Green tea is a kind of tea that has been very popular in China and Japan for centuries, and has recently seen a massive explosion in popularity in the West. Its rise is linked in many ways to that of the alternative health movement, which sees green tea as having a range of traditional healing properties and abilities to cure diseases. Although these claims have not been proven, there is documentation for belief in them that goes back over a thousand years.
Some green tea is produced outside China and Japan, but it is mostly considered to be cheap imitations of the ‘real thing’ and not worth paying attention to, with the possible exception of a few Indian teas. Most green tea drinkers still import their tea from the East, considering this to be the best tea, and some green teas have become especially famous, such as Japanese sencha, and the Chinese teas Longjing, Hou Kui, Piluochun, and many more besides. Although most supermarkets still only stock one form of generic ‘green tea’, which is usually of very poor quality, health food and herbal shops will generally have a whole range of high-quality, albeit expensive, green teas to choose from.
In Japan, green tea is used as part of a ‘tea ceremony’, a Buddhist tradition where tea is specially prepared and served to the people present. Participating in the ceremony at all requires intimate knowledge of how it works, meaning that few non-Japanese have ever done so. Tea holds an interesting place in Chinese culture, too, with making tea often being used as a means of non-verbal communication to express sentiments like “I’m sorry” or “thank you”. The mythos surrounding tea in Eastern cultures allows the Western green tea drinker to feel that they are taking part in something ancient, traditional and mysterious simply by drinking green tea, and to a certain extent they are.