Green Tea

The tea plant is an evergreen that is grown in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world, particularly in India and China, which together produce the bulk of the world’s teas supplies. The flavours of the teas produced vary from country to country, and are dependent not only on soil type and processing methods, but also on the elevation of the plantations, with the finest tea coming from higher, cooler areas, as the plant grows more slowly in cool air, adding to its flavour.

Green Teas are often referred to as "non-fermented" or "unfermented" teas. Green tea is produced from the same plant as the common black tea that is usually consumed in western countries. However, it is not processed, as is the case with black tea, nor is it allowed to ferment after harvesting and before drying, and so it retains most of its active ingredients. The freshly picked leaves are allowed to dry, then are heat-treated to stop any fermentation (or oxidation) that would rot the leaf.

Two main countries are traditionally known as producers of quality green tea: China and Japan.

Origin & History of Tea

According to Chinese legend, tea was discovered in the year 2737 B.C. by Emperor Shen Nung, a scholar and herbalist, when he was resting under a wild tea tree. A slight breeze stirred the branches and caused a few leaves to drift gently down into the simmering water that he was preparing. He found the resulting brew deliciously refreshing and revitalising, and so, tea was "discovered". However, you may question this story since China was not unified as an empire until the third century B.C. and hence unlikely to have an emperor then. But whatever the origins of the beverage, it is an accepted fact among scholars that tea was indeed popular in China all those years ago.

The first seeds for tea cultivation are thought to have been taken to Japan by Dengyo Daishi, a monk who spent two years, from A.D. 803 to 805, studying in China. The tea drinking and the Buddhist beliefs developed alongside each other and, whereas the rituals associated with tea drinking in ancient China died out, the Japanese developed them into a complicated and unique ceremony known as Cha-no-yu.

Tea & Natural Antioxidants

Tea is probably the most popular beverage in the world, and it is easy to see why. When one reads ancient Chinese texts, the benefits attributed to tea are extremely varied. Some of this empirical information has been confirmed by present-day scientific discoveries.

Tea contains hundreds of compounds called polyphenols, which act as antioxidants – that is, they help neutralise harmful oxygen molecules in the body known as free radicals, which have been linked to cancer, heart disease and a number of less serious problems such as wrinkles. The principle antioxidants in green tea are flavanols - in particular epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and catechin. Ideally, you need about 4 cups of green tea a day to get the benefits, but because you’ll be eating many different synergistic foods as medicine, any amount you drink is a help.

Protect the arteries
A study on 40,530 Japanese adults led by Dr Shinichi Kuriyama of Tohoku University in Sendai found that those who drank lots of green tea were less likely than those who drank only a little tea to die from cardiovascular disease and other cause.

Prevents cancer
Cancer researcher, Hasan Mukhtar, PhD, of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, has seen tea stop cancer at each stage of its life cycle, arresting both its growth and spread. And where cancerous tumours have already formed, he has seen tea shrink them.

Fights high blood pressure
Laboratory tests have proven that a daily consumption of tea prevents high blood pressure. Natural catechins found in green tea and its high content of vitamin E plays an important role in this find.

Stimulates the body's immune system
Green tea strengthens the body's defenses, thanks to the virtues of EGCG, a catechin found in this type of tea. EGCG stimulates the production of cells that form the pillars of the body's immune system. The polyphenols found in green tea help both types of cells multiply, increasing the body's immunity.

Help against ageing
The antioxidant properties of tea help to slow down cell aging, particularly in the skin. As a result, many cosmetic brands use tea extract in their anti-wrinkle creams and in their aromatherapy product ranges. Cosmetic firms also use tea in foundation creams to reduce redness and in skin-care creams and lotions to cleanse and soothe the skin.

Strengthen the mind and body
Tea is a subtle stimulant that energises the whole body, fights sleepiness and increases mental alertness.

Good for the teeth
Tea can help prevent the pain, since it contains numerous compounds, polyphenols as well as tannin that act as antibiotics. In other words, tea is great for mopping up the bacteria that promote tooth decay
Tea also contains fluoride, which provides further dental protection. The action of fluoride is enhanced by that of the polyphenols, which prevent bacteria1 from adhering to tooth enamel. When researchers at Forsyth Dental Centre in Boston tested a variety of foods for their anti bacterial qualities, they found that tea was far and away the most protective.

Tips

When you brew tea, it takes 3 minutes for it to release the health-promoting compounds. That’s also the amount of time researchers use in their studies on tea.

Have tea with meat. Since tea’s polyphenol compounds help to block the formation of cancer-causing chemicals, it’s a good idea to enjoy a tea party after eating fried or charred meat.

Sources:

  • Selene Yeager. The Doctors Book of Food Remedies. New York: Rodale Inc., 2007.
  • Dr Michael Sharon. Nutrients A-Z – A User Guide to Foods, Herbs, Vitamins, Minerals & Supplements. Great Britain: Prion Books Ltd, 1998.
  • Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. Food as Medicine – How to Use Diet, Vitamins, Juices, and Herbs for a Healthier, Happier, and Longer Life. New York: Atria Books, 2003.
  • Lydia Gautier. Tea - Exotic Flavours & Aromas. Switzerland: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006.
  • All about Tea. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, 2005.
  • Jane Pettigrew. The Connoisseur's Guide to Tea - Discover the World's Most Exquisite Tea Leaves. United Kingdom: Apple Press, 2007.
 
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