second crop. The first crop yields a higher quality Sencha. The leaves are steamed, dried and rolled. Different methods of Sencha are produced depending on the preparation used to make it.
Hojicha - the tea leaves are from the Sencha, Kukicha, or Bancha green tea, at the last harvest of the season. The lower-grade leaves are roasted in porcelain pots over charcoal after they've been steamed. The infusions are reddish-brown with a sweet, roasted-full flavor.
Kabusencha - The word comes form Kabusu (to cover). The tea bushes are shaded for weeks as they grow; the shade causes the plants to produce more chlorophyll and makes the leaves tender. This type of is a sub-category of the Sencha tea.
Guricha (Tamaryokucha) - Sweet and soft, this tea is hard to come by. The tea is pan fired or steamed (Tamaryokucha) giving its sweet taste. The leaves are curled and its color is gun powder green.
Aracha - Referred to as the farmer's tea, processing includes all parts of the leaves and stems. The variation in flavor is also due to the time of harvest, region, and farmer. The tea is sorted by wholesalers and then blended with other teas from different farmers known as refining. The quality varies due to the presence greater than about 15% of dust that affect the taste as well. To sort or not to sort - that is based on preference and the type of teas the farmers process. For Senchas, sorting is considered not necessary.
More about Tea - Tea Infusions:
Tea infusions are comprised of herbs, spices and fruits, so they aren't "real teas". They are known as infusions and get easily confused with teas because they are packaged the same method and undergo the same brewing process, but only need shorter time to brew than tea. Yet they are equally delicious to enjoy, healthy and full of flavor and taste while warming the soul.