With an array of health and vitality products tugging at our salubrious seeking taste buds and mindful good sentiments, Green tea is the well established, long-standing hero; the quietly confident contender that has a lot to shout about.
So if you're a little green about Green tea and its potential health benefits; this article could be your perfect cup of tea.
Where does Green Tea originate from?
Embedded in Eastern philosophy and adopted in Asian cultures for centuries, Green tea is revered for the many health benefits it can have. Recent years in Western climes show increasing numbers of the health conscious of us adopting Green tea as part of our well-being routine.2
The roots of Green tea can be found in ancient Chinese herbalism where it has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries. The use of Green tea as part of a regular healthy living choice was firmly established as a familiar practice in Chinese society towards the final part of the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). So you could say the Chinese have had Green tea sussed for some time.3 Green tea is an intrinsic part of Chinese culture and heritage and to this day China remains the major producer of Green tea, exporting over 80% of the Green tea that's consumed worldwide.4
How and where is it cultivated?
Green is universally associated with health, vitality, abundance and growth; Green tea is specially treated to retain all of the green goodness and colour of the plant. It's the leaves and buds from the perennial, shrub like tree, Camellia sinensis, that are picked to produce Green tea and its extracts. And it's the way the leaves are handled and processed after the picking that distinguishes Green tea from other types of tea.
Indigenous to East Asia, South East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, Camellia sinensis is cultivated today in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. The tea plant thrives in sunny climates where the temperatures are hot and rain is regular and plentiful, with a growing season that stretches for at least eight months of the year. Generally there are three growing spurts within the growing season. The spring shoots grow from the end of March to the beginning of May and this is the period when the plant is most bountiful. From early June to the start of July the second growing stage takes place and the season comes to an end with the final flux of growth occurring from mid July to October. The land itself needs to be prepared and tended to all year round, however, and tea production requires a lot of hard, physical work. Camellia sinensis usually begins to produce shoots three to four years after being planted and once established individual plants can live for many decades. The plant bears delicate, small, white flowers with a bustling bright yellow centre, which send out a gentle scent. Although grown in a range of soils, Camellia sinensis is happiest in acidic conditions, doesn't go a lot on calcium but thrives with the presence of iron in the earth. The land should ideally be shady to protect the plant from direct sunlight and high, gusty winds. The friability of the soil is important to support good drainage, avoiding stagnant water which will damage the plant. The perfect soil mix is “sandy loam” which consists of approximately 40 % sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay, allowing the water to drain well out of the soil while still enabling it to trap all the essential nutrients the plant requires from the earth. Plantations are usually elevated on highlands or hills to aid the drainage process. The plants are positioned in long lines and, on larger plantations, can be seen snaking across the landscape, creating mesmerising trails as far as the eye can see.5
So what makes Green tea so good?
It's packed with polyphenols, active compounds that come under the umbrella of catechins, cited in studies as the important part of the plant, in terms of supporting our health and well-being. Catechins are so super because they are a flavonoid and antioxidant, known to combat disease. There are six main polyphenol compounds that pack a punch in Green tea, the most effective is Epigallocatechin gallate, referred to as EGCG; research indicates it's at the heart of the health benefits that Green tea can provide.6 While studies into the health positives of Green tea and its extracts continues, people choose Green tea for a host of health reasons, such as to ease headaches; support weight loss; help control blood sugar; boost energy levels; aid mental alertness, memory and cognitive function; and to help with digestive problems. Although studies have yet to be conclusive, EGCG has been noted as a component of Green tea that could be a potential preventive of cancer and heart disease and could help in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease or dementia.7
With its deep rooted cultural tradition; medicinal and many health properties, and the natural vitality and goodness of Green tea, it's clear to see why it’s gaining in popularity. Taking care of our physical and mental well being is a choice and it takes an holistic approach. But being healthy and making conscientious decisions about how we care for ourselves within our daily, demanding lifestyles isn't always easy and can be a bind. Taking on Green tea as a healthy living habit is really simple and can clearly have many benefits.
In addition to a hot beverage, Green tea can be taken as a liquid extract and in handy capsule or tablet form. Drinking Green tea can be an 'acquired taste' due to its inherent bitterness. The high level of catechins in Green tea produces a high level of astringency, giving that 'dry mouth' feeling sometimes associated with the Green tea beverage. You can buy Green tea leaves and bags infused with a variety of flavours which go some way to masking this, but tablets or capsules are an easy option that removes the issue of the bitterness edge, providing a standardised, concentrated dose. And the convenience of a tablet makes it really easy to embrace Green tea as part of regular healthy living practices.
Simple see. So maybe it’s time to take the plunge and give Green tea a go?
- Current situation and medium-term outlook (PDF), Intergovernmental Group on Tea, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, May 2008, p. 9 ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/Meeting/013/K2054e.pdf
- The Journal of Neuroscience. 2005. Silver Child Development Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida