Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tea: Varieties And Grades Of Green Tea

By: Marcus Stout

If you’ve ever shopped for green tea, no doubt you’re aware that there are a
vast number of choices. There are green teas from many regions of the world, and
many varieties, grades and flavors from each region.

Green tea was likely the first kind of tea. About 3000 years ago in China,
people plucked fresh tea leaves and let them dry in the sun before storing them.
In the 8th century, tea processors began using the evaporation process, and by
the 12th century, they began sautéing the leaves. Basically, green tea came
about before tea processors learned the methods associated with processing black

Even today, green tea is one of the teas left in its most natural state.
Unlike black tea, green tea is unfermented. This lack of fermentation leaves the
chlorophyll in the leaves, so that they retain their green color. Green tea also
retains more of its natural anti-oxidants as a result of being unfermented. This
makes green tea a far healthier choice than black tea.

The natural anti-oxidants in green tea hold a great deal of power for
protecting our health and preventing disease. Anti-oxidants are important to our
health because they neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are created in our
bodies as a by product of digestion. These oxygen containing molecules damage
our cells and DNA if left unchecked.

A diet rich in foods such as fruits, vegetables and other plant products like
tea, helps rid our bodies of free radicals before they can damage our bodies.

In recent years, there has been an abundance of research showing that long
term drinking of green tea can protect our bodies from many forms of disease,
including cancer, heart disease and high cholesterol. Green tea has also been
shown to be an effective weight loss supplement as well as a natural way to help
regulate insulin levels. More research is needed, but it’s very likely that as
time goes on we’ll find more and more health reasons for making green tea part
of our everyday lives.

Classifying Green Tea

The many different varieties of green tea are classified, in part, by the
method in which they are dried. The five methods of drying green tea include:

•Stir Frying - Fresh tea leaves are sauteed in a pan. This process is mainly
used for export teas. Stir frying gives green a strong fragrance and taste. Some
common varieties of green tea that are stir fried include gunpowder teas and
Dragonwell teas.

•Roasting – Tea leaves are dried in a roast basket or roast chest. In most
cases roasted teas are used as the basis for flower scented teas. Roasting keeps
the leaves intact and makes them appear as though covered in a white fluff.
Monkey king teas are roasted.

•Semi-roast and semi fry – Sometimes the stir frying and roasting methods are
combined. This method is used in order to retain the beautiful look of a roasted
leaf combined with the strong fragrance and taste of stir fried tea.

•Solar drying – This is the age old method, whereby leaves are dried in the
sun. Today these leaves are typically used as the basis for compressed teas.
These are the “green tea cakes” you sometimes see.

•Steaming – The leaves are steamed at a very high temperature to dry them.
The most famous steamed green tea is Sencha.

Within each of these varieties of green tea, there are also quality grades.
It can be very difficult to determine, however, the quality of tea you’re
buying, because each country has different grading methods. China, which
produces more green tea than any other country in the world, grades their green
tea something like this.

First, teas for export are graded according to the age of the leaf and the
finished shape of the leaf. These categories include gunpowder, imperial, young
hyson, hyson, twankay, hyson skin, and dust. Within each of these categories
there are several quality grades; sometimes as many as nine grades within one
leaf shape.

With all the complicated categories of green tea, it can be difficult to know
which ones to dry. Understanding the different drying methods and how they
affect the flavor of the tea will give you a good start, as you can select
varieties dried in the method that produces the taste you prefer. However, when
it comes to selecting the best quality of this variety, you have little to go
on. There are a couple of ways to spot good quality tea:

•Form - Loose tea is higher quality than bagged tea. Whether it’s black tea,
green tea or white tea, you can bet that the lowest quality leaves are the ones
used in tea bags. For good tea, always buy loose tea.

•Price – If loose green tea is really inexpensive, it’s probably not very
good quality. Shop around to get a good idea of a fair price for good loose
green tea so that you can accurately judge prices.

•Reputation of Tea Company – One of the best ways to ensure that you get good
tea is to buy from a tea company with a reputation for selling only the highest
quality teas. This is particularly important when shopping online.

It’s true that there are many varieties of green tea. But, that’s what makes
trying green tea so much fun! There’s almost no end to the many flavors and
nuances you can find in the different varieties of green tea. You’re sure to
want to try them all!

About the Author:

Marcus Stout is President of the Golden Moon Tea Company. For more information
about tea, wholesale tea and black tea go to

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