Japanese Green Tea vs Chinese Green Tea - 10 battles you don't want to miss

by Kei Nishida

Japanese Green Tea vs Chinese Green Tea - 10 battles you don't want to miss

Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea both come from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. However in many ways the similarities stop there. From when and how they're processed to the benefits they serve, Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea differ. Which one is "better" is the subject of this battle, comparing each on 10 ranging criteria.

1. History: Chinese Green Tea is the Original Green Tea

Green tea originated some five thousand years ago in China, with the first documented use of it appearing in 600 A.D. in the book "The Classic of Tea" by Chinese writer Yu Lu. Over 4,000 years later, in about 800 A.D., green tea migrated outside of China to other parts of the world. It spread first throughout Asia, starting in Japan where it was brought back from China by Japanese Buddhist monks.

The Classic of Tea written by Lu Yu in 760AD

The Classic of Tea written by Lu Yu in 760 AD during the Tang Dynasty in China

 

2. Culture: Japanese Green Tea Helped Forge a Culture

When green tea came to Japan the people there soon integrated it into their culture. The Japanese turned the drinking of green tea into a formal occasion, developing rituals and rites for its use. What blossomed into the renowned Japanese Tea Ceremony, or chanoyu, elevates the drinking of green tea from merely a personal and social activity to a ceremonial one.

Tea Ceremony

Currently, 5 million people are trained in at least one school of the Japanese Tea ceremony.

 

3. Aesthetics: Chinese Green Tea Comes in Many Pretty Forms

When Chinese green tea leaves are processed it is done by hand, and can be "sculpted" into many shapes, including being rolled into balls, twisted into spirals and smoothed into swords. This adds an element of variety and aesthetics to the tea-drinking experience. By contrast, when Japanese green tea is processed it is done by machine, and is either pulverized into a powder, called matcha, or rolled into uniform needle shapes, called sencha. This makes drinking Japanese green tea a less artful and more utilitarian experience. 

Kuding Tea

Kuding tea, Chinese tea which is particularly bitter-tasting used for common cold and headache

4. Health Benefits: Japanese Green Tea Has More Antioxidants

One of the primary health benefits attributed to green tea is its high concentration of immune-enhancing antioxidants. Japanese green tea contains more antioxidants than Chinese green tea, with 60% antioxidants compared with Chinese green tea's 12-16 percent.  (Read more about EGCG and Antioxidants on my other article.)

Sources:
"Japanese vs. Chinese Green Tea" by Stephanie Lee. Livestrong.com. http://www.livestrong.com/article/495604-japanese-vs-chinese-green-tea/

"What's Really In Green Tea Supplements, Brewable Teas, and Bottled Drinks?" ConsumerLabs, December 2012. https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Green_Tea_Review_Supplements_and_Bottled/Green_Tea/

EGCG

EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is antioxidants or substances that combat free radicals, which can damage DNA and alter or even kill cells in the body. 

 

5. Variety: Chinese Green Tea Comes in Thousands of Varieties

Japanese green tea production is dominated by a primary cultivar named Yabukita. As such, the number of varieties of Japanese green tea is limited. Chinese green tea, by contrast, is available in thousands of different varieties, each named for the type of green tea it's said to produce. For a true green tea connoisseur, there's far more to explore in varieties of Chinese green tea than Japanese green tea.

Chinese Tea Shop

Chinese tea shop filled with variety of tea types

6. Weight Loss: Japanese Green Tea Increases Metabolism

A type of antioxidant found in green tea, called EGCGs, is known to promote a healthy balance in blood sugar levels. A study reported in "Journal of Chromatography" in September of 2003 found that Japanese green tea contains more than 100x the levels of EGCGs as does Chinese green tea. In another study, published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in December of 1999, these EGCGs were also found to increase thermogenesis. This is the process the body uses to metabolize fat in order to increase or maintain body temperature.

Read more about EGCG and green tea on my other article.
Read more about weight loss and green tea on my other article.

Sources:
"Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography." DJ Weiss and CR Anderton. Journal of Chromatography, September 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14518774

"Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans 1,2,3" AG Dulloo and others. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 1999. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/6/1040.full

green tea diet

Anti-oxidant Element in Green Tea Helps Break Down Fat

7. Availability: Chinese Green Tea is Everywhere!

China is the world's largest exporter of green tea, producing 80% of the world's supply. By contrast, Japan, producing only 7% and exporting only 1%, grows less green tea than even Indonesia and Vietnam. Therefore Chinese green tea is far more commonly sold than Japanese green tea, and its prevalence makes it much cheaper in cost. Most of the green tea you see on store shelves and restaurant tables is Chinese green tea. By contrast, Japanese green tea is considered a specialty item and often only found in boutique shops and on the Internet.

Source:
"Intergovernmental Group on Tea, UN Food and Agriculture Organization." (2012). Current situation and medium-term outlook for tea (p. 16). http://www.fao.org/economic/est/est-commodities/tea/tea-meetings/tea22/en/

Chinese green tea farm

Chinese green tea farm - producing 80% of the world's supply

8. Flavor: Japanese Green Tea isn't Fermented

This is a highly-subjective criterion for evaluating any food or drink. However, that said, there is at least minor consensus on a particular distinction of flavor between the two types of green tea. Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea are processed differently. In the processing of Chinese green tea, the leaves become slightly fermented. This is because in processing Chinese green tea the leaves are stored and then pan-fried whereas in Japanese green tea the leaves are steamed immediately after being picked. The storing of tea leaves before processing can produce fermentation that pan-frying alone cannot remove. The processing of tea leaves immediately after being picked, by contrast, precludes the fermentation process from initiating, while steaming would eliminate any anomalous fermentation that may occur preceding this step. For some people, this fermentation produces a slightly tart or sour flavor they may find undesirable. Japanese green tea leaves are not fermented when processed and therefore do not contain this subtle, potentially unwanted, additional flavor. Instead Japanese green tea tends to taste sweeter than Chinese green tea. (Contrarily, Japanese green tea also contains more chlorophyll, which some green tea drinkers find too "grassy" for their tastes.)

