Green Tea Groove

From the first citation in a Chinese dictionary in 350 C.E., cha aka tea, has been hailed as a healing drink with special qualities. Its ability to uplift, yet calm, has helped to make it, after water, the most widely drunk beverage in the world. Research repeatedly shows that each of the six main types of processed tea (post-fermented, black, oolong, green, yellow, and white), have various healthful properties.

The level of oxidation, processing, and fermentation determines the classification but real tea comes from an evergreen plant, camellia sinensis. Herbal teas, which are also called tisanes, may or may not have medicinal effects and may or may not contain leaves or stems from the true tea plant.

Though all the real teas have been studied, during the last ten years, in the West, green tea, a very lightly oxidized tea, has been researched most extensively. Some of the beneficial components it contains include:

Caffeine, which despite all the negative hype, is a mood and energy booster in the right quantities (though not appropriate for everyone). Coffee, which has it’s good points, by the way, is implicated in elevated cholesterol rates. Switching to green tea as part of a cholesterol reducing program is a good first step.

The amino acid, L-theanine, which has been shown to improve mood and cognition, while reducing mental and physical stress. It also has been shown to reduce the “caffeine jitters” without diminishing caffeine’s desired effects, including alertness. L-theanine increases the brain’s production of GABA and dopamine.

Polyphenols (Catechins), types of powerful antioxidants, one of which, epigallocatechin gallate is said to promote weight loss.

Tannins, which have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic properties.

Flavonoids (Vitamin P), which have antioxidant activity (and some anti-cancer activity).

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sampling green teas, so much so that I got a wicked caffeine-withdrawal headache during the Tisha B’av fast. (Oddly enough, it took me a couple hours to figure out why my head was throbbing because I haven’t had a headache in years!)

Although I’ve used both loose-leaf green teas and tea bags, I’m going to confine my comments to three brands of tea bags since this is the most popular and simplest to prepare.

Note: If you’re going to try green tea, the water shouldn’t be boiling, it should be just just about ready to boil or at least very hot, and the tea shouldn’t steep quite as long as black tea (that’s the stuff you usually drink). I personally don’t like pouring boiling water on any tea, I just use really, really hot water.

I’ve been drinking Eden organic Kukicha tea (both bags and loose) for many years. Kukicha is a delicious roasted tea made from the twigs and stems of the tea plant and it’s one of my favorites. It has 90 percent less caffeine than regular brewed coffee and has a smoky-sweet flavor that’s reminiscent of heirloom apples.

It’s one of several Eden products that I buy, though I’ve never tried their green tea. When I contacted the company, they sent me a complimentary box of their Sencha Mint tea bags to sample. Sencha Mint is a blend of Japanese organic green tea leaves and Egyptian organic spearmint and peppermint leaves. It has 41 percent less caffeine than brewed coffee. But, if you drink several cups of it, as I did in order to sample it, you will definitely feel “picked up”.

Although I love mint tisanes and Nana tea (mint leaves with black tea, very popular in Israel and the Arab countries), I wasn’t sure I’d like the mint-green tea combination. I predicted the mint would overpower the delicate taste (both subtly astringent and bitter), of the green tea. I was wrong.

Sencha Mint is refreshing enough to drink hot on a very hot day. The quality of the mint was definitely higher than in most mint teas (some brands don’t even use mint leaves, just the oil or “mint flavor”). When I opened a bag to see what was inside, I found small, but not powdered, pieces of mint and tea leaves, (and a small piece of stem), all of which smelled very fresh. Though I’m not generally a fan of most iced teas, both Sencha Mint and Kukicha are delicious chilled.

The next brand I tried, and one which I drink nearly as much as Eden’s Kukicha, is Tazo’s China Green Tips, hand-picked in the mountains of the Zhejiang province of China. It has a rich, grassy, almost but not quite smoky flavor with a sweet finish. I find that China Green Tips, like most green teas, isn’t very appealing when iced. It is also one of the few green teas that can, in my opinion, be drunk sweetened. Its full-bodied enough to stand up to a mild honey. Envy, another Tazo green tea (there are a few varieties), is an organic, pan-roasted tea from the Hunan province. It’s tasty, but I prefer the China Green Tips.

Finally, I tried an “everyday” brand that makes some nice quality teas (their Darjeeling is very nice), and is available in every supermarket, Twinings. Twinings produces both organic and non-organic green teas. My husband likes their lemon green tea, I find it overbearing. I tried their regular green tea for this review. It was okay, but it definitely didn’t compare with the other green teas I tried. It’s flavor was a couple steps above cheap-Chinese restaurant green tea (the kind that tastes of those metal pots they serve it in), but still, nothing exceptional. I still want to try their line of organic green teas, but they aren’t available where I shop.

Coffee, which has it’s good points, by the way, is implicated in elevated cholesterol rates. Switching to green tea as part of a cholesterol reducing program is a good first step.

P.S. Did you enjoy reading this post? Want to read other posts about nutrition (and kosher food, and Jewish spirituality)? Just scroll down to the bottom of this page in the right hand column and click on the “Get Free Healthy Recipes and Nutrition Tips by Email” button.

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