Last time I shared the processes that tea leaves have to go through to become black tea. Bet you didn’t think all that effort goes into making your daily brew (or brews, the more the merrier I am!). So if all tea comes from the same plant, what makes green tea green?
Instead of being left to wilt, green tea goes straight to the firing process to kill the enzymes that cause oxidation (responsible for the black colour) straight away. This in done in a hot pan which looks very similar to a wok (the Chinese method) exposing them to a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius anywhere between 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Or it can be done by steaming them (the Japanese method) which helps preserve the fresh flavours and aromas. That’s why Japanese green teas have a brighter green colour and a higher vitamin content.
Before they can move on to the next step, the leaves are left to cool down completely.
Once the tea leaves are cool, they will go through a shaping and rolling process. The shape they take depends on the tea – some are curly, some are twisted and Gunpowder (a tea we will review in future posts) is rolled into tiny balls which look like gun pellets.
Depending on tradition, the drying and rolling processes might be repeated a few times. This is customary with Japanese teas, but not Chinese ones.
When the producer is happy with the tea leaves, they proceed to the drying step that black tea also goes through. This reduces the moisture content to 5% so the tea is ready to be brewed and produce a good cup but dry enough to prevent mould.
Because green tea goes through less processing than black tea and it skips the withering and oxidation steps, a higher level of antioxidants is preserved in the tea. And that’s why we see so many articles on its health benefits and weight-loss properties. Though don’t read too much into it, I drink green tea every day and it doesn’t affect my weight at all!
Next time, we’ll discover white tea – an even less processed and lighter bodied tea!