Beginner Guide to Green Tea


What Is Green Tea?

Camellia sinensis - Tea Plant

Credit: Yougarden.com

Green tea is a type of tea that’s made from the Camellia sinensis leaves. It doesn’t go through the same withering and oxidation process used to make oolong teas and black teas.

Green tea is one of the less processed types of tea. It, therefore, contains the most antioxidants and beneficial polyphenols.

Who Discovered Green Tea?

It comes as no surprise that green tea originates from the vast land of China. However, its production and manufacture have spread to many other countries in Asia.

To this day, China and Japan are the top two green tea producing and exporting countries in the world.

China’s Tea History

The tea consumption begins in China nearly 5,000 years ago during the reign of legendary Emperor Shennong.

One popular legend suggests that Emperor Shennong, the inventor of Chinese medicine, discovered tea as a beverage around 2737 BC when fresh tea leaves from a nearby tea tree fell into his cup of just boiled water.

He drank the water without noticing it and felt refreshed upon drinking. Then, he ordered his servants to prepare the beverage by adding leaves of the green tea trees.

During the Tang Dynasty in 600-900 AD, Lu Yu wrote a groundbreaking book called Tea Classic” or “Cha Jing.

Lu Yu is respected as the Sage of Tea for his contribution to Chinese tea culture, his book is considered to be one of the most important books in the history of tea because it’s one of the first all-inclusive explorations of green tea culture.

In his book, Lu Yu describes the process for steaming, roasting, and compressing the tea into bricks, as well as the process of grinding the tea into powder and stirring it to a froth in hot water prior to consumption.

During the rule of the Tang Dynasty, drinking tea has become a social convention all over China.

Green Tea Ceremony

Green Tea Ceremony

A whole new culture of “tea ceremonies” was introduced during this time.

Japan’s Tea History

In the early 9th century, Buddhist monks Saicho and Kukai returned to Japan with young tea trees after studying abroad in China. Tea became a drink of religious classes in Japan.

Another Buddhist monk called Eisai came back to Japan with tea plant seeds and bushes after visiting and studying in China’s great Buddhist monasteries and temples.

The young priest used his experience growing and drinking tea in China to further popularize tea farming in Japan during the 12th century.

He stressed that tea wasn’t just for the consumption of Buddhist monks alone, but that everyone should drink tea because of its health benefits. At the same time, Japanese farmers began growing green tea in Uji, Kyoto.

Green Tea Plantation

Green Tea Plantation

Eisai wrote the first Japanese book about tea, Kissa Yohjyoh Ki ((喫茶養生記 Book of Tea). In his book, Eisai describes how drinking green tea affects 5 vital organs, the shape of tea leaves, and how to grow and process tea leaves.

How Is Green Tea Processed?

Tea processing is the method in which the leaves from the tea plant Camellia sinensis are transformed into the dried leaves for brewing tea.

Green tea is often referred to as non-fermented teas, well cause it doesn’t go through the fermentation process. Unlike other types of teas, green tea has undergone the least amount of oxidation process.

Do you know that the oxidation process starts as soon as the tea leaves are plucked?

After tea leaves are picked, the fresh leaves are thinly spread out on a bamboo tray and exposed to sunlight or left in a cool breezy room for 2 - 3 hours to reduce its water content.

The leaves are then heated through the pan-frying or steaming methods to prevent oxidation and preserve freshness.

This shorter processing results in the polyphenols remain unaltered and almost intact and hence the leaves retain their green color.

Using a rolling machine, the leaves are rolled into various shapes such as curly, twisted, round and more. This rolling action creates a distinctive look and helps to regulate the release of natural oil substances and flavor when it’s steeped in the cup.

Lastly, the tea leaves go through its final drying process. The drying of the produced tea is responsible for many new flavor compounds.

What Are Green Tea Ingredients?

Green tea contains a large number of ingredients, more than 200 bioactive compounds.

Here is the list of the main ingredients of green tea together with its health benefits:

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are the most abundant group of plant phenolic compounds known to provide much of the flavor, color, and taste of fruits, vegetables, and other parts of the plant.

They are natural compounds that have amazing health benefits with its antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties.

As a result, it helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases.

Catechins

Catechins are a dominant type of polyphenols in green tea, making up about 60% - 80% of the polyphenols. The most potent catechins in green tea are epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

According to this study in 2012, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most effective cancer chemopreventive polyphenol in green tea.

Catechins have antioxidant and antibacterial properties and they made up the bulk of green tea’s antioxidants and its health benefit.

Flavonols

Flavonols are another group of polyphenols known for their strong antioxidant properties.

L-Theanine

Theanine is an amino acid that produces a savory or umami taste. It’s the sweet after-taste in green tea.

Caffeine

Green tea contains less caffeine than black tea or coffee. Caffeine has a diuretic effect and increase metabolic rate and prevent asthma.

Vitamin A

Green tea contains Carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, that has antioxidant and protective properties.

Vitamin B

Green tea contains vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), and B5 (pantothenic acid).

In a nutshell, B vitamins help your body break down and use carbohydrates, fats, and protein in your diet and help metabolize food into energy.

Vitamin C

Green tea contains as much amount of Vitamin C as a cup of spinach. Vitamin C increases the body’s resistance to disease such as cold and eases fatigue.

Consuming five or six cups of green tea a day provides the body with the daily requirement of vitamin C.

Vitamin E

which contains anti-aging properties

Fluorine

A cup of green tea contains more fluorine than fluoridated water. Fluorine is a mineral that helps to harden tooth enable and prevent cavities.