The production of green teas
Variations in production processing styles and the use of cultivars, the simple principal of fixing the tea quite immediately after the leaf is plucked gives rise to thousands of varieties and qualities in the category of green tea. This is further multiplied by the natural changes in the biochemistry of a same plant when it adapts to the different growing environment in the wide ranging producing regions today.
Contrary to common perception, not all green teas are green. Well, sort of. Some are so very pale that they appear white, some very dark that are almost black, some intensely green, some yellowish or grayish. The colour of the dried tealeaves is dependent on the nature of the original material, the production process, and the finishing process. It may also change when it is not properly stored and when it ages. The colour discrepancy between different selections of the same variety can be a clue to detect difference in quality, but not so for that between different varieties; i.e. a greener tea is not necessarily better than one that is not so green.
There are four major green tea production methods today:
While a production may be made with one (or a combination of some) of the four ways listed above, it may also be styled in shape or natural-shape. Some air/sun-dried productions, and some baked ones are natural shape. Most others are styled. This gives us another way of categorization — by shape. I’ll list them here, although I think this is a most superficial way of categorization, and will not use it in this site.
Alternative categorization by shape (note):
Throughout the main producing regions for fine green teas, there are hundreds of major producers and thousands of smaller ones all trying to find marketing niches for their productions. A lot are quite similar. I’ll therefore, present only a few examples per sub-category in order to represent the array of varieties available. The selection criteria are quality, origin, character uniqueness, and accessibility of the genuine products. Omissions at this moment may also be a result of timing. The materials of this site will grow on a regular basis. The reader is welcome to register for regular updates of this site.
Some other scholars have categorized by shape in a total of 10 categories, rather than 7 as in here. Their way of distinguishing shapes is a little too details and subtle. I have merge them into these 7 for easier comprehension.
Uji Gyokuro, the quintessential steamed green tea of Japan. The unique umami taste qualiy of the tea is made possible not only through processing, but also through a well developed group of cultivars coupled with timing of shaded growth before plucking.
Luan Guapian, a baked green tea produced with a unique cultivar which leaves are let over-grown before plucking. This unique balance of leaf chemistry plus the light yet tedious baking process gives the tea its fine characters
The real Taiping Houkui. The large leaf buds from the cultivar Shidaye are flattened and dried during a very tedious method unique in the Taiping area in Anhui.
Mending Ganlu, this is the original one employing a native Sichuan cultivar, giving the green tea its mild yet complex andsweet characters, also petite leaf size.
Huangshan Maofeng, an orchid-styled, baked and slightly yellowed traditional tea from the Yellow Mountain, Anhui.
Mingshan Shihua, a roasted green tea with flat needle form style. The original more familiar name of Zhuyeqing was monopolized by one corporate producer simply through tradename registration. It was as if the name lettuce was trademarked for the veggie by some corporation.
Kaihua Longding, a orchid style light fire baked green tea with a distinctive sharpness. From the blue mountains deep inland of Zhejiang.
Longjing, aka Dragon Well, the quintessential hand-roasted green tea of China. It is also a tea disguished by its flattened appearance and full body as a green tea.
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