Skip to content

Steamed vs. Pan-fired tea

After tea leaves are carefully plucked, a long process takes place before the tea finally reaches your table. This can include withering, fixing, oxidation, rolling, drying and aging of the tea. At the fixing stage, it is the heat application which stops the leaves from oxidizing and becoming Oolong or black tea. The leaves remain as green tea either by steaming or pan-firing the tea leaves. The pan-fired method is usually associated with teas from China, while the steaming method is commonly found in the process of Japanese teas. However, it’s worth noting that some Japanese teas are roasted, like Kamairachi, while some Chinese teas use one, two or even three methods. This could include steaming, baking, and pan firing.

The pan-fired method is where the leaves are fired in a large wok. This task is usually done by hand, making it more labour intensive. As a result, the pan-firing method becomes more expensive than steaming which is done using machines. The steam machine process was invented by the Japanese in the 18th century, as the country had less area and labour to grow tea. The Chinese invented the pan-firing method to draw out the aroma of tea. It is believed to have been as a consequence of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty banning compressed teas in favour of loose-leaf teas. Incidentally, a steaming method, where steam is forced through the tea leaves was said to be used in China since the 8th century.

When green tea is roasted in the pan-fired method it turns the leaves brownish, while steamed tea such as Japanese Matcha retains its green leafy colour. Steamed teas have a fresh grassy aroma which is appreciated for possessing an invigorating flavour. Furthermore, the steaming process takes only 30 seconds to accomplish. While Japanese leaves are steamed straight after plucking, Chinese leaves become a little fermented due to the pan-fired method. Also, the pan-fired leaves produce a more toasty taste compared to the vegetal taste found in teas that use the steamed process.

While you would assume that steaming the leaves would retain much more nutrition especially in terms of antioxidants, it may not be the case as roasting is only done for a short period.

Not much steaming of teas is done nowadays, which makes this type of Japanese tea extremely rare and mostly found in specialty stores. Tea Trunk sources its authentic ceremonial Matcha green tea from the Nishio region, Aichi prefecture in Japan. Click here to shop our Matcha.

Keywords: Steamed tea, pan-fired tea, Oolong tea, Black tea, green tea, tea oxidation

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published..


Your cart is currently empty.

Start Shopping

Select options