Green tea has grown in popularity because of the many health benefits associated with it. Although this popularity is fairly new, green tea has been a staple in many Asian countries for centuries, so much so that green tea is sometimes called “Japanese tea.”
Green tea is from the plant Camellia sinensi. This same plant produces all types of tea – green tea, oolong tea, and black tea. The only difference between these types of tea is how they have been processed after picking the fresh tea leaves.
Green tea is sometimes referred to as an un-fermented or un-oxidized tea. Oxidation is the natural chemical process that occurs after vegetable matter is picked. The leaves begin to oxidize immediately after harvesting, and to stop the oxidation process, green tea leaves are steamed or baked. Steaming is usually used for Japanese green tea, while baking or pan heating is often used for Chinese green tea.
The steaming process retains the green color of the tea leaves, but the lack of oxidation means that green tea has a shorter shelf-life than black tea. Green tea should always be consumed as soon after production as possible.
No discussion of green tea would be complete without a glance at its health benefits. Numerous scientific studies have proven the effectiveness of green tea in combating cancer, liver disease, and arthritis.
The health benefits of green tea are due to its high levels of flavonoids, polyphenols and catechins. These are nutritional compounds that are classed as anti-oxidants. It is these anti-oxidants that are so beneficial to human health. They work by binding harmful oxygen-containing molecules in your body called free radicals and peroxides that otherwise could damage your DNA, cell membranes, and other cell components.
Although all tea contains these anti-oxidants, green tea has higher concentrations of them than either black tea or oolong tea. This may be due to the relative lack of processing that green tea undergoes, because white tea has even higher levels of anti-oxidants.
Green tea can be enjoyed either hot or cold without any reduction in its health benefits. Although green tea tastes great by itself, some people prefer to add sugar, honey, lemon or milk. Don’t worry – this will not have any effect on the levels of anti-oxidants.