White, blue, black, yellow, red and obviously green. These are the colors which encompass the infinite varieties of tea. Perhaps not everyone knows that within each color are hidden other shades of flavors, scents and geographical origins. Today, we will tell you about those of green tea, one of the most well-known and widespread types of tea in the world.
Characteristics, properties and contraindications of green tea.
What identifies green tea is undoubtedly the leaves which are used, those of the Camellia Sinensis, undergo little to none of the fermentation or oxidation process, contrary to all the other varieties of tea that we know. This allows them to maintain their lighter, more delicate flavor compared to black tea, for example, which is the fruit of long periods of processing. The leaves of green tea are harvested when the plant reaches around one and a half meters high and they are then dried to be able to sell them.
The “paradoxical” properties of green tea.
The properties and virtues of green tea, described and admired for centuries, have also been the subject of modern day studies by the most important research centers in the world. In fact, in 2006 the University of Yale published a study called “Asian Paradox” in which it underlines the fact that in Asia, despite a very high consumption of cigarettes, there is a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, attributing this fact to the common habit all over the continent of drinking large quantities of green tea.
This is thanks to its antioxidant properties, which combat cell damage with positive consequences on the tissues of the human body.
Green tea also has beneficial properties for the nervous system, thanks to the neuro-protective effect of the Theanine, an amino-acid it contains, which reduces stress, inhibiting the stimulation of neurons, and by the Polyphenols which help to combat cognitive brain deficits, caused by obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, which reduces the levels of oxygen transported to the brain during the night.
Green tea, but not more than 5 times a day!
It’s not all a bed of roses. If there are many positive aspects, it is important to keep in mind the contraindications of green tea, but don’t worry, these only occur if you really overdo the quantities. The dividing line, as always, lies in the quantity. For many reasons, the general advice is not to exceed 5 cups a day. The Tannins present in the tea are directly responsible for the increase in gastric acid, which can cause cramps, nausea and constipation. Furthermore, let’s remember that tea also contains caffeine so it is always better to avoid excessive use, particularly if the person is especially sensitive to the side effects that may cause anxiety, insomnia and cardiac arrhythmia. For pregnant women, the number of cups is even lower than the average, they should have no more than 2 cups a day. This is so that both mother and baby do not consume (during pregnancy or while breastfeeding) an excessive dose of caffeine.
Varieties of green tea
Even if everyone thinks of China when we talk about tea, because it was there that it was born 5000 years ago, as we said in this article (LINK), we should not leave the story and the characteristics of Japanese tea in the shade .
The first written testimony about tea in Japan dates to the beginning of the 9th century, and recounts how it was the monks who imported this exceptional product, that they had discovered in China, into their own country, where it was already very commonly found. In fact, originally, tea was only used medicinally and was only available to the wealthier social classes. With the passing of time, they started to use it also in religious ceremonies and to describe its powerful benefits in books widespread throughout the country, thus increasing its popularity and circulation to all social classes of the population.
In Japan there are more than 20 different types of green tea, and here we will examine just a few of them:
You haven’t tasted all types of green tea if you haven’t tried Matcha (LINK) in fact, this is the only type of green tea used in official tea ceremonies. This variety is obtained by picking the youngest leaves of tea, carefully grown in the shade for 20-30 days before being gathered and then steamed and dried. Furthermore, in contrast to other teas, this type is consumed in its entirety. How come? Matcha tea is not in leaves, but is sold in powder form, so it is not filtered but simply added to hot water.
This type of tea is very widely used in Japan for family use. In fact, Bancha is traditionally considered a refreshing green tea and is suitable for everyday consumption, thanks, also to its low caffeine content. Its leaves are picked in late summer or autumn and then delicately cooked to give them a fuller flavor.
Literally the name means “dew of jade” and refers to its characteristic color, very similar to the green gem whose name it bears. The Gyokuro High tea is obtained from the variety Yabukita, a small and particularly sweet leaf which is used to make the finest green teas in all of Japan. This is grown indoors, away from direct light, because this way the plant can produce chlorophyll which gives it that characteristic sweet and less astringent taste.
This variety is the most popular in Japan. The youngest leaves of tea with which it is made give it a balanced flavor and an ideal sweetness for daily consumption. Sencha is a high quality tea, since the precious leaves with which it is made are only picked once a year.
Its unusual characteristic catches your eye because compared to most other Japanese green teas its leaves are round and curly and not straight. The method used for growing it is similar to that of Sencha tea but the Tamaryokucha is dried using hot air inside a typical rotating drum.
How to prepare a good green tea
It may seem banal, but not many people know which is the best way to prepare green tea. If you think it is simply enough to leave the teabag to infuse in hot water then you are sadly mistaken, and on many fronts.
We would recommend that you buy your green tea in loose leaf form and not in teabags. In this way you can better appreciate the flavor and the beneficial effects of the drink, even if the process is a little complicated:
1) Put the water on to boil, (not tap water!). Green tea doesn’t require high temperatures to be prepared given its delicacy. The temperature should remain below 80°C and to be as precise as possible we would recommend using a thermometer.
2) While the water is heating put the tealeaves in the infuser. The quantity we recommend using is 4 or 5 grams for every 150ml of water.
3) Once the water has reached the optimum temperature, pour it onto the tealeaves and leave it to infuse. Pay careful attention to the specific timing of the variety of tea you have chosen, to optimize the preparation.
4) Once you have left the tea to infuse for the required amount of time, filter and serve!
Green tea in the summer: some ideas
Summer is coming, and so it’s time to think of some creative and tasty ideas involving green tea. If you liked the Matcha variety, we recommend using it to make some tasty cookies, also possible in vegan version, by adding tealeaves in powder form to the cookie dough before putting it in the oven.
Or, when there is no escaping from the heat, you can try making home-made popsicles using green tea, making them particularly thirst-quenching and excellent for replenishing lost fluids. It is now very easy to find the molds for making popsicles at home, suitable for every kind of freezer. So why not make the most of it and use green tea, maybe adding an interesting touch of fresh mint for something different?
And finally, we would like to recommend a great classic: cold green tea. To serve to your thirsty guests, or take with you in your water-flask, it is an excellent ally in combating the sultry summer heat. A perfect example is Blueberry Night, enriched with blueberries, which aids circulation whilst protecting the capillaries at the same time.
We have given you plenty of reasons to consume (responsibly) green tea. Now it’s up to you to tell us and recommend new ways to use it daily or choose it for those more special occasions!