Tencha and resulting Matcha
Sometimes people come into the Studio seeking green teas because they have read an article about health benefits, or their doctor has recommended they drink green tea, or they’ve watched a news program featuring health specialists who talk about the benefits of green tea.
If someone isn’t used to green tea then I usually start by asking what they might have tried and whether they liked it; often the individual has only tried teabag greens and so has limited experience with the breadth of green tea tastes.
In each country (and region within) tea planters use specific cultivars of Camellia sinensis to influence their intended result—this will be a large factor in taste differences. Next to the cultivar, the processing style plays an important role. As I’ve traveled and watched tea production, I’ve realized how many subtle differences in technique there can be—playing an important part in what you taste in the cup. I never realized how much “rolling” goes into making green tea, and how important that is for developing the tea’s flavor.
Chinese green teas, while there are regional and quality differences, tend to be vegetal and toasty: they are pan-fired to stop oxidation in the tea leaves and this gives Chinese greens their unique character.
Japanese green teas lean more toward grassy, spinachy and maybe sometimes sea-weedy. The Japanese steam their tea leaves to stop oxidation, and, the Pacific ocean influence can be tasted. Some of the teas are shade-grown to further influence the savory taste (umami) coveted by the Japanese.
Korean green teas are classified by season of picking and so comparing Sejak (second picking) with the two other country’s greens, I find the taste more as a combination of the other two, and in a good year, Sejak may have a buttery finish. Although I haven’t visited Korea yet to watch production, I understand that both steaming and pan-firing are popular methods for arresting oxidation.
And finally, influencing all three is the terrior (which belongs to the wine world) and means “taste of place”. The weather, soil, elevation, and many other environment influences can affect what you taste.
So “experience tea”! Try a lot of green teas and find a style you like.