Every year on 1st October, Japanese tea merchants visit the shrine of Sohen Nagatani as a sign of gratitude for making tea accessible.
The word “cha” means tea in Mandarin, Japanese, Thai and Bangla while it’s known as “chai” in India and Pakistan- making cha or chai a commonly recognised word by more than 3 billion people.
I recently read that Coca Cola is the second-most recognized word in the world, after “OK”. If you think about it, this isn’t surprising given Coke’s status as a must-have beverage at homes, eateries, and canteens for over three generations.
What’s less-known, or perhaps more surprising, is that tea is the world’s second-most consumed beverage-after water.
I believe that in our relentless search for longer, healthier lives everyone wants to jump onto the tea wagon, especially the 18-35 age group. Green tea, it seems, has become the new black.
Green tea has seen a real boost in demand in the last couple of years, with a 60% increase in sales worldwide.
Green tea comes from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant and undergoes minimum oxidation during its processing. China is the biggest exporter of green tea, and Asia is its largest market, although the beverage’s popularity is growing quickly in the UK and the United States.
There are three top-of-the-shelf types of green tea: Chinese green tea (usually Longjing and Long Ding tea), Japanese Sencha, and Japanese Matcha.
To understand why these teas are drawing in a growing number of younger fans, we must dig a little deeper into what’s so special about these three teas.
Chinese Green Tea
If legend is to be believed, green tea has been used in China even before the Bronze Age. Way, way back in 2,700 BC, the Chinese used tea leaves for cooking.
Between the 7th and 10th century, people in China began to steam green tea leaves, brew them in hot water and drink it. It is during this period that drinking tea became part of the social and cultural ethos of the country.
The most famous and the highest-graded Chinese green tea come from the Zhejiang province. This includes Longjing (Dragon Well) and Long ding (Dragon Mountain). Both teas use the pan-drying method that was introduced in the 12th century.
Longjing is mostly processed by hand, making it a tea that is highly graded and priced. In the 17th century, Longjing was given the title of Gong Cha or imperial tea.
When brewed, Longjing has a green-yellow hue and a sweet, mellow flavour.
Long ding, on the other hand, comes from the fresh, new leaves of the tea shrub. Once dried, the leaves turn olive green and are slightly thicker than other green teas.
Long ding is aromatic, and has a wonderful flowery flavour and a sweet after taste.
Japanese Green Tea
In 1271, the tea plant was brought to Japan, from China, by a Buddhist monk.
In Japan, the best tea was Matcha tea. Matcha was extremely rare and therefore expensive. Matcha tea leaves were powdered and brewed in hot water. Till date, Matcha is associated with elaborate and traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.
In 1681, Sohen Nagatani brought tea to masses by introducing the Uji tea processing method, which allowed tea to be affordable and tea farmers to earn more. The process called for drying and kneading of leaves using heat.
Today, the most popular tea in Japan is Sencha green tea. Sencha is steamed and rolled, and retains almost all of its natural and nutritional properties.
The difference between Matcha and Sencha: Matcha is grown in the shade, under a canopy. Sencha grows in the sunlight. Sencha is dark green and has a refreshing, vegetal flavour. Matcha is bright green, and has a creamy texture and flavour when brewed.
Back to Now
Let’s agree, drinking green tea doesn’t have the same excitement or draw of alcohol or coffee. So why is green tea so popular among the young?
It’s got to do with this generation’s insatiable need to have it all and have it now. We want to be healthy, strong, beautiful, focused, and fashionable. Green tea fits the bill like a dream.
Not calorific, and good for weight loss, green tea also detoxes the body, improves brain function, promotes cardiovascular health, and lowers cholesterol.
If that were not enough, green tea is also a stimulant. It contains caffeine, though in much lower concentrations than coffee, and two other stimulants, theobromine and theophylline. This explains why green tea sales pick up during the exam season.
Finally, there is an aura about green tea that is particularly attractive, almost cool. It has to do with its legacy and history, with the rituals associated with it, and how it’s an acquired taste. It’s the drink of choice for the curious, the cult-seekers, the fashionable, the go-getters, and the dreamers.