Japanese Green Tea vs Chinese Green Tea: Differences & Similarities

Wondering what the difference is between Japanese Green Tea vs Chinese Green Tea?

In this quick guide, you’ll learn…

  • 1) Intro to Japanese Green Tea
  • 2) Intro to Chinese Green Tea

And once you know a bit about the two, then we’ll get into…

  • 3) Similarities & Differences between Japanese Green Tea vs Chinese Green Tea

So, let’s jump in .

1) Intro to Japanese Green Tea

The first thing you need to know is…. Green tea came from China. It came to Japan around the 9th century and  was originally only for Japanese religious officials. Later it gradually spread to the common people. And now, Green tea is the most popular tea in Japan. You’ll see it served with food, snacks, and found inside desserts. When people refer to tea in Japan, it will almost always mean green tea. 

You’ll see Japanese green tea as either loose leaf teas or in a powder form. The tea leaves are generally processed by steaming, rolling, and drying. Also,, different harvest times and growing conditions can produce varying results and grades of tea. Which is why there are many different types of Japanese tea (more on that below). Most of the green tea in Japan is grown in Shizuoka, Kagoshima, and Mie prefectures.

Here are some common types of green tea in Japan:

  • Sencha: This is a standard green tea that many people drink in Japan. It refers to loose leaf green tea that has been steamed, rolled, and dried.
  • Shincha: Shincha is a special tea that uses the leaves from the first harvest of the season. It has a sweet and mild taste.
  • Gyokuro: The highest grade Japanese green tea is said to be gyokuro. This tea is grown in the shade and has a complex and intense sweetness.
  • Matcha: Green tea leaves that are processed into a powder are called matcha. It is served by adding hot water and whisking it together. The flavors are strong and it can be a great complement with sweet desserts.
  • Hojicha: Hojicha is a roasted green tea that has a smokey and caramelized flavor. This is one of the unique times when Japanese green tea is roasted instead of steamed.
  • Genmaicha: In this tea, roasted brown rice is added to loose leaf green tea. It results in aromas of toasted rice, adding to the umami flavors of the tea.

2) Intro to Chinese Green Tea

China is the origin of green tea and the history of tea dates back thousands of years. Tea was first meant to be used for medicinal purposes, and was later enjoyed as a casual beverage. Before the 13th century, green tea in China was processed by steaming the leaves to make tea leaves more compact. However, pan frying the tea leaves became more popular as time went on.

In China, there is a wide variety of green tea depending on the growing region and the cultivar of the plant. Since there are so many different types of climates and regions, the tea in each region can have unique flavors and aromas. Here are some common types of green tea in China:

  • Biluochun: This is a green tea that is rolled into small spirals that can look like little snails. Biluochun is usually grown in the Dongting mountain region and features a pleasing floral scent.
  • Chun Mee: Originally grown in the Jiangxi province, this tea has an acidic flavor that is unique from other green teas.
  • Xinyang Maojian: This tea is produced in Xinyang city and has a yellowish color when brewed. It features a pleasant sweet and floral taste.
  • Lu’an Melon Seed: Grown in Lu’an city, the name of the tea comes from the melon seed shaped tea leaves. Unlike other Chinese green teas, this tea is made from older leaves instead of the new bud of the plant. It features a nutty flavor.
  • Longjing: This is a green tea that is grown in Hangzhou city that has a gentle and sweet aroma. It is known for its high quality, since it is mostly processed by hand.

3) Japanese vs Chinese Green Tea: Similarities and Differences

First, let’s talk about similarities.

1) Use the Camellia Sinensis plant

Both Japanese and Chinese Green Tea uses the same species of plant for making tea. Green tea originated in China and began to be grown in Japan and both share these similarities.

2) Occasion for drinking tea

In both cultures, tea plays an important role in daily life. People in both countries drink tea casually with meals and with guests at their house. There are also special ceremonies and rituals surrounding tea in Japan and China.

Here are the differences:

1) Categorization of tea

The way that green tea types are categorized in Japan and China follow different methods. In Japan, the green tea is categorized based on the timing of the harvest, and the process of how it is made into tea. In China, the categories of green tea are based more on the region it is grown or the type of cultivar that is used.

2) How it’s processed

Green tea leaves are typically pan fried in China but steamed in Japan. When green tea was introduced to Japan in the 9th century, China had been steaming the tea leaves. Over time, the Chinese changed to pan frying but Japan maintained the steaming process.

3) Different cultivars of the plant

Japan generally uses the same cultivar of plant across the country which was developed in the 1950s. However, in China there are regional differences in the green tea plant cultivars that can change the flavor of the tea.

4) Flavor

Although there can be variation within the types of green tea in each country, Chinese and Japanese green tea tend to have a different flavor. Chinese green tea is more aromatic and floral, but Japanese green tea has a more earthy umami rich flavor.

4) Conclusion — Back to You

Now you know a bit about Japanese green tea and Chinese green tea. The similarities. The differences. And the origins of both.

Which is your favorite?

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