Green Tea: Production

Workman checking evenness of twist-forming of the steamed tealea

Green tea production: workman checking evenness of twist-forming of the steamed tealeaves in a production line in a tea factory in Zhejiang. In green tea production, there are large factories, medium factories such as this one, traditional family hand-work factories of various sizes and those that operate in a small house.

production styles

Variations in production processing styles and the use of cultivars, the simple principle of fixing the tea quite immediately after the leaf is plucked gives rise to thousands of varieties and qualities in the category of green tea. This is further multiplied by the natural changes in the biochemistry of a same plant when it adapts to the different growing environment in the wide-ranging producing regions today.

Contrary to common perception, not all green teas are green. Well, sort of. Some are so very pale that they appear white, some very dark that are almost black, some intensely green, some yellowish or grayish. The colour of the dried tealeaves is dependent on the nature of the original material, the production process, and the finishing process. It may also change when it is not properly stored and when it ages. The colour discrepancy between different selections of the same variety can be a clue to detect difference in quality, but not so for that between different varieties; i.e. a greener tea is not necessarily better than one that is not so green.

Three classic representation of the 3 most used green tea production process: (left to right) Longjing, roasted; Gyokuro, steamed; and Huangshan Maofeng, baked.

There are four major green tea production methods today:

  • Air/sun-drying
  • Steaming
  • Baking
  • Wok-roasting (referred to as cao qing in China, kamairicha in Japan, inappropriately translated as “frying” by some)

While a production may be made with one (or a combination of some) of the four ways listed above, it may also be styled in shape or natural-shape. Some air/sun-dried productions, and some baked ones are natural shape. Most others are styled. This gives us another way of categorization — by shape. I’ll list them here, although I think this is a most superficial way of categorization, and will not use it in this site.

Alternative categorization by shape (note):

  1. Round (Smooth needles),
  2. Downy needles,
  3. Curled and/or twisted,
  4. Twisted & straightened,
  5. Flattened,
  6. Beads (either tightly rolled leaves or really made into small spheres), and
  7. Orchids (retaining the natural form of the pluck standard of one or two young leaves with a shoot)

The 7 common styled forms in green tea production. From left to right, in the same order as the alternative categorization list.

Throughout the main producing regions for fine green teas, there are hundreds of major producers and thousands of smaller ones all trying to find marketing niches for their productions. A lot are quite similar. I’ll therefore, present only a few examples per sub-category in order to represent the array of varieties available. The selection criteria are quality, origin, character uniqueness, and accessibility of the genuine products. Omissions at this moment may also be a result of timing. The materials of this site will grow on a regular basis. The reader is welcome to register for regular updates of this site.

• orientation • production • origin & history • tasting notes • health notes • tea list gallery
Some other scholars have categorized by shape in a total of 10 categories, rather than 7 as in here. Their way of distinguishing shapes is a little too details and subtle. I have merge them into these 7 for easier comprehension.

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