There are many people worldwide who love to start a new day with a cup of fresh tea and also like to enjoy a cup at the end of the day. In fact for many tea connoisseurs, their very life is intimately linked with this refreshing, soothing and relaxing beverage. Of all the kinds of teas in the world, Black tea may be the most consumed, but it is Green tea that is the most coveted and most popular. If you too are a true blue Green tea fan, this article will shed more light on this tea variety by telling you what sets Green tea apart from others and why this tea variety has managed to touch the chords of your heart as well as your palate like none other.
Green Tea: A Health Drink A cup of freshly brewed tea at the beginning of a brand new day is indeed a good way to start out the day; it can energize the mind and body to take on the challenges of a new day most efficiently, while a drink of tea after dinner is also a good habit because tea can bring about changes in the brain chemicals, lowering the level of stress from a long and lousy day, helping a person to sleep soundly. Tea has multiple health benefits and according to scientific researches the healthiest tea of all is Green Tea. It’s rich in health boosting antioxidants and flavonoids. So if you are looking for a health drink to relax your frayed nerves, calm your mind and body and help you relax, this is definitely the right choice for you.
Green Tea: A Drink that connects you to Nature Many hardcore tea fans love their first morning tea to be served in bed, while others like to enjoy their cup of morning tea gazing at the rising sun, enjoying the cool morning breeze. A cup of fresh fuming Green tea with its characteristic vegetative flavour and golden liquor is in perfect harmony with the green nature around. The finest Green teas are handpicked in the spring time in its home country China and also in Japan. The natural green colour of the Green tea is retained due to the fact that this is a Zero fermentation tea. Though China is the birth land of Green tea, in the recent times various forms of green tea from India, like Darjeeling green tea, Assam Green tea, Kangra Green tea etc have also proved to be an awesome delight for the tea lovers worldwide.
Green tea production stages An avid fan of Green tea is as concerned about its production methods and stages as its purity. So let’s take a look at the basic Green tea production stages, which are what makes your favourite tea so flavourful and so refreshing.
- Plucking: The first step in the production of Green tea is no doubt plucking of the tender tea leaves. Plucking can be done in three ways: Hand-plucking, Knife plucking and Machine Plucking. Hand-plucking again, falls into 2 categories: Single hand-plucking & Double hand-plucking. Machine Plucking is the fastest plucking method of all three.
- Heating/Shaqing: This stage is one of the most vital stages in the production of Green tea. Green tea leaves should not undergo oxidation or fermentation, otherwise it will turn to Black tea and this heating stage readily arrests the oxidation process in the leaves. The leaves can be dry heated in an oven/wok or the workers may even make the leaves pass through a Special machine called the Shaqing machine in which the leaves are exposed to a hot steam with temperatures ranging from 75 centigrade to 80 centigrade. ‘Shaqing’ is the Chinese term for ‘Killing of Green’. The Shaqing process removes the grassy smell from the leaves, stopping all chemical reactions of enzymatic compounds in the leaves by preventing the oxidation process. Also the moisture from the leaves is partially evaporated as a result of which the leaves are left pliable, easy to be rolled out, which is the next stage.
- Rolling: This stage breaks the cellular structure of the tea leaves as a result of which most of the juices from the raw tea leaves ooze out and imparts green tea its characteristic flavour. However, if you want your Green tea to smell heavenly, find out exactly how many times you should steep the tea leaves from an expert because the flavour from a prepared cup of green tea depends very much on that process! Rolling is also referred to as the shaping or styling stage because it gives the dry tea leaves its final shape such as twisted leaves, flattened leaves or leaves curled into tiny shrivelled beads and so on.
As the cell walls within the tea leaves are broken down due to rolling of the leaves, the astringency and bitterness of the leaves can be lessened to a great extent. Rolling can be of two categories: Hand rolling and Machine Rolling. Tea workers do hand rolling in large frying pans called Wok in China. For Machine Rolling, semi-automatic and fully automatic rolling machines are used and they produce high quality Green tea. Rolling of green tea can be further classified in another way: Hot Rolling and Cold Rolling. Hot Rolling is the rolling of tea leaves that haven’t cooled down and are still hot because they have just completed the heating or Shaqing stage. Cold Rolling is the rolling of leaves after they have cooled down. Leaves from cold rolling are much greener because this type of rolling boosts the preservation of chlorophyll in the leaves.
- Drying: This is the last stage in Green tea production. It not only makes the leaves devoid of all the remaining moisture but also stabilizes leaf shape, improves leaf quality, taste & aroma and extends the tea’s shelf life by reducing the risk of moulding. Drying of the leaves can be done in different ways. The 4 commonly followed methods are:
- Steaming: Steaming is perhaps the most primitive and traditional method of drying tea leaves which rose to popularity in Japan roughly in the era when the Tang Dynasty came to power. Even today, the steaming method is used for the drying of the leaves in the making of the Matcha Green tea in Japan. When Ming Dynasty came to power, the Steaming Method for drying started to take a back seat as it was found that the tea obtained from steaming smelled grassy and was not as full flavoured as that obtained from roasting. However, since the year 1972, steaming has again returned with a bang as China imported from Japan some very advanced steaming machines and produced some awesome green teas like Enshi Yulu, Yangixan tea that have stood the test of time.
- Baking: This is another method of drying tea leaves. The workers at the tea factory have to place the leaves very skilfully within a baking cage and have to bake the leaves until they are thoroughly dry. This drying method is ideal for specialty teas like Scented Jasmine Teas. Examples of two most renowned tea varietals that are dried using the baking method are Taiping Houkui and Huangshan Furry Peak.
- Roasting: Roasting is the most widely prevalent method of drying tea leaves. The leaves are roasted; i.e. almost fried in a large wok. This method is mainly used for producing Green tea pearls. Examples of some renowned higher grade Green tea varietals for which the roasting method is used are Bilochun, Dragon Well, Liu An Gua Pian etc.
- Sun-drying: This is perhaps the simplest of all green tea leaves drying method because once the leaves are left out in the sun, nature does all the work. This method is widely prevalent in the Guangxi, Yunnan, Sichuan provinces of China but this particular method is generally avoided when it comes to producing of Green teas of the higher grade.
Some interesting facts to stimulate your brain cells: With the advancement of technology, new processing styles have come up in the recent times and the Green teas are being styled quite innovatively. Some of the different ways in which this is done are: Smooth or Round Needles, Downy Needles, Spheres or Beads, Orchids, Flattened pellets, Twisted plus Straightened, Twisted or Curled. The fashion of using tea bags have become very popular amongst the modern day tea connoisseurs and today a variety of flavoured green tea bags are available in the market to make a quick cup of aromatic & highly delectable green tea. Many of these green tea bags contain stunning fruity green tea blends such as raspberry flavour, cherry flavour, orange flavour, lime flavour etc.
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