Chinese Green Tea
All teas come from the plant Camellia Sinensis, and are further classified by their type of tea: Pu’erh, Black, Oolong, Green, and White (in descending order of fermentation). “Tea” does not include herbal teas or other teas that do not include “real” tea leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant. It is an interesting fact that the a bold breakfast tea and a Chinese Oolong or a Japanese green tea all come from the same plant; however, they taste very different because of the differences in the manufacturing process.
The process for making Chinese green leaf tea was developed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1628). Green tea is never allowed to wither and ferment; the leaf is killed by heat as soon as possible. Oxidation is arrested in green tea processing by one of two ways: steaming or firing in large pans or baskets over open flames. All dampness is removed. Green tea loose leaves plucked in the morning are ready to be brewed in a pot the same night. The bypass of fermentation allows green tea to retain most of its natural dark green color, tannins, vitamin C, chlorophyll and minerals. The taste of green tea is therefore more astringent and subtler than oolong or black tea. The lack of fermentation is also responsible for the very low caffeine content of green tea (about 1% by weight). Its caffeine effect produces a nearly steady, mild high with no big peaks or plunges. Green tea is therefore the perfect aid for mental focus: it acts as a stimulant, without causing jitters or nervousness, and its effects can last for several hours.
Two of the better known Chinese green leaf teas are Dragonwell and Gunpowder.
DRAGONWELL (or LUNG CHING) : The name Lung Ching means “Dragon Well”. This is perhaps the best-known authentic Chinese tea, which is grown in the West Lake region. It is considered to be one of the world’s finest green teas. It is truly a marvelous tea. Its narrow and flat leaves produce a soothing aroma when brewed. Lung Ching tastes delicate and rich, and has a slight hint of chestnut flavor. The leaves are picked and hand processed in early spring when the mountains are still shrouded in mist. They have a thin, delicate appearance with a golden sheen and give a pale green infusion that’s lightly sweet and tremendously fragrant. The West Lake region has grown tea since the Tang Dynasty (8th century AD) and it is here that the modern method of making green tea was first developed.
GREEN GUNPOWDER: The leaves of this Chinese green tea are rolled into the shape of little pellets resembling gunpowder, hence its name. Gunpowder tastes thick and strong, with a subtle hint of smoky flavor and a slight aftertaste. Gunpowder tea leaves stay fresh longer than any other green tea leaves due to its compressed state.