Tea: What is Green Tea?

Green tea has been the most popular drink in Asian countries for centuries. But, in the Western world, black tea has been overwhelmingly more popular than green tea until recently. But, as we have learned more about green tea’s unique taste and many health benefits, it has gained popularity all over the world.

Green tea, like black tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The difference between green and black tea comes from how the tea is processed. Black tea is fermented during processing; green tea is not. After the tea leaves are plucked, they are laid out to wither for about 8 to 24 hours.

This lets most of the water evaporate. Next, to prevent the oxidation (fermentation) process, the leaves are steamed or pan fried. Finally the leaves are rolled before a final drying takes place. After this final drying, the leaves, which still look green, can now be sorted, graded and packaged.

The lack of fermentation causes green tea to look, smell and taste different than black tea. It typically brews to a pale green color and has a bit of a grassy flavor and aroma. This lack of fermentation also causes green tea to have more health benefits than black tea.

The fermenting process used for black and oolong teas causes a compound called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) to be oxidized, and converts it into other compounds. EGCG is a very powerful anti-oxidant, but the compounds it converts to during fermenting are not as healthful.

This difference means that this powerful anti-oxidant is in its most natural state; the state in which it provides the most protection to the body.

EGCG, like other anti-oxidants are important to the body because they rid our bodies of free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen containing molecules that are created as a byproduct of our digestive processes. Unless they are eradicated from our bodies, free radicals damage our cells and DNA, causing aging and disease.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and other plant based foods like green tea and wine, help us get the anti-oxidants we need to stay healthy. And, EGCG is one of the best and most protective anti-oxidants found in any food.

For this reason, cultures who have traditionally consumed large amounts of green tea throughout their lives have been shown to have lower incidences of many serious illnesses including cancer, heart disease and high cholesterol. In recent years there has been much scientific research linking green tea with a longer, healthier life.

Green tea has also been shown to aid in weight loss by speeding up the metabolism and increasing the oxidation of fat cells in the body. For years it was assumed that green tea’s caffeine was responsible for this ability to aid weight loss.

However, more recent research has shown that green tea is more effective at speeding weight loss than other beverages with higher caffeine contents. Researchers have concluded that it is the caffeine in green tea combined with green tea’s anti-oxidants that make green tea a better weight loss supplement than other caffeinated beverages.

Green tea was first grown in China. Most of the green tea grown today is grown in China and Japan, which is also where most of the world’s green tea is consumed. However, it has gained a great deal of popularity in other parts of the world, primarily because we now better understand its health benefits.

Today, nearly any tea purveyor will carry green tea in loose form. There are many green tea varieties with distinct tastes. In addition, there are many varieties of flavored green tea. These appeal to the many people who may not find plain green tea’s somewhat grassy flavor to be appealing. When flavored with other fruits and herbs, green tea can take on many different flavors.

One of the most traditional green tea forms is matcha. This form of green tea is used in Japanese tea ceremonies and was the primary form of green tea in Japan for centuries. Matcha is simply green tea that has been crushed into powder form. It is then whisked into hot water to make traditional Japanese green tea. Most other parts of the world use loose tea to make green tea rather than matcha.

Today, there are many varieties of green tea. Different green teas will have slightly different tastes depending upon the region in which they are grown and how they are flavored. If you’re new to drinking green tea, there are many places to buy green tea and many flavors with which to experiment.

To brew a cup of green tea, use fresh cold water. Fill your kettle and place it on the stove to heat. While the water is heating, add warm tap water to your teapot and your cups, if you wish, to warm them. When the water comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and remove the tap water from your teapot. Let the water sit for about 2 minutes.

Green tea should be brewed with water that is about 160°F, which is cooler than most other teas. Add the green tea to your teapot and pour water over the leaves. Use about 1 teaspoon of tea leaves per cup. Most green tea should steep about 1-2 minutes before serving. The best green tea should give you 2-3 infusions.

There are many varieties and flavors of green tea for you to try. Buy a few different green teas in small quantities until you find the green tea that’s perfect for you.