What's the difference between Chinese and Japanese green tea?

To the untrained eye, there may not been a lot of difference between green teas from China and Japan. While the plant which provides the green tea may be the same, there are some key differences in their processing method which gives each one its distinctive look and taste.

1) Processing
Once the tea leaves are harvested, the differences begin. Japanese green tea leaves are steamed soon after they’re picked, stopping oxidisation. Added to the rolling process, you can be sure of them retaining the natural green shade, fragrance and nutritional levels. Chinese green tea is generally heated in a pan after being picked, which gives it a very different taste.

2) Varieties
China’s most popular drink is green tea, with the pan fired leaves being used in popular brews such as Long Jing, Gunpowder, and Jasmine Green. In China, the larger land mass allows for more varieties of tea to be grown, and single variety teas are popular. Japanese green tea, such as Sencha, Matcha, Hojicha and Genmaicha, tends to focus on blending available species of the tree plant, creating new flavours from traditional leaves. Japan has also embraced technology when it comes to green tea, using highly efficient machinery to pick the tea leaves in all but the most exclusive green teas.

3) The tea ceremony
There are big differences between the tea ceremony in China and Japan. In China, the focus is on the tea. The smell and taste are of utmost importance, so there’s no hard and fast way to make the tea. Tea is made in a clay tea pot, which supposedly absorbs any impurities, and tea is added to the pot with chopsticks or a bamboo scoop. Less than one minute of brewing occurs, before the server half fills cups. The empty half of the cup is for filling with friendship. After smelling the tea, each guest taps the table three times with their finger, which is a way of expressing their thanks, before drinking the tea.

In Japan, the key equipment is called Cha-dogu (means tea tools), and is revered and respected. Each ceremony starts with cleansing of the chadogu in front of participants. Participants drink from bowls, not cups. A large communal bowl of tea is passed around, rotating with each drinker to allow for a clean drinking surface. With the tea meeting everyone’s approval, the host heats more water, and prepares an individual bowl of tea for each guest before cleaning the chadogu, allowing guests to appreciate each piece.

Wherever you’re drinking your green tea, you can be sure that you’re enjoying a drink which is steeped in history and tradition.