Green Tea vs Black Tea

Posted by Zach Mangan, on

Japanese Green Tea

Japanese Black Tea

Green tea vs Black tea or Black Tea vs Green tea: which one is healthier. Is green better than black? While Japan produces primarily green tea, black tea production has been growing in recent years with many exciting new releases coming out each season. We receive questions from our customers each month about what exactly makes each tea unique. We invite you to explore the many intricacies of both green and black tea and decide which one is the right one for you. And of course, enjoying both is a great option too!

Green tea vs Black Tea: same source for two different teas

Black tea and green tea are both made from the leaves of the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, a small evergreen shrub whose leaves and buds are used to produce tea. What really differentiates black and green tea is the unique growing methodology and after harvest production which creates two very distinct and classic categories of tea.

All true tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis

Green tea, Japan's favorite tea

While the production of Japanese black tea is on the rise, Japan continues to produce green tea almost exclusively. Green tea is enjoyed throughout the world and is grown in China, Korea, and parts of Vietnam, and of course Japan - among other countries. Green tea consumption in the west has been on the rise in the last decade due to better access to quality teas and an emphasis on proper brewing resulting in a more flavorful brew.

Gyokuro leaves, an example of Japanese green tea

Oxidation: a tale of two teas

Unoxidized Green Tea

Oxidized Black Tea

Green tea, or ryokucha [緑茶] as it is called in Japan, is a minimally processed and unoxidized tea that retains its green color by being steamed shortly after picking. The steaming process deactivates enzymes in the leaf before they are able to oxidize which produces a tea with fresh, grassy taste.

Fresh Picked Leaf - this tea would go on to become green tea

On the other hand, Black Tea, or Koucha [紅茶] in Japanese, refers to tea leaves that have been fully or near fully oxidized. During the oxidation process, tea leaves absorb oxygen which has an impact on the color, aroma, flavor and even on the concentration of non-essential nutrients found in tea. The same principle is at play when you cut an apple: soon after cutting, the inside of the apple begins to turn an amber color, a sign of oxygen at work.

Fully Oxidized Black Tea After Production

The longer oxidation process in black tea produces a tea that tend to develop malty, fruity, brisk, floral and sometimes bracing flavors. Green tea, since it is simply steamed, has a fresher profile with more the dominant notes being grassy, savory, and nutty.

Black tea is higher in caffeine...or is it?

When comparing green tea vs black tea, a question that is often asked is which one has the highest level of caffeine. The truth is that both green tea and black contain caffeine and comparing each in terms of the amount of caffeine can become complicated quickly. It is often stated flatly that “a cup of black tea has more caffeine than green tea” - but is that even true?

Fresh picked, high quality Japanese tea contains abundant caffeine. Black tea, after undergoing oxidation, does contain moderate to high amounts of caffeine as well. The fact that Japanese green tea can be deeper steamed with smaller broken leaves allow for quite a lot of caffeine to be extracted per cup. But due note, green tea is generally brewed at a lower temperature for a shorter duration tempering some of the caffeine that is extracted.. Conversely, black tea brewed at near boiling for a longer period of time tends to extract caffeine at higher levels. So, who wins the caffeine battle? Comparing different teas caffeine levels cup for cup is complicated and all natural tea has caffeine. If you’re concerned, try the specific tea earlier in the day and see how you feel.

Crystallized caffeine on the surface of heated green tea leaves. Caffeine is water soluble and will evaporate during heating. After evaporation, the caffeine cools and crystallizes on the leaf.

A wide range of different health benefits

The tea plant is a nutritional powerhouse containing a full spectrum of healthy antioxidants, vitamins and phytochemicals. The processing of the tea plant after harvest does impact what ends up in your cup. So when comparing green tea vs black tea in terms of their health benefits, this is something that we need to take into account.

Japanese green tea, due to its light processing, retains high levels of Catechin, a powerful antioxidant that has shown direct anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Japanese green tea also boasts high levels of Vitamin C, L-Theanine, and natural fluoride showing promise for everything from anti cancer and heart protective properties to gum and mouth health support.

Black tea leaves develop a spectrum of healthy chemicals called Flavonoids which are shown to effect that body in many positive ways. Both Theaflavins and Theaburgins, 2 types of flavonoids, are the exact chemical structures most commonly found in black tea and are reported to support healthy cell division and heart health among other things.

Brewing times and temperatures for perfect tea

Brewing a perfect cup of black and green tea requires specific parameters that are unique to each style of tea. Simply put, one size does not fit all. Below is our guidelines for brewing both Japanese black and green tea. Pro tip: When brewing tea, always use fresh water and bring it to a complete boil.

How to make Delicious Japanese black tea

  • Tea Leaf: 3 - 4g
  • Water: 180ml (6oz) of water just off a boil
  • Brewing Duration: Brew the tea for 2 minutes
  • Decanting: Pour all tea into tea cup and enjoy

How to make Delicious Japanese green tea

  • Tea Leaf: 5-6g
  • Water: 150ml (5oz) of water at around 70°C / 170°F
  • Brewing Duration: Brew the tea for 1 minute
  • Decanting: Pour all tea into tea cup and enjoy

At Kettl we are proud to offer a range of high quality Japanese Green and black teas. Visit our store for more details.

Photos by Zach Mangan

All words andphotos © Kettl Tea, Inc / Do not use without permission

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