The Soul of Green Tea

Does your cup of Shan Valley green tea have a soul?

In this case, we’re not referring to a religious connotation – but rather, the “essence” of what makes green tea...green tea! In other words, when you drink it, what makes you say to yourself, “Ahhhh, this is definitely green tea!”

Most would agree this defining quality is the mildly refreshing astringent note your taste buds report when you take a sip. That enjoyable astringency is caused by tannins. It gives green tea its unique taste.

The word “tannin” is a catch-all term used to describe a component of plant compounds found in green tea known as polyphenols. (Read more about the health-related benefits of polyphenols here.)

Green tea tannins are the lightest of these tannins, and they are part of the tea plant’s way of both protecting itself and providing nutrients – and these tannins actually make up between 20 to 40 percent of the tea leaves’ dry weight. So, it’s no wonder that they contribute to the distinct and unmistakable taste you get with every sip.

The tannins in green tea provide two distinct flavors.

The most prevalent is, of course, the astringency, which you can very easily control by measuring the amount of time you steep the tea, as well as by regulating the temperature of the water (the hotter the water, the more astringent your tea will become).

The second flavor characteristic is attributed to one specific type of tannin called Theogallin – which is a substance that’s not found in many other plants at all – so it’s no wonder that you probably haven’t come across anything else that tastes quite like green tea. Although it doesn’t necessarily have a distinct taste, this particular tannin helps to shape the overall flavor of green tea. The Japanese refer to this character as umami, which translated means "pleasant savory taste."

Extracting the Best Balance of of Tannins for a Perfect Cup of Tea

If you appreciate green tea, you already know that steeping time and water temperature are the keys to extracting the optimal enjoyable flavor from tea leaves.

The steeping time varies. Who best knows what that time is? The grower. That’s why every container of Shan Valley tea will always provide you with the recommended steeping time to extract the fullest flavor. This is because the Shan Valley growers have taken into consideration multiple factors such as the cut of the leaf, the soil, and the growing conditions. While other tea growers may recommend steeping a longer or shorter time, Shan Valley recommends just a short two to three minutes for a perfect cup of tea.

Just as important is the temperature of the water. For Shan Valley green tea, the optimal temperature is “just below boiling” – or 170 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (76 to 85 degrees Celsius). This specific temperature range ensures that you’ll extract the best balance of flavor versus astringency from the tea leaves.

A longer steeping time doesn’t mean the tea is ruined. It simply means that you’ll have coaxed more of those tannins from the tea leaves – and the flavor will be both bolder and because of the additionally extracted tannins, more astringent.

This is also why you can, if you like, make multiple cups from the same tea leaves. They’re packed so full of tannins – which again are the “soul” of green tea – that they can release another round for a delicious cup...or two or three!

 


Dimitry Apollonsky
Dimitry Apollonsky

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