assume that “green” means herbal. The fact is that there is actually a
tea plant, Camellia sinensis, which is related to the ornamental shrub
known for its beautiful and fragrant flowers. Legends in Asia harking
back to 3000 B.C., relate the use of C. sinensis as a beverage plant.
Its real popularity did not begin until around the second century A.D.,
and up until the 18th century all tea was green tea.
There are hundreds of distinct varieties of green tea and one can become
as much a connoisseur of green tea as of fine wine. The top producers of
tea in the world are China, Japan and India. Depending on the region and
elevation in which it is grown, the time of year it is harvested, it’s
processing and environmental conditions such as rainfall and days of sun
all combine to produce differences in flavor and quality.
The “green” of green tea indicates that it is processed to retain it’s
fresh color, black tea is usually dried and fermented which gives it the
black color. Green tea is processed very little and the best types are
processed by hand and either sun dried or pan fried. A great deal of art
goes into the processing of green tea and shaping the leaves and the
processing often contributes to the name given the tea. “Gunpowder tea”
is rolled into tight balls resembling gunpowder pellets, “eyebrow” tea
is shaped into crescents and “silver needle tea” is a thin rolled leaf
with a silver color. The shaping and processing of tea also controls the
release of flavor as the tea is brewed.
The beneficial properties of green tea are due to antioxidant
polyphenols, researchers believe that drinking 4-5 cups of green tea a
day may help reduce cholesterol and lower high blood pressure. In
addition studies have shown that cardiovascular disease, blood sugar
disorders and the body’s resistance to infection can all be helped by
daily ingestion of green tea.
Caffeine content of tea is a concern to a lot of people but green tea
contains 1/3 to 1/2 the caffeine of an equal amount of coffee. There is
also growing evidence that the caffeine itself is not the responsible
component of coffee jitters, rather it is the tannins in coffee that are
virtually absent in green tea.
The Chinese and Japanese cultures have refined tea brewing into a high
art that can take years to master, but if you want a cup quicker than
that you can start with a cup (Glass or ceramic), of water that has been
brought close but not quite to a boil. If there are tiny bubble just
forming from the heat, the water temperature is just right. Then take a
small amount of green tea, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon should be about right,
and gently drop the leaves right into the water.
The Chinese let the tea soak till it sinks to the bottom of the cup,
then the tea is done. The Japanese on the other hand, only let the tea
steep for one to two minutes depending on the desired potency and then
they dip out the leaves. The length of brewing will obviously affect the
taste and character of the tea so you have to experiment a little but
the rule of thumb is longer steeping will produce more bitter tea.
Weather you try Japanese of Chinese styles of brewing, adding tea to
your diet is considered by all to be highly beneficial to your overall
health. Bottoms up!