When I ask people: what is your favourite tea? Most of the answers are green tea!
I think there are certain reasons to it. Firstly, the colour green gives us a feeling of freshness, leading one’s association with farm fresh, crisp and light. Secondly, people are health conscious and love to eat more greens. Thirdly, a lot of researches have been done on green tea and its health benefits. And lastly, the marketing and advertising efforts on green tea financed by the big tea brands help to boost the image of green tea.
From history, green tea has been drunk ever since the discovery of tea. The first pot of tea drunked by Shen Nong is a few leaves dropped in a bowl of boiling water; it was in the form of green tea. It was described as a bitter drink with medicinal effects. There are different ways of keeping the fresh leaves green, like steaming and frying. The popular Japanese green tea, Matcha, is derived from a tea processing method from Sung Dynasty (960-1279) where the tea leaves are steamed and dried, then ground into powder. When you prepare this tea, 1-2 teaspoonfuls of powder is put into the centre of a big tea bowl, then hot water is poured into the bowl and a bamboo whisk is used to stir the liquid for a minute or so to serve. The well-known Longjin, or Dragon Well, a green tea from West Lake, Hang Zhou, is processed by a hand-frying technique. A small fresh batch of leaves are thrown into a wok-like pan and fried multiple times with bare hands.
The resulting form of this green tea is like a sword. Then there is also a lesser known but an ancient method called sun-dried green where the fresh leaves are laid in thin layers and dried under the sun without any pressing or rolling, i.e. in its own natural form. But no matter what methods are used, the idea is to exercise heat to stop the oxidation of the fresh leaves.
What are benefits of drinking green tea? Green tea contains a variety of enzymes, amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids, sterols, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamin, phytochemicals and dietary minerals. Among all the substances found in tea, polyphenols are mostly discussed with their association with antioxidants that will detoxify the cell-damaging free radicals in the body. The most anti-oxidant polyphenols, a catechin called epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG), is high in green tea, which may contribute to the reduction of cardiovascular diseases and prevention of diabetes. This constitutes also to the bitterness of the green tea. Therefore, a lower temperature range 65-85 degree Celcius should used to brew green teas to avoid too much bitterness.
Is green tea really for you?
Although green teas are full of health benefits, they are relatively cool by nature based on TCM, it might not be suitable for everyone. Try not to drink green tea with an empty stomach as it will bring down the blood sugar content very quickly and you may experience dizziness. If it happens to you, immediately biting some milk candies may help.
There is a general perception that the lighter the teas are, the lesser the caffeine is. Caffeine in tea helps you to stay energized. An average cup of tea is about 40mg which is much less than average cup of brewed coffee 100mg. But if you are sensitive to caffeine, try not to over-consume it.