Today, there are hundreds of types of green tea cultivated all over the world from India to Korea, and Nepal to Sri Lanka. But the first recorded use of green tea was over 4,000 years ago in in China where it was used as medicine.
It’s thought that Japanese monks introduced the tea to Japan during the Nara period between 710 and 794 after they visited China and saw the huge health benefits that came from drinking it.
It’s not easy being green
It takes between four and eight years for newly planted tea plants to reach the stage that the leaves can be cultivated for tea.
There are hundreds of hybrid plants that have evolved from the Camellia sinensis plant over time. But any kind of tea can be made from the leaves of any Camellia sinensis plant.
The major difference between all the different varieties is the processing method – green tea leaves have to be picked and then immediately dried or steamed to prevent them from fermenting and oxidising. This helps them retain their green colour and locks in all the nutritious antioxidant goodness.
By contrast, black tea leaves are allowed to fully oxidise before they’re dried. This turns the leaves the rich dark colour that they’re famous for. It also alters the taste from fresh and earthy to slightly malty and fruity.
A superior harvest
Made from the top two leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea has to be grown in perfect conditions to produce a fresh crop every couple of months, starting around the end of April.
After they’ve been processed, the leaves are hand rolled in to their various shapes to determine their variety. Sencha tea, one of the most popular green teas, is steamed immediately and then rolled in to needles, whereas Gunpowder tea is tightly rolled in to small pellets – and is how it gets its name!
During this process special scents and flavours like jasmine can be added to produce the truly unique flavours and varieties that can be found all over the world.