The history of green tea began about 5000 years ago in China. Initially, monks used the stimulating effect of green tea to meditate longer. Later then tea was also popular among the Chinese upper class. Today, green tea is characterized by a huge range of varieties. The majority of green tea and also the most diverse varieties are coming from China. Chinese green tea can be sweet, tart, floral, fruity or smoky and is common in various shapes. Japan is also a major producer of green tea. Japanese green teas are characterized by a rather grassy-fresh aroma. In addition, green tea in Japan is treated with steam in contrary to China where the oxidation is still stopped by roasting.
The best quality of tea is the first flush in spring. Due to slow growth finer flavors are developed and the content of bitter substances is lower because of the reduced solar radiation. The best green tea is still harvested manually.
The freshly picked leaves are spread on bamboo mats or trays. Depending on the weather, the leaves are withered in the sun or shade. As the sunlight breaks down the leaves chlorophyll and thus changes the taste, this step must be very well considered by the tea master.
After wilting the picked leaves are heated briefly. This inactivates enzymes in the tea leaf and prevents them to oxidize. This process is also known as the term kill-green. In China, the leaves are traditionally heated in a wok or in kilns while in Japan hot steam is used.
After cooling, the leaves are rolled into various shapes. Famous example is Chun Mee (engl. precious eyebrow) which resembles the shape of eyebrows.
At the end, the tea leaves are dried in hot air oven to preserve. Good quality tea is usually reviewed at the end again and unsightly leaves removed .