Which is Better – Japanese Green Tea Or Chinese Green Tea?

There’s been an ongoing debate between tea enthusiasts as to the differences between Japanese and Chinese green teas. The teas produced in the two countries have distinct differences. The production method, taste and quality are not the same.

The History of Green Tea

Legends record that tea was first consumed in China about 4,000 years ago. Green tea, however, took another 1,300 years or so to make its appearance. In 1191, the Book of Tea was written by a Zen priest, who wrote about the many benefits of green tea.

How Green Tea is Produced

Both Japanese and Chinese green tea is made from the leaves of the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. The finest teas are those made with new leaves picked during the spring. The traditional method is a multi-stage process, that involves withering and then heating the leaves to preserve freshness and prevent oxidation.

In China, green teas are often panfired before being hand-rolled into various shapes. In Japan, the leaves are steamed before rolling, contributing to the delicate flavor of Japanese green tea. Rolling helps to preserve the flavor of the tea by regulating the release of the natural oils.

It has been reported that Japanese green tea contains 60% antioxidants, much higher than the 12-16% found in Chinese green tea.

Producing Matcha Green Tea

Before the leaves are harvested from the tea plants in May, the plants are covered with mats. This causes the leaves to produce more chlorophyll, resulting in the rich green shade of matcha green tea. After steaming and drying, the tea leaves are pulverized into the familiar tea powder used in Japanese tea ceremonies. The powder contains only the “flesh” of the leaf, not including the stems or nerves.

The Flavor and Quality Difference

Steaming produces the delicate, grassy flavor of Japanese green tea. Pan-fired Chinese green tea tends to have a stronger, toasty or earthy taste. A 2006 study found that some Chinese green teas contained lead at 50 times the legal limit. This is not true of all Chinese teas, by any means, but the quality is not as consistent as it is with the Japanese teas.

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