"A simple cup of tea is far from a simple matter." Mary Lou Heiss, The Story of TeaTea-Tea

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Green tea appearances

 

The appearance of green tea in three different stages (from left to right): the infused leaves, the dry leaves and the liquid. Notice that the infused leaves look greener than the dry leaves.

 

Green tea is made solely from the leaves of Camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing. Green tea originates in China and has become associated with many cultures throughout Asia. It has recently become more widespread in the West, where black tea is traditionally consumed. Green tea has become the raw material for extracts which are used in various beverages, health foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetic items. Many varieties of green tea have been created in countries where they are grown. These varieties can differ substantially due to variable growing conditions, horticulture, production processing, and harvesting time.

Over the last few decades green tea has been subjected to many scientific and medical studies to determine the extent of its long-purported health benefits, with some evidence suggesting that regular green tea drinkers may have a lower risk of developing heart disease and certain types of cancer. Although green tea does not raise the metabolic rate enough to produce immediate weight loss, a green tea extract containing polyphenols and caffeine has been shown to induce thermogenesis and stimulate fat oxidation, boosting the metabolic rate 4% without increasing the heart rate.

According to a survey released by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2007, the mean content of flavonoids in a cup of green tea is higher than that in the same volume of other food and drink items that are traditionally considered of health contributing nature, including fresh fruits, vegetable juices or wine. Flavonoids are a group of phytochemicals in most plant products that are responsible for such health effects as anti-oxidative and anti-carcinogenic functions.

History

Tea consumption has its legendary origins in China of more than 4,000 years ago. Green tea has been used as both a beverage and a medicine in most of Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, to help everything from controlling bleeding and helping heal wounds to regulating body temperature, blood sugar and promoting digestion. A book written in the Tang Dynasty of China is considered one of the most important in the history of green tea. The book was written by Lu Yu and is called the "Tea Classic" or "Cha Jing". It was written between 600 and 900 AD and spoke about exactly how and where one could enjoy a fine cup of green tea. The Kissa Yojoki (Book of Tea), written by Zen priest Eisai in 1191, describes how drinking green tea can have a positive effect on the five vital organs, especially the heart. The book discusses tea's supposed medicinal qualities, which include easing the effects of alcohol, acting as a stimulant, curing blotchiness, quenching thirst, eliminating indigestion, curing beriberi disease, preventing fatigue, and improving urinary and brain function. Part One also explains the shapes of tea plants, tea flowers, and tea leaves, and covers how to grow tea plants and process tea leaves. In Part Two, the book discusses the specific dosage and method required for individual physical ailments.

Growing, harvesting and processing

Green tea is processed and grown in a variety of ways, depending on the type of green tea desired. As a result of these methods, maximum amounts of polyphenols and antioxidants are retained, giving maximum green tea benefits. The growing conditions can be broken down into two basic types - those grown in the sun and those grown under the shade. The green tea plants are grown in rows that are pruned to produce shoots in a regular manner, and are generally harvested three times per year. The first flush takes place in late April to early May. The second harvest usually takes place from June through July, and the third picking takes place in late July to early August. Sometimes, there will also be a fourth harvest. It is the first flush in the spring which brings the best quality leaves, with higher prices to match. Processed green teas, known as "aracha" are stored under low humidity refrigeration in 30 or 60 kg paper bags at 0-5°C (32-41°F). This aracha has yet to be refined at this stage, with a final firing taking place before blending, selection, and packaging takes place. The leaves in this state will be re-fired throughout the year as they are needed, giving the green teas a longer shelf life and better flavor. The first flush tea of May will readily store in this fashion until the next year's harvest. After this re-drying process, each crude tea will be sifted and graded according to size. Finally, each lot will be blended according to the blend order by the tasters and packed for sale.

Brewing and serving

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Green tea leaves steeping in a gaiwan

Steeping is the process of making a cup of tea; it is also referred to as brewing. In general, two grams of tea per 100ml of water, or about one teaspoon of green tea per five ounce cup, should be used. With very high-quality teas like gyokuro, more than this amount of leaf is used, and the leaf is steeped multiple times for short durations.

Green tea steeping time and temperature varies with different tea. The hottest steeping temperatures are 81°C to 87°C (180°F to 190°F) water and the longest steeping times two to three minutes. The coolest brewing temperatures are 61°C to 69°C (140°F to 160°F) and the shortest times about 30 seconds. In general, lower-quality green teas are steeped hotter and longer, while higher-quality teas are steeped cooler and shorter. Steeping green tea too hot or too long will result in a bitter, astringent brew, regardless of the initial quality. It is thought that excessively hot water results in tannin chemical release, which is especially problematic in green teas, as they have higher contents of these. High-quality green teas can be and usually are steeped multiple times; two or three steeping’s is typical. The steeping technique also plays a very important role in avoiding the tea developing an overcooked taste. The container in which the tea is steeped or teapot should also be warmed beforehand so that the tea does not immediately cool down. It is common practice for tea leaf to be left in the cup or pot and for hot water to be added as the tea is drunk until the flavor degrades.

