The Secret Life of Green Tea

By Jessica Girdwain

If the only time you’ve tried green tea is after being served a scalding-hot cup (no handle!) at a local Japanese restaurant, you’re missing out on its many flavors and forms. “All green tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, but the final aromas and tastes differ depending on where the leaves are grown and how they’re produced,” says Mary Lou Heiss, coauthor of The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas.

More surprising? In Asia, green tea is a common recipe ingredient, which is a great–and sneaky!–way to incorporate this nutritional powerhouse into your diet. Here’s a quick primer on six different varieties, plus ideas for how to cook with each.

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Leaves are ground into a fine powder, which you can whisk into water for tea. Since you consume the actual leaves, you get more antioxidants than from other green teas.

FLAVOR: Strong and grassy

CREATIVE USE: Stir one teaspoon into a smoothie or dust it over vanilla ice cream or a bar of dark chocolate. The tea’s earthiness is a pleasant contrast to the food’s sweetness.

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This yellowish-green flat leaf tea is one of the most popular drinking teas in China.

FLAVOR: Soft chestnut notes, toasty

CREATIVE USE: Chop the tea leaves, combine with spices, and use them to coat chicken or steak before cooking.

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This Chinese tea is pan-fired before being tightly rolled into small pellet shapes.

FLAVOR: Robust with a sweet finish

CREATIVE USE: Substitute a cup of gunpowder tea for a cup of broth in vegetable-based soups. Throw steeped chopped leaves into soup while it simmers to add extra greens.


The most popular green tea in Japan, sencha leaves are steamed, producing a bright green color, then rolled into needle form.

FLAVOR: Mild and slightly sweet

CREATIVE USE: After mixing the dough or batter for cookies, muffins, or scones, fold two tablespoons of dried sencha tea leaves directly into it, then bake as usual.


Called “twig tea,” kukicha is derived from thinly cut stalks of sencha and gyokuro leaves.

FLAVOR: Light and smooth with roasted, woody notes

CREATIVE USE: Add a few tablespoons to a marinade for fish or shellfish. Kukicha balances out sweeter varieties, like halibut or scallops.


It’s made from leaves that are roasted until they’re dark brown. Because it’s picked at the end of the season and roasted at a higher heat than other teas, hojicha contains lower levels of caffeine.

FLAVOR: Roasted and nutty

CREATIVE USE: Ladle a cup of steeped hojicha tea over a mixture of brown rice and roasted fall veggies, like squash. Garnish with a sprinkle of chestnuts.


Wisteria K.
Past Member 4 years ago

Fantastic !
I love green tea and drink it all day. Here I learn the use of green tea in cooking .
Great :)

Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago


Shanti S.
S S4 years ago

Thank you.

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Healthy and natural way to health

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 years ago

Good info.. TY

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Glow E.
GLOWIS s6 years ago

Thank you very much! :)

Jennifer C.
Past Member 6 years ago

Good health article. I love green tea. Thanks for sharing.

Dawn W.
Dawn Wheeler7 years ago

Where would you get these varieties in the Mid-West?

Jacquelene S.
Jacquelene S7 years ago

I love cooking with "exotic" ingredients... will have to try the green tea as an ingredient, not just a hot, healthy drink.