Green tea is regarded as being the second most popular beverage, behind water, around the world. However, given its plethora of health advantages, it should be first. From its refreshing taste to distinct color, there are a multitude of reasons to support why this drink should be incorporated into your diet.
History: Green tea is said to have first been used in China over 4,000 years ago. There are various legends that tell of the discovery of green tea. According to a Chinese legend, Emperor Shen-Nung discovered the tea in 2737 B.C. when leaves from a tea bush fell into a pot of water he was boiling. Other legends tell of a Chinese countryman who found the tea while on his walk. The tea plant was later discovered to also produce Oolong, black, and red teas, although green tea still remains to be the most popular type of tea in China.
Tea culture was spread to Java, the Dutch East Indies, and other tropical and subtropical areas by the 9th century A.D. In the 16th century, traders from Europe sailing to and from the Far East introduced Europeans to the drink and it became the national beverage of England soon after.
Tea came to the Americas with American colonists and the popularity of the drink led to the British tea tax in 1767. The rest, as they say, is history.
In cooking: The ideal choice of water to brew tea in is spring water, followed by filter water. The minerals removed in distilled water result in the tea tasting flat, which is why it should not be used.
When brewing loose leaves of tea, using a food scale will help measure the right tea to water ratio. Three grams of tea to five ounces is adequate for small teapots, while four grams of tea may be used per eight ounces of water. Green tea should be brewed at a lower temperature of 160-170°F and should be brewed for 30 seconds to one minute.
Some alternative ways to enjoy green tea are:
• Make a green tea chai by brewing green tea in hot vanilla soy milk and top it with cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, and allspice.
• Combine cooled green tea with fruit juice such as peach or papaya and sweeten it with a teaspoon of honey per cup. Blend the mix and pour it over ice.
• Brew 1-2 teaspoons of loose leaf green tea in 8 ounces of water for 20-30 minutes to develop flavor and add it to marinades, dressings, soups and sauces.
Benefits: Green tea drinkers appear to have a lower risk for a wide range of diseases. Its powers are virtually limitless and can prevent simple infections to cancer, strokes, and osteoporosis.
Green tea is the least processed tea and therefore provides the most antioxidants. Research linked to health benefits of green tea are based on approximately three cups per day, although even one cup will do a world of wonders to your body and overall health.
According to whfoods.com, in a European study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August 2006, tea was found to be a healthier choice of beverage than almost any other, including pure water. This is because green tea not only rehydrates but also provides polyhenols which protect against heart disease.
The following is an amended list of the various ways green tea benefits our bodies, according to the site.
In Japanese studies, green tea consumption has been linked to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. It has also been shown to lower the risk of atherosclerosis by lowering LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, lipid peroxides, and fibrinogen, all while improving the ratio of good to bad cholesterol.
Green tea catechins help thin the blood and prevent the formation of blood clots by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds derived from omega-6 fatty acids.
Green tea minimizes heart cell death after a heart attack or stroke and speeds up the heart’s cells recovery from damage, allowing for tissues to recover and prevent damage to organs.
Polyphenols found in green tea halt prostate cancer at multiple levels by mobilizing several molecular pathways that shut down the proliferation and spread of tumor cells while inhibiting the growth of blood vessels.
Consumption of green tea has been linked to enhance survival in women with ovarian cancer.
The tea’s ability to inhibit telomerase may help children with common malignant brain tumors. It may also reduce the increased risk for colon cancer caused by a high fat diet.
If you smoke, or are around someone who smokes, drinking green tea can provide protection against lung cancer.
Population studies suggest that consuming green tea may prevent the formation of type 2 diabetes.
Green tea protects against liver and kidney disease. Research has also shown that drinking green tea may significantly increase bone mineral density and provide bone benefits similar to those you would obtain through exercise and calcium.
Green tea promotes fat loss, specifically the loss of fat that accumulates in the tissues lining the abdominal cavity and surrounding the intestines and internal organs.
Drinking green tea protects against cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. A cup of green tea may also help prevent or lessen the duration of the flu.
The range of benefits green tea covers are astonishing to behold. If you don’t drink green tea now, you may just want to start boiling some water.
Storage: There are two ways that you can purchase green tea – loose leaves or tea bags. When testing loose tea, crumble a few leaves in your hand and smell the aroma. The freshest, most flavorful tea will smell sweet and grassy. Tea bags can be tested for freshness by removing all the tea from the bag and placing it in a cup of hot water. After a few minutes, remove the bag and taste it. If it tastes like plain, hot water, the tea is fresh. If it tastes like tea, the tea is old and the paper has thus absorbed the flavor.
To ensure the freshness of tea, purchase it in small quantities. It should then be stored in a tight container that is just large enough to contain the tea. Tea exposed to air in a half-empty, large container will continue to oxidize.
It is best to store tea in a dark, cool, and dry place. Tea stored in the refrigerator is vulnerable to moisture and odors from other foods and if frozen, the tea will be ruined through water condensation when defrosted.
Fun Fact: Green tea is found in a multitude of cosmetics. The antioxidants it contains fight against aging and disease and is therefore mixed with other natural ingredients such as aloe, honey, or gingko in moisturizers, shampoos, body creams, and other beauty products.