Perhaps I have a tell-tale trait about me, because it seems that when I meet new people I discover there are more tea drinkers than non-tea drinkers. In Zurich and London, both cities where I have lived for some time, the growing popularity of speciality coffee has pulled many towards flat whites (thanks to our Aussie/Kiwi brethren!) and drip coffee.
Generally, people who tell me they don’t drink much tea, prefer to drink coffee throughout the day. And no, these people exist outside of Italy! I press them further and ask why: it’s either that they are from countries where tea culture did not proliferate historically, or they have never had the opportunity to taste good quality tea, because those generic teabags serving very strong low-quality black tea has not been… their cup of tea (pun intended)! Nonetheless, for people who habitually drink tea, tell me that they enjoy green tea. This is especially true for Millennials according to my non-substantiated, loose surveying.
In a café or restaurant, you are likely to see just ‘green tea’ on the menu, so it’s safe to assume that wherever you go, you are ordering the same green tea, right? In fact, green tea is a type of tea. In Japan alone, there are at least twenty types of green tea, with an even wider variety grown in China and South Korea, for example.
Photo by chartressansgluten.fr
As for the type of green tea, it all depends on your taste preferences, mood and time of day. In the morning, I soak in the quiet and stillness and enjoy making myself some Organic Matcha tea. The slow release of caffeine (due to the presence of theanine in the tea) sustains my energy levels in a balanced way, plus I enjoy the mindfulness in the process of whisking with my chasen. In the weekends, I wake myself up with High Mountain Dragonwell tea because the light honeysuckle sweetness and slight chestnut notes awaken my senses gently. The umami flavours of Organic Sencha and Genmaicha are great for the afternoon after lunch for a healthy pick-me-up. It is advisable to not consume green tea on an empty stomach due to the fact that tannins in the tea increase stomach acid and can cause stomach ache.
You read that correctly- Japan is not the only place where green tea is produced! A little known fact is that China produces roughly 80 percent of the world’s green teas. It is not only the amount of green tea production that differs between the two countries, but the processing methods traditionally used also differ. Generally speaking, Chinese green teas are handpicked and processed by pan-firing or baking, whereas Japanese green teas are machine-cut and processed by steaming, resulting in the very different aroma, tastes, and colour of the brewed tea itself. Nevertheless, green tea all comes from the same plant. Just like wine, it really is the terroir where the tea is grown, the processing methods and the skill of the tea producers that gives it variety.
So what is it about green tea that appeals to even the more timid and non-adventurous tea drinkers? The most common answer I hear is the health benefits of green tea. Let’s take a look…
When tea leaves were first discovered and drank as tea in ancient China, it was celebrated and consumed for its medicinal purposes. Generally, teas provide a great source of naturally-occurring chemicals that are deemed healthy for the body. These are phytochemicals (aka antioxidants), known as flavonoids. Flavonoids keep your heart healthy by keeping the blood vessels ‘flexible’ so that they are able to stretch in and out in order for the blood to flow smoothly. They also help reinforce our body’s natural defence systems and slow the ageing process. Both black and green teas contain a similar amount of flavonoids, though differing in their chemical structures. Green tea contains more of the simple type of flavonoids called catechins. On the other hand, black tea contains complex types called theaflavins and thearubigins, all belonging to the class of polyphenols.
After a late night out with friends or slaying it till late at work, you may wake up feeling as if you can barely open your eyes. Did you know that you can use green tea as part of a home remedy to reduce puffy eyes and lighten those panda-like dark circles? If you have green tea at home, here is a quick tip:
So what you see in tv and films is not actually a joke..! Firstly, cucumbers have astringent properties that cause blood vessels to constrict. Additionally, their cooling effects help ease inflammation. The tannin in tea also works as an astringent. The caffeine also helps to constrict blood vessels, reduce swelling, and tighten the skin around the eyes.
If I think back to how I got into green teas during my childhood, it would be due to my first cup of sencha during a Japanese meal with my family in Hong Kong. The warmth of the umaminess and distinct yet subtle taste on my palette got me to experiment with green teas outside of the usual jasmine and pu’erh tea that we drank at home. Tea is just so wholesome that nothing else is quite like it. Certainly, by no means is tea a panacea for all ailments. Nonetheless, when incorporated as part of a general healthy lifestyle, tea can only help sustain the wholesomeness and mindfulness that it naturally brings.