Source:
"Food Chemistry" Belitz, HD; Grosch, W; Schieberle, P. Springer Science & Business Media, April 2004. 

Japanese green tea equipment

Green Tea Processing equipment used by Arahataen, Japan - Japanese green tea, sencha, is steamed to prevent fermentation

9. Cost: Chinese Green Tea Producers Must Compete For Your Cup

Because of the massive prevalence of Chinese green tea, competitors are forced to maintain low prices in order to sell their product. Therefore Chinese green tea tends to cost consumers a lot less than Japanese green tea. Likewise, because Japanese green tea is harder to find and mostly only sold online or in specialty shops, it tends to be more expensive than its Chinese counterpart.

tea market

Chinese green tea tends to cost consumers a lot less than Japanese green tea

10. Impurities: Japanese Green Tea Contains No Lead

In 2006 a study examining the lead-content of green tea found that 32% of Chinese green tea leaves sampled contained more than the approved limit per serving of 2 micrograms of lead. By contrast, none of the Japanese green tea leaves sampled exceeded this lead limit. This is believed to be a consequence of the higher-rates of industrial pollution in China than Japan. (To protect yourself from the lead-content in Chinese green tea, avoid organic Chinese green tea and Chinese matcha, drink decaffeinated Chinese green tea, or use a filter when you brew it.)

Source:
"Scale and causes of lead contamination in Chinese tea." WY Han and others. Environmental Pollution, January 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15998560

japanese green tea

 None of the Japanese green tea leaves sampled exceeded this lead limit

And the winner is...

It's a draw! 5 to 5. Chinese green tea wins on factors of history, aesthetics, variety, availability and cost. Japanese green tea wins on factors of culture, health benefits, weight loss, flavor and impurities. Which green tea you pour into your cup depends on which of these criteria matter most to you. Whichever green tea you choose, may you drink it in good health.

 

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Kei Nishida
Kei Nishida

Author

Kei Nishida, PMP is a writer, a Japanese Green Tea enthusiast, and the founder and CEO of JapaneseGreenTeaIn.com. With two books behind him and more on the way, this entertaining author brings his passion for Green Tea wherever he goes.

His two books "I Will Teach YOU How to be healthy by Using Japanese Green Tea!: Surprising Facts and Tips for How You can Take Best Advantage of This Amazing Plant" and "Green Tea Mania : 250+ Green Tea Facts, Cooking and Brewing Tips & Trivia You (Probably) Didn't Know" are available in print and Kindle Book on Amazon.
These books and his blog Japanese Green Tea and Health provides health related tips and research findings focusing on green tea and its health benefit in variety of ways.

Kei’s love of Green Tea and passion for writing has helped make him a feature author on sites and Magazines such as Yoga Digest Magazine, T-Ching, Sexy Fit Vegan, and Woman’s Daily Magazine.

His enthusiasm for health and tea pushed him to developing his company, JapaneseGreenTeaIn.com, where he brings the very best in Japanese Green Tea to customers all over the world.

Kei grew up in Japan and moved to USA at the age of 14, now living in Portland, Oregon. In his earlier carrier, he was Software Engineer at Hewlett Packard Inc. Kei takes advantage of being bi-lingual in Japanese and English, as well as his science background for his research and writing. Information you find in his books and blogs are a combination of the best content and research from Japan and all around the world.

Books By Kei Nishida

I will Teach You How to Be Healthy By Using Japanese Green Tea

Paperback: 112 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1541252454
ISBN-13: 978-1541252455
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
Click Here to View Table of Contents and First 2 Chapters



Green Tea Mania : 250+ Green Tea Facts, Cooking and Brewing Tips & Trivia You (Probably) Didn't Know

Green Tea Mania : 250+ Green Tea Facts, Cooking and Brewing Tips & Trivia You (Probably) Didn't Know
Paperback: 120 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1544093322
ISBN-13: 978-1544093321
Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.3 x 6 inches
Click Here to View Table of Contents and First 2 Chapters



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What makes Fukamushi Green Tea taste so much better than other green teas? Here are five reasons that set it apart, contributing to its unique taste.

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Steeping Guide

Steeping Guide - Hot

  1. Dissolve 2 teaspoon of powder into 8 Oz of hot water. We recommend about 175°F for most common green tea.

    Please note that our product page has different recommended temperature based on type of tea between 175°F- 185°F; however, 175°F can be the most common and standard temperature that would work for any type of our green tea.

    Steeping guide

  2. Wait for 60-120 seconds  (Please follow steeping guide on the product for specific time based on type of tea.)

  3. Use mesh strainer to filter out the green tea leave and serve hot

Steeping Guide - Cold

  1. Dissolve 3-4 teaspoon of powder into 30 Oz of cold water.  For best result, use filtered water, bottled water. Alternatively, you can boil water and let it cool down until room temperature. 

  2. Keep in refrigerator for 3 hours or more. Key point is to use longer time to dissolve. This way, sweetness increases, and it does not break down theanine and vitamin C.  For best result, let it sit for overnight. 

  3. Stair the water first, then use mesh strainer to filter out the green tea leave and serve cold.