― Lu Yu, Classic of Tea: Origins and Rituals
Green teas are known for their fresh flavor and health benefits. They are predominantly produced throughout China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia during the spring growing season, which runs from March through May.
The regional nuance, the season and time of harvest, the style of leaf and the plucking standard all become apparent when tasting the various types of green tea.
Being by far China's most commonly drunk tea, it is also the most widely grown type of tea. First recognized outside of China in the early 1900's, Chinese green teas quickly became very popular overseas.
The use of tea leaves first started in southwest China more than 3,000 years ago and was originally used by people for chewing or eating. Over time, the use of tea leaves expanded as people began to use them in cooking and to flavor their water.
As green tea originated so long ago, preceding black, white, Oolong and Pu-erh, it is nearly impossible to trace it back to its roots. Some legends tell of a flower falling into a teacup, while others speak of a man eating a leaf and thinking it would be delicious steeped in water.
For centuries, the only type of tea available was green tea.
Green tea was simply the leaves of camellia sinensis placed to steep in hot water. At the time the leaves have not yet undergone any oxidation process as they do today. It existed as tea in its most natural form.
The first notes on green tea history date back to the 8th century, when steaming the leaves in order to promote 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.
Around this time, in 600 AD, the most important book regarding tea was written in China. Lu Yu was the author of Cha Jing, or Tea Classic. The book remains an important historical document, as well as an insight into the daily Chinese life of the time. In the book, Lu Yu spoke in great detail on how exactly a cup of green tea should be made and served. Listing important tea utensils, health benefits, and spiritual observations.
For Lu Yu, tea symbolized the harmony and mysterious unity of the universe. "He invested the Cha Ching with the concept that dominated the religious thought of his age, whether Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian: to see in the particular an expression of the universal".
Today Lu Yu is known as the true founder of tea art, sometimes even worshipped by many in the tea industries as the deity of tea or the tea god.
Later on, during the 800s (Heian period) green tea was first brought to Japan. However, it wasn't until the early 1200s (Kamakura period), where green tea truly became mastered, turning into an art form and a huge part of Japanese culture.
Other Asian countries, such as Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam have also been prominent green tea producers, primarily because of Buddhist influence. Nowadays a few other South Asian and African countries produce mass quality green tea for export, rarely focusing on artisanal skill.
Today there exist countless types of green tea. Gunpowder, Bi Luo Chun, Long Jing, and Jasmine Pearls being some of the most wide-spread Chinese green teas. While Sencha, Genmaicha, and Matcha are the most popular types of Japanese green tea.
Due to its well-known health benefits, nowadays we find green tea in almost everything -- food, medicine, face and body products, aromatherapy... The uses of green tea are endless. While all of these hold their own place, nothing is as pleasurable as sitting down one on one with a cup of quality loose leaf green tea.
While sipping and smelling the aroma, we feel the original inspiration that Lu Yu once felt, which guided him to dedicate his life to the study of this complex beverage. We feel the craftsmanship in every cup, remembering to thank every force that made it possible for us to now enjoy this tea in serenity.