Interested in green tea? Here are 10 things you should know about this variety of tea.

Interested in green tea? Here are 10 things you should know about this variety of tea.

Michele Lillie

According to a 2021 study by The Tea Association of the USA, about 84% of all tea consumed in the US was black tea, whereas only 15% was green tea. Part of the reason that the percentage of green tea drinkers is so low is that many people do not understand green tea or how to brew it into a delicious beverage. Here are ten things to know about Green tea.

A white cup and saucer filled with green tea setting on a green background with the words "Green Tea"" above it.


Green tea comes from the same plant as other types of tea, the Camellia Sinensis tea plant. The leaves of this plant are also used to make black, oolong and pu-erh teas. The difference is in the processing of the tea leaves.

Green tea leaves growing in a tea plantation.


Although green tea can be made from tea plants grown in every country, the two leading producers are China and Japan.


Even though green tea is defined by its processing, the world of green tea is not monolithic. Different ways of growing and processing, as well as the tea plant cultivar, will significantly affect the appearance and flavor of the particular green tea.


There are hundreds of different cultivars of this tea plant. Tea growers in China make tea from at least six hundred cultivars. Japanese-grown green tea is mainly made from just one cultivar (Yabukita), making the tea more uniform. 


The distinguishing characteristic of green tea is that the leaves are not allowed to oxidize as in other tea types. Oxidation is the process whereby enzymes within the leaf cells are exposed to oxygen, causing a browning process. This is similar to what happens when you cut an apple and leave it exposed to the air.


During the processing of green tea, the enzymes that cause oxidation are inactivated by heat. There are two methods: the first uses dry heat, and the second uses steam heat. The choice of method will make a difference in the tea's color, aroma and flavor.


Chinese tea may be processed in various ways but usually involves applying dry heat to prevent oxidation.


Japanese green tea is always processed by using steam rather than dry heat. This results in tea that is greener in color in the dry leaf form and, often, the brewed liquid. 

Tea leaves being tossed by a man


Japanese tea farmers use two different cultivation methods – sun-grown and shade-grown.

Sun-grown teas – these teas are grown so that they are continuously exposed to the sunlight. Sun-grown teas have lower levels of chlorophyll and higher levels of polyphenols, making them more vegetal in flavor with more astringency. They are also lighter in color.

Shade-grown teas – these teas spend part of their growing time in a purposely shaded environment. This reduces the rate of photosynthesis and forces the plants to produce a higher concentration of chlorophyll. They also have decreased levels of polyphenols. This results in a smoother, more mellow and less astringent tea. However, they do tend to have more umami notes. They also have increased levels of caffeine. At the same time, there is an increased amount of theanine produced. This is an amino acid that promotes a sense of calm and mitigates the stimulating effect of caffeine. Visually, these teas are darker and more vivid green than the sun-grown teas. 


Chinese green teas have less vegetal flavors, often compared to steamed leeks, green beans or bok choy. Because of the high heat used in the drying process, they also develop a mild sweetness and honey-like character.


Japanese green teas have more body, such as in a vegetable broth. This Yabukita cultivar is said to produce a greater concentration of amino acids, giving Japanese teas more vegetal and umami flavor notes. Descriptors used are steamed spinach, sauteed green bell peppers and seaweed. 


A major reason many people do not like green tea is that they brew it incorrectly. These are not teas over which you pour boiling water and just let it steep for however long you like. These are tea leaves that need to be treated with care by brewing with cooler water and for less time than black tea. See this post for more detail.

White bowl of green tea leaves setting next to a white cup with green tea being poured into ti.


There are many different ways that teas are named, and they are not specific to green teas. The same tea might even have more than one name. Here are just a few of the ways tea is named.


  • Place of origin – the area in which the tea is grown. For example, Long Jing green tea is named for the traditional area where it is grown.

  • Cultivar – some teas are named after a particular cultivar. Jin Xuan is one. Most of us know it by Milk Oolong, a type of lightly oxidized oolong tea with a creamy or milky finish that is characteristic of teas made from the leaves of this cultivar.

  • Leaf appearance – an example is Yin Zhen, which is translated to Silver Needles because of the appearance of these new fuzzy, silvery leaf buds.

  • Liquor appearance - Gyokuro is one of Japan’s highest-quality teas. Its name translates to “Jade Dew” and refers to the pale green color of a brewed cup of gyokuro.

  • Processing – the name of the tea might be based on the shape of the leaf produced by the processing method. Gunpowder green tea is named for the tight balls into which the tea is rolled, similar to gunpowder pellets. Matcha is another example. This finely ground green tea’s name translates to “rubbed tea,” which refers to how the tea leaves are ground into matcha powder.

  • Legend – this is especially true for Chinese teas. Examples are Dragon Well and Bi Luo Chun. The only problem is that different sources attribute different legends to the same name.

  • Artistic name – some names are said to be picked just because they sound nice and would be great for marketing. For example, Dong Fang Mei Ren means Oriental Beauty. That name has nothing to do with the tea’s origin, shape or processing. However, that particular tea has become known by that name.

  • Flavor or fragrance – some teas such as Milan Xiang get the name from its honey orchid fragrance, which is the translation of the name.

Caffeine content

Many people think that green tea has less caffeine than other types of tea. This may or may not be true depending on the type of green tea and how it is brewed. For the truth about caffeine in all types of tea, see this post.

We hope that by understanding these aspects of green tea, you can find a variety that suits your tastes and preferences, enhancing your appreciation and enjoyment of this delightful beverage.

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