Green tea is a popular beverage enjoyed by many people around the world. However, not all green teas are created equal. One factor that can greatly impact the flavor and aroma of green tea is the method used to process the tea leaves. In particular, the two most popular methods are pan-firing and steaming. So, what’s the difference between the two?
The Oxidation Process
Before delving into the differences between pan-fired and steamed green tea, it’s important to understand the basics of tea oxidation. Tea leaves contain enzymes that react with oxygen when exposed to air. This process, known as oxidative browning, causes the leaves to turn brown and lose their fresh, green color. Black tea is produced by allowing the tea leaves to fully oxidize, while green tea is processed in a way that halts oxidation to preserve the green color of the leaves.
Pan-Firing Green Tea
Pan-firing is a traditional Chinese method of processing green tea. In this method, tea leaves are gradually heated in a large wok until they reach a temperature of around 150°F. This process takes more time and produces a toastier, roasted flavor. The grassy green, vegetal flavors of the tea take a back seat to the more nutty and toasted nuances. A premium Dragonwell green tea follows a specific pan-firing process that results in a distinct roasted chestnut flavor.
Steamed Green Tea
The Japanese, on the other hand, tend to steam their green tea rather than pan-fry it. In this method, the tea leaves are steamed, which tends to heat them faster, taking only a minute or so to reach the desired temperature. This results in a grassier and more vegetal flavor, giving it that distinct Japanese umami flavor. The length of the steam time, anywhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, is partially responsible for the variables of the tea, including the color of the leaves and liquor, the aromas, and especially the flavor.
In summary, the difference between pan-fired and steamed green tea lies in the processing method used to heat the tea leaves. Pan-firing produces a toastier, roasted flavor, while steaming produces a grassier, more vegetal flavor. Whether you prefer one over the other ultimately comes down to personal preference. However, understanding the differences between these methods can help you make more informed choices when selecting your next cup of green tea.