All tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The production of green tea originated in China thousands of years ago. Green tea is the made from the young buds and leaves of the plant. Typically the leaves are dried immediately and then heated or steamed to prevent the oxidation process. Some types of specialty green tea are rolled by hand to preserve the essential oils in the leaves for more flavorful brewing.
White tea is made from the immature leaves that are picked before the buds open. The leaves are not dried but steamed. White tea like green tea contains a high amount of polyphenols that are powerful anti-oxidants. White tea is often more expensive – depending on the variety — because it must be harvested by hand. The Silver needles variety goes about $25 per ounce. This variety is comprised of the buds of the plant, and is harvested by hand during a 2-day period in early spring.
Black tea is made from the same plant, but it is partially dried and then allowed to ferment. Oolong tea is in between green and black because it is only partially fermented. Both black and Oolong tea contains less antioxidants than green and white tea.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea contains about 24-40mg of caffeine per 8-ounce cup. If caffeine is a concern then decaffeinated varieties are also available. Drink 2-4 cups per day to see a health benefit.
Green tea has been shown to reduce risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Green tea has been recently touted for it anti-breast cancer benefits and is said to improve the benefits of endocrine therapy such as Tamoxifen. Here is a link to the research Green tea is also preventative for many other types of cancer (esophageal, stomach, prostate, pancreatic, colorectal, and lung) It can also reduce cholesterol (raise good cholesterol), protect the body from environmental toxins, sun damage, and aids in weight loss.
The valuable components of green tea are antioxidants called catechins or polyphenols. These antioxidants search in your body for free radicals that can damage DNA. Green tea also contains EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) and 3 types of flavonoids.
Charleston Tea Plantation
The Charleston Tea plantation is the only remaining tea plantation in the United States. It has a working factory where the tea is processed into the various types of tea. It is located on Wadmalaw Island right outside Charleston, South Carolina. In 2003, the Bigelow family purchased the plantation. It is a very unique experience and I recommend if you are ever in Charleston area to make it part of your sight seeing plans. They offer trolley tours of the plantation that are definitely worth the cost. You can also take a free factory tour and taste samples of all their teas in the gift shop. One of my favorite green teas is their Island Green Tea. It is a mint flavored green tea. (This is my honest opinion. I was not compensated for this view and I do not have any affiliation with Charleston Tea Plantation)
Brewing Methods of green tea
The temperature of the water for brewing green tea is critical. Heat the water to be between 170-180 degrees. You can either use a thermometer to measure the temperature or invest in a kettle that will heat to specific temperatures. Never use boing water to make green tea! It will make the tea taste very bitter.
Steep the tea for 1-3 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea.
Use a rounded teaspoon per 6-ounce cup of water.
Make sure you use filtered water to make your tea. Chorine and fluoride can affect the flavor. Make sure you allow enough room for the tea to expand when brewing.
1 6oz teacup of filtered (170-180 degree) water
1 rounded teaspoon of green tea.
Brew for approximately 3 minutes.
Serve sweetened or plain.
Placing a pitcher in the sun to make green tea also works well. The sun gently warms the tea, so it typically takes about 2-3 hours for it to brew. I recommend not adding sugar until you are ready to serve the tea to prevent any bacteria growth.
1 quart pitcher of water
6-8 teaspoons green tea
Place in sun and brew 2-3 hours.
Sweeten as desired. I use a couple of packets of stevia.
Place in fridge to chill approximately 1 hour.
This method requires a little more time, but is sure to keep the antioxidants in your tea intact.
Add several ice cubs to 12 ounces filtered water.
Use about 2 rounded teaspoons of green tea.
Allow the tea to steep for about 20 minutes for one glass (about 1 1/2 cups).
If you are making a small pitcher (4 cups) if will take about 40 minutes to an hour. You can also brew in the refrigerator overnight.
I prefer loose tea to bagged tea, but I do occasionally use bagged tea. There are many different options available for brewing loose tea. I particular like several of the options offered by Bodum. Bodum has single cup, pitcher, and teapot brewing options for loose tea
Look out for Fakes
Be wary of bottle green tea. Bottled teas contain substantial amounts of sugar and other ingredients like preservatives. Bottled tea also contains fewer antioxidants. It is also much more economical to make your own tea.
Cooking with Tea
There are many ways to consume tea besides drinking. There are lots of delicious recipes for cooking with tea. Check out my recipe for Green Tea Soup .