GREEN TEA TIME
Green tea's history goes back to 2737 BC and the Chinese Emperor Shennong who – it is said – accidentally drank water in which a tealeaf had been boiled. This history of being linked to the highest tier of Chinese society made green tea expensive and inaccessible to the general population. It was not until the fourteenth century that green tea became widely enjoyed throughout China – revered for its taste and medicinal qualities. Later explorers brought the tea back to Europe and the British imported tea plants to India where they thrived. Today it is grown throughout the world.
Green tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant native to Asia. The part of the plant used for making tea is found in the uppermost shoots. This is where the young, tender new leaves and buds are formed. The top two leaves and the bud are prized both for their fullness of flavor and their ability to be twisted or rolled into a variety of shapes. Green tea is typically processed within hours of harvest. Processing for green tea is markedly different than for red and black teas. For green tea the leaf is not fermented. It is either baked, roasted, sun-dried, or steamed immediately after harvesting to stop the fermentation process. When dry enough, tealeaves are rolled into a variety of shapes until completely dry. Quality depends on the tea's origin, the season, and leaf processing techniques that are used. For some famous green teas only the youngest leaf is picked.
Health Gems Called Catechins
Catechins are very powerful antioxidants and although not as easily absorbed as vitamin C they are so abundant in green tea that their quantities more than compensate for the difference. One cup of green tea contains 200 milligrams of catechins, which equals 8 apples. Green tea not only contains large amount of catechins, it also has a host of other chemicals that facilitate its antioxidant activities. Green tea contains gallic acid, a powerful antioxidant in its own right, plus carotenoids, tocopherols, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and minerals such as chromium, manganese, selenium, zinc and certain phytochemical compounds.
The Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea has been used as both a beverage and a medicine in most of Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, to help everything from controlling bleeding and helping heal wounds to regulating body temperature, blood sugar and promoting digestion. It also:
- Green tea contains a special compound called theanine which has been known to stimulate alpha brain waves, calm the body, and promote relaxed awareness. A 2007 study found that drinking 4 cups of tea enhances the brain's ability to concentrate on the tasks at hand
- Drinking green tea helps patients recover from heart attacks and strokes. Preliminary studies suggests active green tea compound EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) speeds up the recovery process
- Green tea inhibits atherosclerosis, the hardening and thickening of arteries. A human equivalent dose of 3 to 4 cups a day is associated with 26% to 46% lower risk
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a common disease affecting about 1 in 100 people. Women are 3 times more likely to be affected. There is no known cure. Two studies found that drinking tea may prevent rheumatoid inflammation
- Prevents tooth decay and curse bad breath. Green tea, unlike soft drinks, is non-erosive. It also fights mouth viruses and reduces bad breath
- Studies found that drinking at least 2 cups of green tea a day helps preserve bone density and reduce osteoporosis risk. The longer you drink, the greater the benefits
- Green tea contains antigens, which are found also in some bacteria. It helps boost immunity and fight off flu and colds
- UK Scientists found that tea is healthier than pure water. They dispelled the common belief that tea dehydrates. Tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, it also has many other health benefits
- With green tea, you get two in one. Its fat burning property helps to burn fat and also gives the body the stamina to exercise longer
Choosing Green Tea
Buy first harvest green tea. Did you know there are actually 3 or 4 harvests per year? While green teas from later harvests can be delicious, it has been proven that there are more nutrients in the first harvest green teas. First harvest green tea is stored under special conditions and can be obtained throughout the year. Green tea does not have a long shelf life. The typical shelf life, from date of packaging, is about 6 months on unopened packages and immediately drops to 2-3 months once opened.
Preparing Green Tea
For a calming effect, after preheating the pot and cups, let the boiled water cool then pour the water over tea leaves (using 1 teaspoon per cup). Allow the brew to steep for one minute before pouring it out. Add more of the pre-boiled water and steep this second brew for 3 minutes before drinking. With this method, the caffeine has been discarded with the initial brew, and stomach-friendly tannic acid remains. To emphasize the stimulating effect, boil the water and then allow it to cool until the water temperature is about 60 degrees C (140 degrees F), usually about 10 minutes or so. The tea is made a little stronger, using one heaped teaspoon of leaves per cup. Pour the water onto the tea and steep for sixty to ninety seconds. Begin drinking within 2 to 3 minutes leaving the leaves in the cup. This can be used to make another brew later. Never allow the tea to steep for longer as it will become bitter.
Part Of A Healthy Lifestyle
Regularly drinking green tea is an excellent first or fiftieth step toward a healthy immune system and a healthy lifestyle. Our immune system is of critical importance to our health and is only supported by the healthy habits we live every day.