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Discovering the secrets of green tea. What are its properties?

2024-02-26
Discovering the secrets of green tea. What are its properties?

Yerba mate is our fuel and we can hardly imagine a day without a dose of caffeine in the South American style. Sometimes, however, we crave something a little softer, especially during an afternoon or evening relaxation. Green tea is the ideal solution, and the wonderful, deep aroma and refreshing taste are not its only benefits. What is contained in green tea, how does it work and what properties does it have? In today's post, we uncover all its secrets!

Summary:

  1. Green or black... Where did the colours of tea come from and how do they differ?
  2. The secrets of green tea. What is in it and what effects does it have?
  3. Green tea – contraindications
  4. Can green tea be drunk at night?
  5. Green tea – how to brew?

Green or black... Where did the colours of tea come from and how do they differ?

After water, tea is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. It comes in several types and more than a thousand varieties, although all of them are derived from a single plant – Camellia sinensis, whose extraordinary properties were discovered by the Chinese thousands of years ago. Black tea is the most popular, closely followed by green tea. We also have red, white, yellow and even... blue tea! What makes them different and where did the “coloured” names come from? The secret lies in the colour of the dry tea leaves and the infusion they produce, which is influenced by the way they are processed. Black tea undergoes intensive fermentation, during which the leaves take on a dark colour, resulting in a dark, copper-brown infusion, while green tea leaves undergo minimal processing. Freshly picked leaves wilt and dry naturally, but just before the drying process, they are subjected to high temperatures, which stops the oxidation (fermentation) and preserves their colour, subtle flavour and valuable properties. There is a reason why green tea is considered to be one of the healthiest teas, but we will discuss this in more detail later. Today, we move from South America to Asia!

Japanese green tea – history and varieties

Green tea has enthusiasts all over the world, but it has found particular favour with the Japanese, where it has become the national drink. People in Japan drink green tea indiscriminately, treating it almost on a par with water! It is an integral part of their daily life, but also an important symbol of tradition and culture. They first encountered it around the 8th century through two Buddhist monks who returned from a trip to China. The Japanese fell in love with the taste of tea, but initially it was reserved only for the aristocracy and high-ranking monks. On top of which, when Japan turned its back on Chinese culture, tea was almost completely forgotten for several hundred years. Love for the fine Chinese brew returned in the 12th century, when the two countries re-established diplomatic ties. The father of the popularisation of tea was the Japanese monk Eisai, author of the first written work on tea in history, in which he described the cultivation methods, processing and properties of the plant, as well as the action and use of the resulting brew. The Japanese began experimenting with tea brought from China, discovering different processing methods, which resulted in a different taste, aroma and colour of the infusion. In this way, many varieties of green tea were created, including:

  • sencha – one of the most popular green tea varieties. It comes from the first or second harvest of leaves that are exposed to sunlight during growth. Characterised by a delicate, fresh, slightly bitter taste;
  • gyokuro – the highest quality green tea. It is made from leaves that are shaded 21 days before harvesting, which results in a more intensive production of amino acids, chlorophyll and L-theanine, giving the leaves a more intense green colour;
  • matcha – green tea in the form of a very finely ground powder. Like gyokuro tea, matcha is made from leaves that are shielded from the sun's rays for several weeks before harvesting, which affects their properties, colour and flavour. Once dried, the leaves are slowly and carefully ground with stone querns into a fine, silky dust. Matcha is a key part of the Japanese tea ceremony, but it is also used as an everyday infusion, and the fine, tea-like powder is often added to various dishes and desserts;
  • genmaicha – one of the most interesting varieties of green tea, sencha or bancha (lower quality tea) with the addition of roasted rice.
Green tea

The secrets of green tea. What is in it and what effects does it have?

