6 Benefits of Drinking Green Tea
You probably have heard that drinking green tea is good for you, but do you really know why? So much information can get lost in the chatter, and cause great confusion.
Not to worry, take a breath, relax and read on to discover how making green tea a regular part of your life can literally have life-altering effects.
Origins and Processing of Green Tea
Originating from China, green tea is derived from the camellia sinensis plant. This leaf is now cultivated throughout the world, in countries such as Japan, India, Taiwan, Bangladesh, New Zealand, the U.S. and Colombia.
Even though green tea is grown in several countries, the most popular are still the varieties from China and Japan. One big difference between the tea from these countries is how they are processed: Chinese processors pan fry the leaves whereas they are steamed in Japan.
“Pan fry” is actually a bit of a misnomer, as the leaves are actually heated or “fired” in a wok-like pan, basket or a rotating drum. This method initiates the drying process and reduces the moisture content. The oxidation process is also interrupted, which is essential to creating a green tea, as opposed to black tea which requires the longest oxidation time.
In Japan oxidation is stopped by steaming the leaves from 30 to 120 seconds, then they are cooled down to room temperature. Next, the leaves are “beaten” to remove any excess water, then pressed in a warm roller, and dried. The final result is called “crude tea.”
The tea’s flavor can be affected by the type and frequency of firings or the length of steaming time. And, similar to coffee or wine, the characteristics are also influenced by the land where the leaves are grown.
Typically, green tea is yellowish or dark green with a roasted, grassy, earthy, or slightly bitter taste.
Types of Green Tea
Green tea is available in several varieties, the most popular being:
Dragonwell: A classic pan-fired Chinese tea which is smooth, flat and sword-shaped with a toasty taste.
Gunpowder: Shaped like a pellet, this tea is fired in a perforated metal tumbler that tosses the leaves around in a figure eight pattern.
Sencha: The most popular steamed Japanese tea, sencha offers a sweet, strong yet refreshing taste.
Houjicha: Different from other Japanese teas, houjicha is roasted over charcoal in a porcelain pot, resulting in a unique toasted flavor.
Gyokuru: The tea leaves are shaded for about three weeks before harvesting to slow photosynthesis which preserves the amino acids in the plant, resulting in a stronger flavor.
Matcha: This tea has grown in popularity over the last few years. After steaming the leaves are air-dried, and the stems and veins are removed before being ground into a fine powder.
6 Benefits of Green Tea
Now, we get to the good stuff. The really good stuff.
Green tea contains many healing properties, such as:
Polyphenols, catechins, chlorophyll, potassium, calcium, fluorine, saponins, phosphorus, manganese, EGCG and GABA.
Scientific studies have proven that these amazing properties aid in general well-being, and result in more specific benefits, such as:
Boosted energy with less caffeine than coffee. Try it as your wake-up beverage, or for a mid-afternoon lift.
Stronger immune system to bolster your natural defenses against the common cold and other diseases.
Improved brain health for increased brain activity, greater cognition and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lowered risk of heart disease results from properties in green tea that reduce inflammation, breaks up and dissolves potentially harmful protein plaques in the blood vessels.
Reduced stress and anxiety is another gift of green tea, specifically the amino acid L-theanine, which has been shown to help the body and mind relax.
- Better oral health by reducing plaque and harmful bacteria in your mouth which helps to prevent tooth decay, development of sores and bad breath.
Proper Preparation of Green Tea
Preparing green tea can be as easy as throwing a bag in a cup, adding boiling water and away you go. But, it’s really not the correct - or best way - to enjoy it.
If possible, use fresh, loose leaves, generally around 2 grams of tea to every 6 ounces of water.
Putting the leaves into an infuser or basket of a tea pot is the best way to avoid loose leaves floating around the cup.
Don’t mix green tea with boiling water. Ever. This will result in a bitter and astringent taste. If the water is too cold, the full flavors and properties won’t be extracted.
Ideally, the water will be between 160 and 180 degrees. Visually you can tell it’s ready when bubbles start to pop up from the bottom of the kettle, or steam starts to rise from the pot.
Let the tea steep for at least 2 minutes. Test the taste and steep again if it isn’t strong enough for your liking. The longer steeping time, the more beneficial properties are released, but so is bitterness and astringency.
Add other natural flavorings, such as honey, ginger, mint or lemon if you’d like.
Matcha, or other powdered teas, require a different approach. Ideally, you will have the traditional tools for making the ideal cup of match: a tea ladle, and a small bamboo whisk. If not, a teaspoon will work. Place 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of matcha into your cup, add a little of hot water, stir slowly to create a sort of paste, then slowly add more water, stir with a circular motion for a smooth tea, or a zig-zag motion for a foamy tea.
As you can see green tea is a fantastic beverage packed with healthy benefits. However, even though drinking only one cup of green tea can be enjoyable, you really need to drink 5 or more cups per day, to really benefit from it. If you do increase your intake, consider balancing the caffeinated with the decaffeinated.
Let us know what type you enjoy the best, and if you have noticed any of the mentioned health benefits.
NOTE: This article is to be used as reference only and is in no way a replacement for professional medical advice.
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