Green tea is processed and grown in a variety of ways, depending on the type of green tea desired. As a result of these methods, maximum amounts of polyphenols and antioxidants are retained, giving maximum green tea benefits. The growing conditions can be broken down into two basic types - those grown in the sun and those grown under the shade. The green tea plants are grown in rows that are pruned to produce shoots in a regular manner, and are generally harvested three times per year. The first flush takes place in late April to early May. The second harvest usually takes place from June through July, and the third picking takes place in late July to early August. Sometimes, there will also be a fourth harvest. It is the first flush in the spring which brings the best quality leaves, with higher prices to match.
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Processed green teas, known as "aracha" are stored under low humidity refridgeration in 30 or 60 kg paper bags at 0-5°C (32-41°F). This aracha has yet to be refined at this stage, with a final firing taking place before blending, selection, and packaging takes place. The leaves in this state will be refired throughout the year as they are needed, giving the green teas a longer shelf life and better flavor. The first flush tea of May will readily store in this fashion until the next year's harvest. After this redrying process, each crude tea will be sifted and graded according to size. Finally, each lot will be blended according to the blend order by the tasters and packed for sale.
An overview of the basic processing methods for various green teas
||Shade Grown||Sun Grown|
|90%+ Shading for 2 weeks||40-50% for 1-2 weeks
Late April to Early May. First harvest is known as "Ichiban-cha" or "Shincha" - The highest quality tea that will be produced in the year.
|Fresh Leaves||Fresh Leaves|
Steaming at 95-100°C for 30-45 seconds, longer for "Fukamushi"
||1st Drying||1st Drying
24 minutes @ room temperature
|2nd Rolling/Drying||2nd Rolling/Drying||2nd Rolling/Drying
|3rd Rolling/Drying||3rd Rolling/Drying||Final Rolling/Drying
|Final Drying||Final Drying||Final Drying
30 minutes, reduction of moisture content to 5%
Removal of stems & debris. For matcha, only the inner, fine part of the leaf is used
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