The History of Green Tea

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Green Tea has become the staple beverage of health lovers all across the world. Green tea has rocketed to fame due to its potent and protective health properties.

However, it has not always been seen this way, starting with humble beginnings tracing back to Ancient China and Japan.

What is Green Tea?

Green Tea is extracted from the Camellia Sinensis plant, otherwise known as Assam Tea, or Tea Tree Camellia. Green Tea is a native plant of Asia, particularly regions of Southern China. The ideal climate for its growth is at dense humidity and high altitudes. It is adverse to bright sunlight and is best grown in areas of shade. It is a slow-growing and long life plant that can reach approximately 2.5m in height, however in the wild it has been found as high at 17m. It produces long ovoid leaves and small white budded flowers. It also generates brown spherical fruits that contain a singular disk shaped seed.

The part of the plant used for tea are the leaves. The leaves undergo a process of steaming and drying before adding them to hot water. Green Tea has become so popular due to the wealth of scientific papers claiming its cancer-busting, fat-burning and antioxidant properties, but is it a rich source of therapeutic properties or is it just a simple brew?

Its Humble Beginnings…

The history associated with Green Tea begins with a tale associated with how Green tea was discovered. It comes from Emperor Shen Nong who discovered that boiling water removed impurities that would lead to sickness. It just so happened that his water was being boiled in his garden. The leaves of the Camellia Sinensis blew into his water and infused it with flavour, colour, and health properties that he couldn’t have begun to imagine [2].

It’s thought that the use of Camellia Sinensis dates back over 3,000 years to the country of China. However, its consumption was a little different, as the leaves were thought to be chewed. During the 3rd to 6th century in China tea became available to the masses. It was once a prized item only accessible to the rich, but new methods made it available to all. Then in the Tang Dynasty and the 7th century tea drinking became a way of life. In the approximate year of 805, Japanese Buddhist monks returned from China bearing gifts of Green Tea. The Japanese then adopted the tradition associated with Green Tea as their own. ‘Tea Ceremonies’ became the height of popularity, it involved a gathering of people that celebrated tea by correctly brewing the tea, then enjoying and discussing it. It was after the 17th century that interest in Green tea once again boomed. This is because people began to experiment with new flavours, brewing and growth techniques [3].

It what form was the tea consumed?

Tea drinking of times past were not as sophisticated as today’s exclusive brewing. In the Song Era dating from the 10th to the 13th century, the tradition was to drink tea in the powdered form, this created a thick soup like consistency that was described as ‘frothy’ and 'unpalatable'.

Furthermore tea was pressed into solid ‘cakes’ that broke apart so that people were able to dissolve into water. Also, similar to Matcha tea nowadays, it was made into a very fine powder.

As time went by and ideas became more sophisticated, the Chinese stopped drinking tea in a powdered form and instead in loose leaf form as we do today. This minor change is responsible for the elevation in interest that it experiences today. As global recognition and demand grew the appreciation for Green tea was lost as it travelled poorly. It was easily oxidized and this led to a bitter brew. Off the back of this Black teas increased in popularity as they were deliberately oxidised and travelled well.

The 21st Century Green Tea Craze

The turn of the 21st century was all about being body beautiful, inside and out. Numerous headlines flooded the media stating some scientifically accurate and some bogus claims, including “Down’s Syndrome can be treated with Green Tea” and “I lost 8st drinking Green Tea”[4,5].

The most popular use of Green tea its ability to detox and cleanse the body. It is rich in antioxidants and actives that can seriously boost your health status.

  1. Botanical Online. (1999). Green Tea-Camellia Sinensis . Available: http://www.botanical-online.com/medicinalsteverdeangles.htm.
  2. Duckler.D. (2012). All About Green Tea. Available: https://verdanttea.com/what-is-green-tea/.
  3. Teavivre. (2014). Chinese Tea History Part Ⅰ- Green Tea History.Available: http://www.teavivre.com/info/green-tea-history/.
  4. France-Presse, A. (2016). Down's syndrome 'can be treated with green tea'. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/06/downs-syndrome-can-be-treated-with-green-tea/.
  5. Francis,J. (2015). I lost 8st drinking green tea. Available: https://www.thesun.co.uk/archives/reallife/138586/i-lost-8st-drinking-green-tea/.

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