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What is the difference between pan-fired and steamed green teas?

Before we get into the difference between pan-fired and steamed, lets note the difference between black tea and green tea. Summed up in one word, the biggest difference between black and green tea is oxidation. Once tea leaves are exposed to oxygen they begin the process known as oxidative browning. Similar to what occurs in apples when they are cut and left exposed to oxygen they begin to turn brown. Tea can follow this same process unless it is halted. Black tea does not stop the oxidation process. Their leaves are left to fully oxidize which turns the tea leaves completely brown. On the other hand, as soon as the leaves for green tea are plucked, they are heated to around 150° F stopping the oxidation process therefore preserving the green color in the leaves.

There are many ways to heat the tea leaves, but the two most popular methods for which we will be talking about today are pan-firing and steaming. Now, while there is historical evidence that suggests that anciently the Chinese steamed their green teas to stop the oxidative process, the pan-firing method, once introduced, ultimately won out in China. Really, the only Chinese tea that reverted back to steaming is the En Shi Yu Lu of the Hubei province. This tea was very well received later in Japan that it was honored with the name ‘Chinese Gyokuro’. The Japanese, in general, steam their green tea rather than pan-fry. However, there is one Japanese green tea that is pan-fired called Kamairicha. BUT, in generally, Chinese green teas are pan-fired while Japanese green teas are steamed. Learn more>>>

So, What’s the Difference?

Pan-Firing: This is the process by which tea is heated gradually in a large wok until it reaches 150° F. This process takes more time and produces a toastier roasted flavor. A premium Dragonwell green tea has a very specific way in which it follows this process and the results produce a distinct roasted chestnut flavor. The grassy green, vegetal flavors of the tea, therefore, take a back seat to the more nutty and toasted nuances.

Steaming: This is the process by which the tea leaves are steamed which tends to heat the tea leaves faster, in most cases taking only a minute or so to reach 150° F. This makes the tea grassier and more vegetal giving it that distinct Japanese umami flavor. However, the steam time, anywhere between 30 secs and 2 mins, is partially responsible for the variables of the tea including the color of the leaves and liquor, the aromas and especially the flavor.

Examples of Pan-Fired and Steamed Green Teas



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