The Japanese indulged in green tea centuries ago, and their delicate palates and sensitive noses had a good feeling – it turns out that green tea has much more to offer than just a unique taste and aroma! As we mentioned at the beginning, all types of tea are derived from the same plant, so their chemical composition is very similar. However, the different production methods mean that some differences in the content of the individual components are noticeable, and this translates into slightly different properties and effects of each type of tea. Just like in any other variety, in green tea, you will find alkaloids, mainly caffeine, a substance that has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, removing fatigue, increasing concentration, improving reflexes and enhancing mood. An important component of tea is polyphenols – catechins and their derivatives, which are powerful weapons in the fight against free radicals. Through their action, they protect the body's cells against ageing and many diseases. Another important component of tea, including green tea, are amino acids, among which L-theanine stands out in particular – it has a relaxing effect, improves cognitive function and emotional state, and protects against cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Antioxidant, anti-cancer and cardiovascular protective effects are also attributed to the numerous saponins found in the tea, while vitamins (B, C and E) and minerals (calcium, magnesium, chromium, manganese, iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and others) ensure that green tea, when consumed regularly, comprehensively improves the function of the entire body.

Green tea – what else does it help with?

If green tea were a superhero, its power would be versatility! Research over many years has shown that its beneficial effects support the body in many areas. Improving the function of the nervous and cardiovascular systems, supporting the immune system and fighting harmful bacteria are just some of its extraordinary abilities. It turns out that drinking green tea has a lot to do with maintaining a slim figure. In online forums and social media, the question "does green tea slim down?" is often asked. Indeed, regular drinking of green tea can not only improve the functioning of the digestive system, which is important during weight loss, but can also regulate the body's sugar metabolism and weaken fat emulsification by inhibiting gastric and pancreatic lipase. Of course, the tea by itself will not miraculously make unwanted weight disappear and waist circumference shrink overnight, but it is definitely worth introducing it into your daily balanced diet!

Can drinking green tea cause harm?

Green tea can confidently be called the “health elixir”, but as with any beverage or food product, even the most natural, healthy and highest quality, the rule that too much is unhealthy applies. Green tea contains caffeine – although there is not a lot of it, people who are sensitive to this substance can feel its effects. The consumption of caffeine, and therefore also excessive amounts of green tea, should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as young children. Those suffering from hypertension, on the other hand, can rest assured. Although caffeine raises blood pressure, green tea also contains a significant amount of catechins, which in turn contribute to lowering blood pressure. Of course, it is worth mentioning at this point that every body is different and can react completely differently to various substances. Drinking green tea in small amounts is not harmful, even during pregnancy, but it is advisable to monitor your wellbeing and, in the case of serious illnesses and diseases, to consult your doctor.

Can green tea be drunk at night?

A few paragraphs earlier we mentioned that there is caffeine in green tea. This begs the question, does green tea stimulate well and can it replace coffee? And if it does have a stimulating effect, can it be drunk in the evening? The caffeine content of tea differs depending on the variety and brewing method, but is incomparably less than that of coffee. It is assumed that a cup of green tea contains around 20-35 mg of caffeine. In comparison, a cup of black tea is a single dose of around 45 mg of caffeine, while a cup of coffee contains around 100-140 mg of caffeine. The conclusion? Those looking for an alternative to coffee, a good source of stimulation, will certainly not find it in green tea. A cup of crisp sencha in the morning will warm you up rather than rouse you, and in the afternoon it will help you relax pleasantly. At the same time, an infusion of green tea will gently help to keep the mind alert and clear, so we do not recommend drinking it at night, just before bedtime.

Green tea – how to brew?

As with any other beverage, the way tea is brewed matters. Green tea leaves treated with water that is too hot or brewed for too long will give the infusion an intense, bitter and unpleasant taste. The way green tea is brewed varies depending on the variety – and there are many varieties – but in a nutshell, the optimum water temperature should be around 60-80°C and the steeping time should be no longer than 2-3 minutes. It is worth noting that green tea leaves can be brewed several times until they lose their flavour and aroma, and that each successive brewing allows new notes and flavour accents to be discovered. Some even believe that it is the second steeping of green tea that is the most valuable.

An infusion of green tea is a real feast for the body and soul, but in order to fully enjoy its richness and extraordinary qualities, it is worth reaching for the highest quality products. Although in our shop we specialise mainly in the subject of yerba mate, there is also room for excellent teas from all over the world. In the category dedicated to green tea, you will find high-quality tea without additives, matcha, intriguing tea compositions and spectacular flowering teas. We invite you to savour the aromas and discover new flavours!


Source of information:

  1. Wikipedia: Green tea.
  2. V.R. Sinija, H.N. Mishra, Green tea: Health benefits, Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 2008.
  3. C. Cabrera, R. Artacho, R. Giménez, Beneficial Effects of Green Tea – A Review, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2006.

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