Tea (camellia sinensis) indeed originated in China. Green tea also originated in China. However, Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea vary quite a bit. From Chinese green tea coming in various elaborate shapes and colors to Japanese green tea, which tends to have a darker green color and small flat tea leaves after processing. With so many different tea varieties, green tea is still by far the most commonly consumed tea in both China and Japan. So what are the main differences between Japanese and Chinese green tea?
The History of Green Tea
Historically tea in China has existed for over 3000 years. With the first notes on tea history dating back to the 8th century, when steaming the leaves to halt oxidation was discovered. In the 12th century frying the green tea leaves was also introduced. Both processing methods brought about teas with a characteristic un-oxidized taste similar to modern green teas. As the popularity of green tea rapidly increased with time, the methods of producing it have also continuously evolved and improved.
By the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), tea drinking became a well-established part of Chinese society and culture. During this time, a more concrete tea culture, as well as tea ceremonies, began to be formalized. The process of steaming the tea leaves gradually progressed, allowing for the production of better tasting, less bitter, green teas.
During the Heian period (800s), green tea was first brought to Japan. Although it wasn't until the Kamakura period (the early 1200s), where green tea truly became mastered. During the Kamakura period, green tea took its roots as an art form and a huge part of Japanese culture.
Today countless types of green tea exist all over the world. Some of the most wide-spread Chinese green teas are Gunpowder, Bi Luo Chun, Long Jing, and Jasmine Pearls. While the most popular types of Japanese green tea are Sencha, Genmaicha, and Matcha.
Green Tea Processing
In its origin in China, tea was drunk as a powder, most similar to modern-day matcha. With time, numerous different processing methods developed, which varied greatly throughout China's many regions. When tea was brought over to Japan, it was prepared as a powder, following the earlier Chinese traditions. This powdered tea, matcha, flourished during the Edo period. To this day, for over 800 years, Japanese farmers and tea masters have been keeping the traditions alive, continually working to develop better growing and processing methods to get the finest, deep green matcha green tea powder.
Focussing solely on loose leaf teas, the most significant difference between Chinese and Japanese teas is the processing method. While there are many different tea cultivars within the tea industry, it is the processing method that truly shapes the tea.
In China, a variety of methods are used to process green tea, including pan-frying, roasting, and steaming. After which the teas can be rolled or shaped in a variety of ways, usually by hand. In Japan, the most commonly used method is steaming, although roasting also exists, particularly for the Japanese roasted green tea hojicha. Afterward, the tea leaves are further shaped using special machines, which form uniform needle-like tea leaves.
Comparing tea types, there are by far more different varieties of green tea in China than there are in Japan.
How To Brew Green Tea?
In China green tea is most frequently brewed gong fu style, in a gaiwan or teapot, or otherwise grandpa-style. In Japan, however, green tea is customarily brewed in a kyusu teapot. While the individual varieties of green tea are more uniform in Japan, brewing the tea in a kyusu ensures the optimal flavor of the tea.