Green Tea – Introduction
Green tea is a favourite among fitness enthusiasts. Unlike other teas, green tea is among the least oxidized of all teas. It is quickly preserved and heated to prevent oxidation, the same process that turns the colour of an apple after you slice it, because it is exposed to oxygen.
Due to the difference in its processing, green tea retains the maximum amounts of antioxidants and polyphenols1 that are responsible for its many health benefits.
Green teas (Indian) are grown mostly in tea estates in Darjeeling (West Bengal). High-altitude Darjeeling grown green teas have a special astringent flavour to them, whereas Nilgiri green teas grown in South India have distinct vegetal notes with stronger taste.
What is Green Tea
Like all other varieties of tea, green tea comes from the same evergreen plant named Camellia sinensis. However, it is made from unfermented leaves with minimal processing. It reportedly contains the highest concentration of antioxidants called polyphenols. Antioxidants are substances that fight and reduce free radicals and prevent some of the damage they cause to our cells, including cancer and heart disease.
Although green tea is extremely popular in Japan and China, it is gaining popularity in India and other countries due to its health benefits and unique taste.
Why Do People Drink Green Tea?
People drink green tea because it is extremely good for health – and for its unique taste. It has been shown to improve blood flow, lower cholesterol, prevent a range of heart-related conditions, as well as keep blood sugar stable in people with diabetes, and protect against the damage of a high-fat diet (among other things).
Sipping green tea also helps you to relax due to the presence of a natural chemical called theanine, which is known to provide a calming effect.
Types of Green Tea
Green tea is available in many forms, such as:
- tea bags
- supplements sold in capsule form or liquid extracts
Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea contains very high levels of polyphenols, mainly catechins2, a type of disease-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant.
The polyphenols in green tea have powerful anti-oxidant properties that enhance immunity by preventing or slowing down the oxidative damage to our body. They protect our cells and tissues from oxidative stress by scavenging on free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are responsible for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, etc.
The key constituents of green tea provide many health benefits. Studies of MRIs have shown that people who drink green tea had greater activity in the areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
For more details, see Benefits of Green Tea.
Which Type of Tea is Healthier – Green or Black?
Both green and black tea are good for health. They contain different types (and levels) of polyphenols. These polyphenols have powerful antioxidant properties that boost immunity by preventing or slowing down the oxidative damage to our body.
The Difference Between Green Tea & Black Tea
Both black tea and green tea (as well as white tea and oolong tea) are made from the same tea plant (Camellia sinensis). The difference lies in the way tea leaves are processed (and oxidised) by manufacturers. Both teas contain different types and levels of polyphenols with powerful health benefits.
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Green tea has at least 8-10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables.
How Do You Make Green Tea?
1. Boil water in a kettle or pan on the stove till it bubbles
2. Add 1 teaspoon of tea (or teabag) per cup into a teapot
3. After boiling, let the water now rest for a few minutes till the temperature drops.
4. Now pour the water into the teapot and close the lid
5. Steep (i.e. brew) for 1-2 minutes (the longer you brew, the stronger the taste)
Points to remember
- Avoid using already-boiled or diffused water
- Go for soft instead of hard water
- To enjoy full-flavour, do not use a microwave for heating water
- Water temperature should ideally be between 140-180°F
- Higher-quality green teas are generally steeped cooler and shorter, and typically for multiple times (2-3 times).
- Warm the teapot beforehand to prevent the tea from cooling down immediately
Add lemon to green tea, and drink without milk. The Vitamin C of the lemon will make the healthy catechins easier to absorb. Milk, on the other hand, makes it harder to absorb catechins.
How to Store Green Tea
Green tea deteriorates very easily from contact with oxygen, light, humidity and high temperature. Proper storage can significantly prolong its freshness. To preserve the freshness of green tea, store as follows:
- In a sealed airtight container that completely:
- blocks light
- blocks air exposure
- In a cool and dry place
- Away from strong-smelling foods
Finally, to minimize exposure to the elements, ensure that the container is opened as little as possible.
1 Polyphenols in tea include catechins, theaflavins, tannins and flavonoids. They are also responsible for the slightly astringent, bitter taste of green tea.
2 Catechins are a type of polyphenols. In green tea, they are present in significant quantities, and include epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).