Green tea: Basics

9 Mar

(Has nothing to do with green tea, or anything green for that matter. But it’s catchy.)

Last week we covered black tea, now here’s the lowdown on greens.

Green tea generally comes from East Asia, and you’re looking at two main areas: China and Japan.

Chinese greens are the Ceylons of green tea. They’re cheaper and readily found in popular, mass-marketed teas. If you go out and get a generic green from Starbucks or wherever, it’s probably going to be Chinese. If it’s loose, you’ll be able to tell by the size and shape of the leaf. Chinese greens have broader, flatter leaves, so it’ll look like that crazy kid down the block went and dumped grass clippings into your cup. The liquor, or the color of the tea, also tends to be more yellow-y than true green. (Why don’t they call it yellow tea, then? I dunno.) There’s a massive variety in Chinese greens, the most common being green pekoe and dragonwell. If you want to start name-dropping the real swanky stuff without worrying about pronunciation, go with gunpowder, with its distinctive leaves that resemble little baby escargots, all curled up and waiting for you to drink ’em down.

But if you have no idea what type of leaf is in your cup, then it comes down to taste. Chinese greens err on the woodsy side of flavor–as in, some literally taste like wood, especially when oversteeped, which is why generic green tea tends to turn off prospective tea-drinkers. Yet among the trees you’ll find some savory vegetable notes, nice and mellow. Since Chinese greens have so much personali-tea (ba-dum ksssh), they make a great compliment for understated dishes; think fish or whole grains.

Japanese greens are harder to miss. Since they’re more expensive than their Chinese counterparts, and thus considered more chic, usually the bag will proudly proclaim its country of origin. If it ends in “-cha,” it’s probably Japanese: sencha, and its alter egos hojicha and genmaicha, are the main three you’ll run into on Japanese tea-‘scapades. The exception would be gyokuro, which is like sencha’s high-powered executive older brother. Greens from the Land of the Rising Sun have thinner leaves than those from China, and are more finely chopped when loose. Still looks like grass clippings in your cup, only these are classy grass clippings.

As for taste, Japanese greens are much more inclined to sweetness. You still want to be careful of oversteeping them, but if you do, the bitterness isn’t as harsh as it would be with a Chinese green. Their softer nature pairs well with salads, and robust meaty flavors like tomato and beef.

Green tea in general can still pack a caffeine wallop, so the same policy applies as it would with black tea. If you’re sensitive, keep your cup before noon.

What kind of green do you prefer?


2 Responses to “Green tea: Basics”

  1. horny hot March 10, 2013 at 7:17 am #

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  2. New York Arts Exchange March 10, 2013 at 11:03 am #

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