What is Green Tea?
By The Whistling Kettle March 20th, 2018
Learn about Green Tea
Throughout centuries of human existence green tea has been drank and enjoyed by humans. Green tea finds its origins in China with the earliest known occurrence of consumption being during the Han Dynasty in the Second Century BC. The exact origin of Green Tea is surrounded by myth rather than fact, due in large part to the time period in which it was discovered. However, in the last couple of centuries the scientific benefits of green tea consumption have been explored, confirming some of the health benefits which have been assumed for centuries. In this piece we will explore the history of green tea, it’s confirmed scientific benefits, and how green tea can help create a healthier, happier life for you.
What is Green Tea?
Green tea is a leaf which typically derives from the Camellia Sinensis, a species of plant that originates in China. It is a derivative of the umbrella species Camellia Sinensis which is the basis for both green and black tea. The Camellia Sinensis strain distinguishes itself from other varieties of Camellia Sinensis are their smaller leaves. Green teas maintain their colors by a process of pan firing or steaming and drying. This process allows the tea leaf to maintain its natural green color and its namesake. The maintenance of the green color is a byproduct of heating and drying process which prevents oxidization.
Despite some common misconceptions most green teas are caffeinated. A cup of green tea has far less caffeine than a cup of coffee and has similar amounts of caffeine to most black teas. Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine which works in partnership with caffeine in order to stimulate brain activity. When these two compounds work together they stimulate the human brain in a way which is similar to coffee but without the traditional jitters associated with over consumption of caffeine.
Green tea also has a wide range of tastes which range based on a variety of factors including, the leaf size, the location where it was cultivated, and how it was heated. Specifically, one large distinction between the tastes in different green teas is Chinese and Japanese based heating. The heating method used for green teas in China is pan frying the leaves. This methodology creates a grassy, earthy flavor profile which can be found in teas such as Dragonwell. By contrast, Japanese production of green tea involves steaming of the tea leaves in order to heat them. The steaming process creates a sweet, vegetable like taste which is highlighted in a variety of green teas including Sencha.
A Brief History of Green Tea:
Based on legend green tea was first consumed as a happy accident when Chinese Emperor Shennong drank from a glass of water which a dry tea leaf had fallen into. Upon discovering the unique taste provided by the mix of water and green tea leaves the noble class of China began to seek out and consume tea on a regular basis. Throughout the proceeding centuries green tea as well began to take shape as a cultural touchstone within Chinese culture and cultural identity.
During the 16th Century European sailors and traders began making consistent sustained contact with China. Through that relationship the European sailors began consuming tea when visiting the Chinese mainland and bringing back dried leaves to sell to their contemporaries. As we all know many Europeans, particularly the English loved tea, providing a new outlet for green tea to spread throughout the world. This progression would eventually transport tea across the Atlantic to the New World, the Americas.
Tea in the early days of the Americas played a significant role in the development of the nation, particularly the Boston Tea Party. This revolutionary event signified the Colonists resistance to British rule by dumping tea in the Boston Harbor as a form of protest of the British tea taxes which had been implemented without the colonists’ consent. Since then the United States has innovated the tea market in two key ways in the modern era, tea bags and iced tea. Tea bags, created in the early 20th century accidently as a way to transport tea conveniently for sale. The bags were initially intended to make tea easier to sell also turned out to make tea is easier to steep and dispose of. Iced tea, which is typically associated with black tea but can be applied to all styles of tea including green tea, was introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and shortly after became sensation. Iced tea today has become deeply integrated with our culture and in certain circles is more popular than traditional hot tea. This brings us to the modern state of tea, a beverage which is second in popularity only to water.
The Real Benefits of Drinking Green Tea:
Throughout the centuries various health claims have been attributed to the consumption of tea, particularly green tea. Many of these claims have gone in and out of style with varying degrees of believability. Due to the vast cultural impact that tea has had on humanity scientists naturally became curious about the truth behind the benefits of tea. After scientific experimentation some of the key assertations about green tea have been discovered to be true, confirming thousands of years of speculation and assumption. One of the key medicinal benefits of consuming green tea on a regular basis is the ingestion of antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent damage in the cells and molecules within the body by suppressing the production of free radicals which cause the damage and speed up the aging process. One specific chemical in green tea which plays a key role in limiting the production of free radicals is catechins. These catechins are proven to have additional effects on the body including lowering cholesterol and blood pressure which can help create stability in individuals who suffer from diabetes. In order to maximize the catechin levels in your green tea don’t make the water too hot. The ideal temperature to steep tea in order to maximize the amount of catechins is 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Green tea has also been proven to stimulate the brain, particularly the part of the brain which maintains memory. Studies have shown that this effect can help prevent the development of plaques which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. That is not to say that green tea can cure or completely stop the spread of Alzheimer’s disease but it can be used as a tool to prevent the buildup of unhealthy plaques.
Green tea has had mixed results in regards to scientific studies which posit it as a cure or preventative measure against cancer. Based on current scientific research green tea is not proven to reduce the risk of developing nor destroy cancerous cells. The one confirmed positive of green tea consumption on cancer development is that tea is great for the healthy development of all cell types.
Green tea is also often associated with weight loss. This is not a necessarily true fact, green tea has been proven to increase the bodies metabolic rate slightly. The key way tea can assist in weight loss is by drinking green tea in place of sugary drinks. According to one source, drinking one cup of tea instead of a cup of soda every day you will save yourself 50,000 calories in a year. That is a lot of potential weight loss, and even more delicious tea.
Green Tea and You:
Green tea ought to be the beverage of choice for almost anyone! Green tea is the perfect tea for people looking to enjoy a relaxing tea with a broad flavor pallet. This style of tea is great for individuals looking to add more antioxidants to their diet. Drinking green tea is a lifestyle choice that can simultaneously add healthy value to your diet while limiting your consumption of sugary drinks. In the end green tea is a fantastic choice for anyone who wants to enjoy a delicious beverage, both hot and cold.