Green Tea – a Primer

Ah, green tea. The media darling of the tea world, which boasts numerous health benefits, and has a certain mystique about it for those people who routinely get their tea fix by dunking a teabag in a cup of warm water. Green tea is even appearing in soft drinks, with manufacturers hoping to capitalize on the benefits of green tea in their less-than-healthy beverages. But let’s take a look behind the curtain to get a fix on the facts of green tea. Read on!

It’s not easy being green

The production of green tea from freshly picked tea leaves needs to proceed quickly, but without haste. Most teas are routinely allowed to sun-dry, which allows the enzymes in the leaves to start oxidizing the leaf, which is great for taste and flavor, but unfortunately starts to break down the beneficial compounds in the plant. When leaves and buds are freshly picked from a tea plant, they will quickly wilt and oxidize — or ferment — unless they are dried shortly after harvesting.

Green tea is usually steam or pan-dried to prevent the breakdown of the valuable compounds in the leaf. This helps preserve the wonderful catechin polyphenols — antioxidants — that have suspected cancer-fighting properties, and are associated with lower levels of LDL cholesterol, as well as a positive effect on suppression of heart disease. It’s a power-packed cup of tea, to be sure!

Going green

If you’re used to throwing some teabags in a pot and letting it steep for a few hours, then you’ll find that brewing green tea takes a bit more finesse. Green tea is best when brewed at a lower water temperature than other teas; around 180 degrees Fahrenheit is best. This allows for the beneficial polyphenols to be drawn out into the beverage, without taking on the “leafy” taste of the plant. Loose-leaf tea is best, as the leaves can fully expand while brewing, although teaball or teabag brewing is also acceptable.

Let the leaves sit for three minutes, and then remove them from the pot to avoid affecting the taste of the beverage. Let the tea rest for a few more minutes to cool off slightly, then enjoy. Finicky? Perhaps, but we find that the taste — and health benefits — of green tea are well worth the trouble.

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