How is Green Tea Processed?

How is Green Tea Processed?

Green tea is a pokey little package for a whole plethora of reasons. It’s popular for its overall healing and rejuvenating properties and is used to treat a whole manner of health conditions. The part of Green tea that has a powerful effect are the polyphenols which are active compounds known as catechins.

Catechins are a cunning flavonoid and antioxidant whose purpose is to prevent disease.

The leaves and buds of the evergreen plant, Camellia sinensis, commonly known as the tea plant, are carefully picked and processed to retain all the ripe health properties this precious plant has to offer. Whether you’re brewing Black, Oolong or Green tea; it all comes from the same special plant; but the processing is what it’s all about; this is where the magic happens, and the part that makes Green tea; well, Green (and good for us).

Why is Green tea so different?

In a nutshell, the major difference between Green and Black tea is the unfermented Green tea leaves; preserving the clever catechins for which Green tea is renowned. The presence of these special catechins is diminished at a speedy rate if subject to oxidation. Black tea is allowed to go through a process of oxidation which changes the chemical compounds present in the leaves, producing more caffeine than Green tea and converting most of the catechins present into theaflavins and thearubigens; losing much of the green ‘goodness’ that Green tea is famed for.

Just how green is Green tea? The processing part.

The fresher the leaves the better, so speed is the name of the tea picking game. Traditionally, and still on some plantations today, the leaves are carefully plucked by hand, using an age old technique. Unlike Black tea, the leaves are not allowed to oxidize and instead go through a delicate process of wilting, heating, rubbing or rolling, then they are carefully dried to ensure the green of the leaves is preserved. The act of applying heat almost immediately after picking reduces the fermentation process, locking in the rich vitality of the plant. The manufacturing of Green tea can vary from country to country and region to region but the outcome is essentially the same; you get Green tea. However, each type of green tea will have a distinctive and unique taste, colour, astringency and aroma according to the exact processing methods used and where it’s grown. The heating process of Green tea can involve delicately steaming; pan firing; roasting; or baking the leaves, after which they are gently rubbed or rolled, by hand, into small nuggets. The act of rolling the tea not only protects the leaves but also helps retain as much freshness as possible, which means all the vital nutrients are stored in the leaf while securing quality of flavour and fragrance. Nowadays the use of machinery is often adopted to both pick and roll the tea. Traditional methods are still followed, however, on many plantations across the different Green tea growing regions, keeping the spirit of the old ways alive.

Who grows and exports the most Green tea?

China currently remains the major producer and exporter of Green tea, shipping out over a staggering 80% of the Green tea that's used worldwide. Japan is next in line in terms of production and export of Green tea. Although a big producer of the gem that is Green Tea, Japan keeps most of what is grown to itself. Forecast to produce 100.5 thousand metric tonnes of the green stuff in 2017, Japan is predicted to get rid of only 2.4 thousand metric tonnes of this across the globe. The rest is consumed on the soil from which it came. When compared with the 379.7 thousand metric tonnes that’s forecast to leave the soils of China this year, it’s clear to see who the big cats are in the Green tea market. The nation that brought us Green tea hasn’t lost its hold on being the biggest consumer of Green tea either. Cited in the 2010 UN report, as using the most Green tea worldwide, the Chinese continue their long love affair with this homegrown commodity.

Keeping it Green

With exports such a major part of the Green tea industry, it’s important to ensure the product travels well. The unique heating, drying and rolling process of Green tea helps to ensure maximum potency of the polyphenols is preserved. This means the special health properties of Green Tea are maintained; allowing it to arrive in our ‘best china’ in tip top condition, despite travelling great distances to get here. Ideally, it should be vacuum packed immediately after manufacturing; stored in low humidity refrigeration at 0-5°C; and kept airtight and away from any light source or odour, to minimise the opportunity for passive oxidation and avoid deterioration of the tea. Another method of storing tea involves keeping it packed in a ceramic container and applying the use of Quicklime to absorb any moisture. This preserves the leaves, keeping them dry and preventing damage to the tea. This method is often used for ‘select’ teas such as the Green tea, Longjing, and in keeping with traditional ways of preserving the freshness and quality of the tea. In ancient China Green tea was commonly made into ‘tea bricks’, essentially whole or crushed leaves shaped and compressed into a block. This made storing and moving the tea easy. The bricks were made into drinks; eaten as a nutritious snack; and, valuable in other ways, they were even used as a form of currency.

Today, in most cases, the turnaround of Green tea is very speedy and the Green tea we see available to buy, has come from the field to store in as little time as three days to three weeks; helping to secure the freshness and goodness of the leaf.

Is Green the New Black?

This is all good news because consumption of Green tea is on the rise globally. Very popular in countries such as Japan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, the consumption of Green tea is also booming in Britain and The USA. According to a survey conducted in 2014, Green tea is the UK’s second most popular tea, hot on the heels of our national old favourite, English Breakfast. And over the pond in the USA, the last 10 years has seen a dramatic rise in Green tea imports by 60%. It’s believed the good people of America consume a whopping 0.54 billion gallons of Green tea a year.

That’s something to whet your whistle. But if a cuppa isn’t your thing, we may have just the answer.

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  10.  INTERGOVERNMENTAL GROUP ON TEA. CURRENT SITUATION AND MEDIUM-TERM OUTLOOK: P.9. TABLE 7 - Green Tea : Actual and Projected Production and Exports:
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