Varieties of green tea

君山 银针 ], known as one of the ten most famous Chinese Teas, is one variety of Yellow Tea, like the Huo Mountain Yellow Buds (霍山黄芽) and the Mengding Yellow Buds (顶黄芽). It is cultivated on Junshan Island, Yueyang City, Hunan Province (湖南省,岳阳,洞庭湖君山).

Zhejiang Province is home to the most famous of all teas, Xi Hu Longjing (西湖龙井), as well as many other high-quality green teas.

  • 龙井 Longjing

Maybe the most well-known green tea in China. It originates in Hangzhou (杭州), the capital of Zhejiang Province. Longjing in Chinese literally means dragon well. It is pan-fried and has a distinctive flat appearance. The tasteless frying oil is obtained from tea seeds and other plants. Falsification of Longjing is very common, and most of the tea on the market is in fact produced in Sichuan Province[citation needed] and hence not authentic Longjing.

  • 景宁惠明茶 Hui Ming

Named after a temple in Zhejiang.

  • 开化龙顶 Long Ding

A tea from Kaihua County known as Dragon Mountain.

  • 华顶云雾 Hua Ding

A tea from Tiantai County, named after a peak in the Tiantai mountain range.

  • 天目青 Qing Ding

A tea from Tian Mu, also known as Green Top.

  • 平水珠茶 Gunpowder

A popular tea also known as zhuchá. It originates in Zhejiang but is now grown elsewhere in China.

This tea is also the quintessential ingredient in brewing Moroccan green tea with fresh mint.

Jiangsu Province

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A plate of Bi Luo Chun tea, from Jiangsu Province in China

  • 洞庭碧螺春 Bi Luo Chun

A Chinese famous tea also known as Green Snail Spring, from Dong Ting. As with Longjing, falsification is common and most of the tea marketed under this name may, in fact, be grown in Sichuan.

  • 南京雨花茶 Rain Flower

A tea from Nanjing.

  • 坛雀舌 Que She (Tongue of golden altar sparrow)

originate in Jin Tan city of Jiangsu Province.

  • 太湖白云 White Cloud

Fujian Province

Organic_mountain_grown_tea_leaf

 

Camellia sinensis, the tea plant

Fujian Province is known for mountain-grown organic green tea as well as white tea and oolong tea. The coastal mountains provide a perfect growing environment for tea growing. Green tea is picked in spring and summer seasons.

  • 茉莉花茶 Jasmine tea (Mo Li Hua Cha)

A tea with added jasmine flowers.

  • 毛峰 Mao Feng tea

Meaning "furry peak".

  • Cui Jian

Meaning "jade sword".

Hubei Province

  • 玉露 Yu Lu

A steamed tea also known as Gyokuro (Jade Dew) in Japanese, made in the Japanese style.

Henan Province

Maojian

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An example of a Chinese green tea, called Mao Jian.

  • 信阳毛尖 Xin Yang Mao Jian

A Chinese famous tea also known as Green Tip, or Tippy Green.

Jiangxi Province

  • 珍眉 Chun Mee

Meaning "precious eyebrows"; from Jiangxi, it is now grown elsewhere.

  • 狗牯 Gou Gu Nao

A well-known tea within China and recipient of numerous national awards.

  • Yun Wu

A tea also known as Cloud and Mist.

Anhui Province

Anhui Province is home to several varieties of tea, including three Chinese famous teas. These are:

  • 大方 Da Fang

A tea from Huangshan also known as Big Square suneet.

  • 黄山毛峰 Huangshan Maofeng

A Chinese famous tea from Huangshan.

  • 六安瓜片 Liuan Leaf

A Chinese famous tea also known as Melon Seed.

  • 猴魁 Hou Kui

A Chinese famous tea also known as Monkey tea.

  • 绿 Tun Lu

A tea from Tunxi District.

  • 火青 Huo Qing

A tea from Jing County, also known as Fire Green.

  • 雾里青 Wuliqing

Wuliqing was known since the Song dynasty. Since 2002 Wuliqing is produced again according to the original processing methods by a company called Tianfang (天方). Zhan Luojiu a tea expert and professor at the Anhui Agricultural University who relived its production procedure.

  • Hyson

A medium-quality tea from many provinces, an early-harvested tea.

Sichuan Province

  • 竹叶青茶 Zhu Ye Qing

Also known as Meng Ding Cui Zhu or Green Bamboo.

  • 顶甘露 Meng Ding Gan Lu

A yellowish-green tea with sweet aftertaste.

