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How to Make Green Tea

Freshness is very important in Japanese green tea. Dry, oxidized teas, such as black or oolong tea, last much longer than green tea because green tea leaves easily deteriorate from contact with oxygen, ultraviolet light, humidity, and high temperatures. Matcha deteriorates more easily than other teas because it is ground into a fine powder and so more surface area is exposed to the air.

Green tea should be kept away from heat, light, air, moisture, and strong odours. Once a tea package is opened, the tea leaves should be used as soon as possible. It is best to purchase a small amount of tea and to use it up in a relatively short time.

Transportation of green tea requires expertise and the right storage conditions, including controlled temperature, appropriate packaging, and carefully considered transportation routes.

When buying green tea, look for leaves that are deep green and shiny, and that are not broken. The leaves should feel smooth and should not crumble easily. They should smell fresh and fragrant.

Brewing a Great Cup of Green Tea

The brewing procedure is the same for each kind of Japanese green tea, but the quantity of tea, water temperature, brewing time and other factors are different for each variety. There are general brewing considerations for each type of tea, but it is important to alter the temperature of the water and the steeping time to your own taste.

Green tea, especially high grade gyokuro, sencha or matcha, should be brewed with soft water that contains few minerals. Hard water does not fully bring out the flavour of green tea. Bottled water, such as Volvic, Alaskan Glacier Gold Water, Crystal Geyser, Rocky Mountain or Aquator, is recommended. Moderately hard bottled water, such as Evian or Naya, will also work well. The chlorine smell in tap water affects the flavour of tea and can be removed by either allowing the water to boil for more than two minutes or by letting the water stand in an uncovered pitcher for 5 to 10 hours before brewing.

Sencha and Fukamushicha

1.   Boil water, pour it into a small  teapot, and let it sit for about 30 seconds for high grade sencha and 15 seconds for regular sencha, fukamushicha, kukicha or konacha.

2.   Pour the water from the teapot into the teacups and let it sit for another 30 seconds for high grade sencha and 15 seconds for regular sencha, fukamushicha, kukicha or konacha.

3.   Pour out any water left in the teapot.

4.   Add the tea leaves to the teapot. Use 2 teaspoons for high grade sencha and 2 1/3 teaspoons for regular sencha, fukamushicha, kukicha or konacha.

5.   Pour the water from the teacups into the teapot, cover the pot and let steep 2 minutes for high grade sencha and 30 to 60 seconds for regular sencha, fukamushicha, kukicha or konacha. This will make three cups of tea.

Following this process cools the water to the appropriate temperature for these teas and ensures that the right amount of tea and water is used. Use all of the water in the teapot or else the tea from subsequent brewings will not taste as good. High quality teas can be used three times. Brew for 50 to 60 seconds for the second use, and use slightly hotter water and a longer brew time for the third use. Each infusion will have a unique flavour and aroma.

For high grade sencha, the water should be at 176°F (80°C). At this temperature, the steam from a kettle drifts sideways rather than shooting straight up. Sencha’s refreshing, yet mellow aroma and balance of sweet and bitter taste (of catechin and caffeine) are enhanced at this temperature. At lower temperatures, the flavour becomes more mellow and less brisk. Medium grade tea should be made with water at 194°F (90° C) and should steep for about half the time of high grade sencha before being served. If sencha is brewed too long, it may become very bitter.

The flavour components of high grade sencha emerge at 140°F (60°C) and astringency components at 176°F (80°C). The first pouring will taste lighter than subsequent ones. When serving, pour a little into each cup, then go back and fill each cup so that the tea in each is uniform in strength and flavour.  This pouring process applies to all Japanese green teas.

Gyokuro

Follow the process for sencha and fukamushicha, but let the boiling water sit for 1 minute each in the teapot and the cups. The water should be at 140°F (60°C) to enhance the sweetness of gyokuro tea. Use 3 teaspoons of leaves and steep for 2 to 3 minutes in order to extract as much of the rich flavour as possible. Using porcelain cups will show off the colour of the tea. Thin porcelain is not a problem, as this tea is not served very hot. The temperature feels pleasantly warm when holding the cup. This will make 3 cups of tea.

Bancha, Houjicha and Genmaicha

For these teas, use boiling water. To make 5 servings, use 5 teaspoons of leaves and pour in 2 cups of water. Steep for 30 seconds. The secret for these teas is to use boiling water and pour the tea quickly. This tea tastes best when served immediately after it is poured. Using a large teapot and thick tea cups that will retain heat well is recommended.

Type of Tea

Number of Teacups

Amount of Tea

Water Temperature

Amount of Water

Steeping Time

(tsp)

(g)


(°F)


(°C)

(cup)

(min)

Sencha (high grade)

3

2

6

176

80

2/3

2

Sencha (regular)Fukamushicha

3

2 1/3

7

194

90

1

1/2 – 1

Gyokuro

3

3

9

140

60

1/3

2 – 3

BanchaHojicha

Genmaicha

5

5

15

212

100

1 3/4

1/2

Adapted from – New Taste in Green Tea (2007)

Matcha

Matcha is ground into a fine powder so it lathers well. Because static electricity builds up easily, making the matcha lumpy, it is recommended that the matcha be sifted before whisking. When whisking, use a “W” motion by moving the wrist. This is not a circular stirring motion, but rather a series of short, quick jerks back and forth, to make a nice frothy lather.

There are two kinds of matcha: Usucha (standard) and Koicha (strong – used in the tea ceremony). When making Usucha, sift and remove any lumps, put 1 teaspoon of matcha into the bowl, add 70cc (1/4 cup) of water that is between 185°F (85°C) F and 212°F; 85 and (100° degrees C), then whisk the mixture.

Use the same procedure to make Koicha, but use only high quality matcha, using 2 teaspoons and 50cc (1/5 cup) of water.

Most nutrients found in green tea are water-soluble and can be extracted in water when making tea. However, some green tea nutrients such as beta carotene and vitamin E are oil-soluble and are best extracted in oil. If you drink matcha, you can ingest the tea in its entirety, including beta carotene, vitamin E, and other oil-soluble nutrients that are not usually extracted in water.

Flavours of Green Tea

Catechin (tannin) contributes a refreshing aroma and astringency to green tea. It is extracted in water in temperatures over 176°F (80°C). Catechin is also known for its beneficial effects and is found in leaves that are flooded with sunlight, such as sencha or bancha tea leaves.

Theanine, which contributes sweet taste and mellow aroma to green tea, is found in first-picked leaves. Gyokuro and matcha teas are rich in theanine because the leaves are grown in diffuse sunlight before being harvested. Theanine is known to relax the mind. It is extracted equally well in low and high temperatures.

Caffeine contributes a mildly bitter taste and is extracted best at high temperatures. It stimulates the central nervous system.

Storage

Store green tea in a clean, odour-free, airtight container and open this as little as possible to avoid exposure to the elements. The container should be as small as possible to keep the amount of air that comes in contact with the leaves to a minimum. In Japan, green tea is often stored in an airtight steel canister known as a chazutsu.

Unopened packages of tea can stay relatively fresh in the refrigerator for up to one year. Condensation easily builds up on a tea package after it is taken out of the refrigerator, so only unopened packages should be kept there. Wait a few hours to a day before opening a tea package taken out of the refrigerator to ensure that the package is at room temperature so that condensation does not adversely affect the quality of the tea. Tea stored in the refrigerator should be kept away from anything with a strong odour

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