Green Tea – 101
From an ancient Chinese remedy, to an elegant expression of art, green tea has a history as flavorful and meaningful as the drink itself. Green tea is tea in its purest form, undergoing no extra processing like the black and oolong teas do. Long revered in Asia as a healthful drink, green tea is taking its place in the Western spotlight, both on our breakfast tables and in our research labs. When brewed just right, the bright, fresh tasting tea is chock full of antioxidants, making it the perfect drink to reach for during the day. Just avoid filling it up with sugar or honey!
Green tea has been a welcoming matriarch at breakfast tables for thousands of years. With Chinese origins, it became a medicinal beverage staple. When the ritual of tea migrated further west to Japan, the Japanese elaborated on the preparation and serving of tea to resemble more art form than mere steeping of leaves. The West has been slow to catch on to green tea forms, holding fast to black tea versions, which is simply a fermented version of green tea. (Oolong is a semi-fermented version.) But green tea continues to gain momentum in Western cultures as research solidifies its health benefits.
What’s the Big Deal?
So what makes green tea so healthy and useful to the body? In one word, flavonoids. Flavonoids help to reduce free radicals in the body. Green tea is especially rich in a type of flavonoids called catechins, which help prevent cell damage. Catechins are more potent than even Vitamins C and E as antioxidants. Reducing cell damage can mean a lot of different things in the body, from helping reduce the plaque buildup linked to Alzheimer’s disease, to preventing damage from UV rays, to promoting a healthy heart and brain by stabilizing blood pressure. A natural chemical L-Theanine that’s found in tea can help the body relax, so consuming hot tea in general is an excellent choice for de-stressing at the end of a long day. Green tea can also help diabetics maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
When looking for the right green tea to add to your pantry, quality does matter. The higher quality the tea is, the richer in flavonoids it will be. The more processed, the less potent the beverage will be. So focus on consuming green tea by heating water and letting the leaves (be it bagged or loose) steep. When heating the water, water that reaches the boiling point can damage the nutrients in the tea, so make the water hot, but not too hot. The ideal temperature of water is between 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit. .
Makes 1 cup (multiply as desired)
What You Need
6 ounces water, plus more if pre-warming the pot or cup
2 grams or about 1 teaspoon loose leaf green tea
Kettle to boil water
Scale or measuring spoon
Filter or strainer
Tea cup for serving
- Heat the water: Place the water in a tea kettle and heat it to 160°F to 180°F. Alternatively, bring the water to a boil and then let it rest until it cools to the correct temperature. If you do not have a thermometer to measure the specific temperature, heat the water to just short of boiling. Traditionally Japanese green teas and spring teas are brewed at lower temperatures (160°F to 170°F) and standard Chinese green teas at higher temperatures (170°F to 180°F).
- Pre-warm the teapot or cup (optional): Pour a small amount of boiling water into the pot or cup. When the pot or cup is warm, pour out the water.
- Measure the tea leaves: Using a scale, measure 2 grams of tea leaves. Alternatively, measure 1 teaspoon of tea leaves.
- Place the leaves in the teapot or cup: Place the tea leaves in the pot or cup, either directly or in an infuser.
- Pour the water: Pour the water over the tea leaves.
- Cover the teapot or cup: Place the lid on the teapot, or if using a cup, cover it with a lid or a small saucer.
- Steep the tea: Depending on the particular variety, the tea should steep for 1 to 3 minutes. Small leaves generally infuse more quickly than large leaves. Set a timer for 1 minute. Taste the tea at 1 minute and then every 30 seconds until it is to your liking.
- Stop the infusion: As soon as the tea is ready, remove the leaves by lifting out the infuser or pouring the tea through a strainer.
A Word on Matcha
Feeling bold and want to step your tea game up even more? Then try a cup of matcha green tea. A little goes a long way! Matcha is a stone-ground version of the tea and comes in powder form to brew. The resulting drink is much thicker than the brewed version. Matcha retains all of the nutrients from the tea leaves, with the antioxidant levels in one cup of matcha equivalent to 10 cups of regular green tea. Quality is paramount to selecting the right kind of matcha. Cheap versions can be a signal of low-grade tea.
Because of the unique way tea leaves for matcha are harvested, it does result in higher caffeine levels, equivalent to one cup of coffee, so one serving a day is plenty. However, thanks to L-Theanine that was mentioned earlier, it can balance the intense effects of caffeine and foster in the body what scientists call “an alert calm.” Matcha tea powder can also have more lead residue than traditionally steeped green tea, so be cautious if consuming while pregnant.
Whether you’re already a fan of the green drink, or are just learning to like it, do your body a favor and swap out some of those sugary juices and sodas for a mug of green tea.