What's so Special About Green Tea?
Green tea is much more than just a refreshing beverage tea; it provides many proven health benefits as well. The Chinese and Japanese have enjoyed green tea's healing qualities for thousands of years but it hasn't been until recently that scientific research has proven the health benefits of drinking green tea.
All teas (green, black, and oolong) are harvested from the same plant (Camellia sinensis). The method of processing creates the different types. Green tea contains the highest content of various antioxidant compounds (polyphenols) that have been proven as beneficial in fighting certain cancers, to help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, to help prevent food allergies, to reduce the risk of flu and infections, and to reduce the effects of aging. Vitamins C and E and beta carotene are also prevalent in green tea. Enough fluoride is found in green tea to help reduce plaque formation and bacterial infections in the mouth. The caffeine content found in green tea is about a quarter to an eighth that of coffee and less then a can of cola but varies with the brewing time.
Green teas are as varied and unique as wines. Their uniqueness depends upon the growing region, the season's weather, time of harvesting and type of processing. Many varieties are available in multiple grades. Some exotic teas are picked only one day a year! The majority of green teas come from Japan, China or India. Processing of the tea varies between the different regions so this is just a basic overview. The finest teas come from the most aromatic, young, top two leaves and the unopened leaf bud of the plant. After picking, the green leaves are spread out in the hot air to wither. Once they are soft, they are traditionally pan-fried in woks. In Japan, they may be steamed. This prevents the leaves from oxidizing (fermenting) as occurs in black tea. The leaves are then rolled to give them durability, their characteristic shapes: twisted, curly or balled, and as a means to regulate the release of natural substances and flavor when steeped. The final step dries the leaves by firing. This stabilizes the natural fragrances and flavors and preserves the green color. The objective of processing the tea leaves into green tea is to preserve the healthy, natural and active substances.
Sometimes flowers are placed on the tea leaves during the drying process to impart a gentle floral flavor to the tea, such as the popular jasmine green tea.
There are hundreds of different green teas, most of which never reach the U.S. Some of the more common green teas are:
- Gyokuro - the finest green tea.
- Bancha - the "everyday" green tea of Japan. This tea is made from low-grade leaves, imparting a slightly astringent taste.
- Genmaicha - a tea made from a combination of usually bancha and roasted brown rice. Some of the rice pops during the roasting process like popcorn. This is a light tea with a slightly nutty flavor.
- Sencha - a delicate, sweeter, Japanese green tea with needlelike leaves available in many grades.
- Kukicha - a mild Japanese tea made from the twigs or stems of the tea bush.
- Gunpowder - a stronger Chinese tea rolled into tight pellets originally to preserve freshness during the long trip from China to Europe.
- Dragonwell - a favorite Chinese tea with flat, long leaves.
Some of the more exotic and expensive green teas have such interesting names as: White Monkey Paw, Dragon Pearls, Lucky Dragon, Jasmine Dragon Tears and Bird Nest.
So, for those of you who have tried green tea and just don't care for the taste, give it a second chance. Green tea requires a quicker brewing time from most teas to keep it from becoming bitter tasting. Use approximately one teaspoon of tea per cup of water. Bring your water to just under a boil or boil and let sit for 5 minutes before pouring over the tea. Green tea only needs a brewing time of one to two minutes before removing the tea leaves from your cup or pot. Adjust the quantity of tea or length of brewing to suit your taste. The used tea leaves can actually be reused for a second cup of tea, just brew about 20 seconds longer. Green tea can also be brewed with other herbs such as ginger, peppermint, lemon balm or jasmine flowers to change the flavor yet still reap the health benefits.
Take a few minutes, brew up a cup of this ancient healing tea and contemplate life while your body enjoys the gentle health benefits.
A wonderful place to find organic green teas is Mountain Rose Herbs.
About the Author
My life's journey is to develop a better understanding of who I am. Growth flourishes through sharing, listening, observing and experiencing. In sharing, I hope to be a catalyst to helping others discover pieces of who they are, to notice the beauty in the small things, to be thankful for the challenges and lessons which allow for their personal growth, and to always be true to themself; all which promote a state of well-being, health and wholeness. I am also a Reiki Master/Teacher and Practitioner. Visit my blog at www.wholelivingtoday.com/blog
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