What is the difference between Chinese and Japanese Green Tea?
Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea are different from the common teas you buy in paper bags at the supermarket. Each tea has its own peculiar character, and it is an absolute pleasure to taste them and understand all the differences even between similar teas.
Green tea undergoes a process to prevent oxidation or fermentation. The green tea-making feature is considered to be a “natural medicine” in that it is not fermented tea, which is why they keep their natural ingredients practically the same as your natural condition.
The traditional Chinese method uses oven-dried leaves to remove their water content. Meanwhile, Japanese green tea is steamed to stop oxidation to preserve the herb’s taste. In this sense, their Japanese teas are said to be richer in polyphenolic compounds, which act as antioxidants, particularly EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), thanks to the use of steam in this process.
Color and Flavor
The Chinese green tea offers a deeper, green-brown color, while the Japanese green tea color is bright green. As for the flavor, they are also very different. The taste of Chinese green tea is softer and has more earthy tendencies, while Japanese green tea offers a more intense and fresher flavor. The freshness in flavor is preserved by steaming the leaves quickly after the leaves are plucked.
China is the largest exporter of tea in the world. Thus, a very important point in favor of Chinese green tea is its price. It usually tends to be cheaper than Japanese green tea since producing tea in China requires less investment due to their labor costs and the extent of the country.
Green tea production in Japan is very limited by the lack of space, and this sees the price as more expensive, but it doesn’t mean that it’s more expensive for its quality.
Chinese Green Teas
At least one thousand varieties of tea are produced in China, about 50% of which are green tea (the remaining 50% is made up of black [red] tea, oolong [blue] tea, Pu’erh [black] tea, white tea, and yellow tea). These varieties take their name from their appearance, place of origin, or some particular characteristics.
Some Popular Types of Chinese Green Tea
Tian-Mu Qing Ding (Green-top) dates back to the 5th century, and it is grown on the Tian-mu Mountain (Eyes of Heaven), part of the UNESCO protected biospheres.
Chang-xing (Purple Shoot) is one of the oldest Chinese teas still produced. It won national awards in 1982 and 1986. It is grown on Guizhou Mountain.
Long Ding (Dragon Mountain) has won regional and national awards 26 times, and it comes from Kaihua.
Jinghua (Rock Tea) dates back to the 10th century. It is grown on the mountain of Jinghua, which represents the cradle of Taoism.
Xi Hu Longjing (西湖 龍井, Dragon well) is the most famous Chinese green tea, native to the Hangzhou area, the former Chinese capital. It dates back to the 12th century but became famous in the 17th century.
Da Fang (Big Square) is named after its creator, the Buddhist monk Da Fang, who lived in the 14th century. He is originally from County Xi, known for its picturesque scenery and its wealth of ancient temples and gardens. Other teas from Xi County include Mao Feng, Chao Qing, and Green Peony.
Anji (White Tea) is a green tea produced from a rare variety of tea whose leaves in early spring are still white. The amino acid content of White tea is ten times higher than other green teas, which is why it is very expensive (old estimates say 200 USD for 30 grams).
Gunpowder (珠茶; pinyin: Zhū chá) is Chinese green tea best known around the world, fresh taste and pungent. The main feature of this tea is the shape of small balls that are given to the leaves during processing.
Some Popular Japanese Green Teas
In Japan, when we say “tea,” we mean “green tea” (緑茶; Ryokucha), and this is justified by its diffusion. In Japan, green tea was imported from China during the Song dynasty thanks to Myōan Eisai, a Buddhist priest who also introduced the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism.
The types of tea are classified according to the quality and parts of the plants used and according to the type of processing. There are significant variations in price and quality within these categories. The best Japanese teas come from Uji (Kyoto prefecture), Shizuoka, and Yame (Fukuoka prefecture).
Gyokuro (jade dew): the name is due to the pale green color of the infusion. Unlike Sencha, the tea plant is grown in dim light (covering the plantation with bamboo cane panels or rice straw) for about 20 days before the leaves are harvested. It has a high caffeine content (0.16% in infusion), but the significant content of L-Theanine interferes with the assimilation of caffeine and attenuates its effects. The main types are:
- Kanro Gyokuro (the finest and one of the most expensive Japanese teas)
- Net Gyokuro
Matcha (rubbed tea): the leaves are steamed, dried, and reduced to a fine powder. It is used in the tea ceremony. It is also a flavoring for ice cream and other confectionery in Japan. Matcha also grows in the shade, like Gyokuro. The best types are Uji Midori and Ajirogi.
Sencha (broiled tea): The leaves are directly exposed to sunlight; it is used in Japan for daily consumption and is the most popular Japanese green tea.
Kabusecha (covered tea) is a twilight tea (like Gyokuro) but cut like Sencha; it has a softer taste and a more delicate color than traditional Sencha.
Shincha (new tea) represents Sencha’s first harvest of the year (which usually occurs in April)
Tamaryokucha, also called Guricha, means “curly tea” due to the shape of the leaves; it gives a bright green infusion with a very subtle nutty aroma; it comes from Kyushu.
Fukuyu grows on the slopes of Mount Fuji, rich in vitamin C
Bancha (common tea): it is a naturally low-caffeine tea and is found in variants
Hōjicha (pan-fried tea): consisting of the largest leaves of the shrub slightly toasted (it should be left to infuse for 4-5 minutes)
Kukicha (stalk tea): made of lightly toasted tea sprigs (boiled for 10 minutes)
Genmaicha (Brown-Rice tea): derived from Bancha or Sencha, mixed with rice or puffed wheat; some manufacturers also add a hint of Matcha. It is low in caffeine and has a slightly roasted barley aroma; it is excellent paired with chocolate.
To learn more about the differences between Japanese and Chinese Tea, please watch the videos here:
- Discover Kagoshima, Japan’s 2nd Largest Tea-producing Region. by | May 22, 2023
The Legend of Genmaicha – The Accidental Tea of Japan. by | Aug 10, 2022
You Can Roast Hojicha At Home. by | May 10, 2022