緑茶, Ryokucha?) is ubiquitous in Japan and therefore is more commonly known simply as "tea" (お茶, ocha?). It is even referred to as "Japanese tea" (日本茶, nihoncha?) though it was first used in China during the Song Dynasty, and brought to Japan by Myōan Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist priest who also introduced the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. Types of tea are commonly graded depending on the quality and the parts of the plant used as well as how they are processed. There are large variations in both price and quality within these broad categories, and there are many specialty green teas that fall outside this spectrum. The best Japanese green tea is said to be that from the Yame (八女, yame?) region of Fukuoka Prefecture and the Uji region of Kyoto. The so called Uji area has been producing Ujicha (Uji tea) for four hundred years and predates the prefectural system. It is now an a combination of the border regions of Shiga, Nara, Kyoto, Mie prefectures. Sōraku District, Kyoto is among many of the tea producing districts.[citation needed]. Shizuoka Prefecture produces 40% of raw tea leaf.

  • Gyokuro (玉露?, Jade Dew)

Gyokuro is a fine and expensive type that differs from Sencha (煎茶) in that it is grown under the shade rather than the full sun for approximately 20 days. The name "Gyokuro" translates as "jade dew" and refers to the pale green color of the infusion. The shading causes the amino acids (Theanine) and caffeine in the tea leaves to increase, while catechins (the source of bitterness in tea, along with caffeine) decreases, giving rise to a sweet taste. The tea also has a distinct aroma.

  • Kabusecha (冠茶?, covered tea)

Kabusecha is made from the leaves grown in the shade prior to harvest, although not for as long as Gyokuro. It has a more delicate flavor than Sencha. It is sometimes marketed as Gyokuro.

  • Sencha (煎茶?, decocted tea)

The first and second flush of green tea made from leaves that are exposed directly to sunlight. This is the most common green tea in Japan. The name describes the method for preparing the beverage.

·         Fukamushicha (深蒸し茶?, long-steamed green tea)

Sencha, which, in the processing of the leaves, has been steamed two times longer than usual Sencha, giving it a deeper color and producing a fuller flavor in the beverage.

  • Tamaryokucha (玉緑茶?, lit. ball green tea)

Tamaryokucha has a tangy, berry-like taste, with a long almondy aftertaste and a deep aroma with tones of citrus, grass, and berries. It is also called Guricha.

  • Bancha (番茶?, coarse tea)

Lower grade of Sencha harvested as a third- or fourth-flush tea between summer and autumn. Aki-Bancha (autumn Bancha) is not made from entire leaves, but from the trimmed unnecessary twigs of the tea plant.

  • Kamairicha (窯煎茶?, pan-fired tea)

Kamairicha is a pan-fired green tea that does not undergo the usual steam treatments of Japanese tea and does not have the characteristic bitter taste of most Japanese tea.

  • By-product of Sencha or Gyokuro

·         Kukicha (くき茶?, stalk tea)

A tea made from stems, stalks, and twigs. Kukicha has a mildly nutty, and slightly creamy sweet flavor.

·         Mecha (芽茶?, buds and tips tea)

Mecha is green tea derived from a collection of leaf buds and tips of the early crops. Mecha is harvested in spring and made as rolled leaf teas that are graded somewhere between Gyokuro and Sencha in quality.

·         Konacha (粉茶?, (coarse) powdered tea)

Konacha is the dust and smallest parts after processing Gyokuro or Sencha. It is cheaper than Sencha and usually served at Sushi restaurants. It is also marketed as Gyokuroko (玉露粉?) or Gyokurokocha.

  • Other

·         Matcha (抹茶?, powdered tea)

A fine ground tea made from Tencha. It has a very similar cultivation process as Gyokuro. It is expensive and is used primarily in the Japanese tea ceremony. Matcha is also a popular flavor of ice cream and other sweets in Japan.

·         Genmaicha (玄米茶?, brown rice tea)

Bancha (sometimes Sencha) and roasted genmai (brown rice) blend. It is often mixed with a small amount of Matcha to make the color better.

·         Hōjicha (ほうじ茶?, roasted tea)

A green tea roasted over charcoal (usually Bancha).

·         Tencha ( 碾茶?, milling tea)

Half-finished products used for Matcha production. The name indicates its intended eventual milling into matcha. Because, like gyokuro, it is cultivated in shade, it has a sweet aroma. In its processing, it is not rolled during drying, and tencha therefore remains spread out like the original fresh leaf.

·         Aracha (荒茶?, raw green tea)

Half-finished products used for Sencha and Gyokuro production. It contains all parts of the tea plant.

·         Shincha (新茶?, a new tea)

First flush tea. The name is used for either Sencha or Gyokuro.

·         funmatsucha (粉末茶?, instant powdered tea)

Milled green tea, used just like instant coffee. Another name for this recent style of tea is "tokeru ocha," or "tea that melts."