Ever since the discovery of the Camellia Sinensis plant and its applications in China in the 2nd millennium BC, tea has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry, which has diversified into so many niche markets. From flavoured variants to traditional loose-leaf tea, and from herbal tea to other infusions, tea has become the second most important beverage in the world, after water. From the many variants, it is often the traditional teas that reap the most health benefits, and green tea ranks high in that list. Although the tea variant has a completely different method of processing, its origins can be traced to 8th century AD China.
What is Green Tea and How Is it Made?
Green tea is made from the same Camellia Sinensis plant, as normal black tea. The only difference being the processing of it. The first documented use of this variant of tea comes from the 8th century AD written by Chinese tea connoisseur Lu Yu. His book literally translated as ‘The Classic of Tea’ narrates just how the tea is processed and prepared for home consumption.
Due to its abundant cultivation in countries such as China, Korea, and Japan, many ways have been created to make the drink suit the palate of the local populace. Regardless, the process of growing and harvesting are largely the same. There are two notable ways of cultivating the plant, namely those grown under direct sunlight, and those grown under the shade. Moreover, the plant is generally planted in rows, so as to synchronise the growth of the shoots. The two types of growing methods result in marginally different features, along with methods of preparation, thus resulting in different aromas, flavour and effects on the body.
Development into a staple drink and health benefits
As the years went by, the process of growing the plant along with preparing the beverage developed greatly, and green tea as we know it today comes in many different forms, depending on the country it is grown and prepared.
China, being the pioneers of Green tea have 8 varieties of the drink, while the Japanese, learning from the Chinese, possess 9 green tea flavours. Recently, Korea has also been producing some unique variants, 12 in particular. Regardless of the country of preparation, many researches claim that the benefits of green tea are plenty and diverse. Here are some of the major findings:
Green tea for weight loss has long been recommended by eastern doctors, as it is believed that it aids in weight loss. Recent scientific studies, however, produce inconclusive evidence. On the other hand, there are few researches that support the claim, as it is believed that the caffeine and the antioxidant called catechins and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea aid in metabolism, which in turn result in breaking down excess fat, and also increases the amount of energy in the body[i].
Cancer prevention and boosting of immune system
One ground-breaking discovery as a result of recent scientific studies is the fact that green tea, similar to black tea, supports in the prevention of certain types of cancer like oral cancer, for example, due to the presence of antioxidants. Although still inconclusive, there is reason to believe that green tea is known to suppress cancer cells in a passive manner, as it supports in the maintenance of a healthy body, which makes it less likely to contract any ailments of the sort[ii]. The polyphenolic compounds along with other elements help prevent oral cancer too[iii]. Moreover, green tea benefits also include the boosting of the immune system, especially against chronic diseases, as it improves the cellular function of tissues.
Reduces cholesterol and heart diseases
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition conducted a study in 2013 to find the definitive reason as to why east Asians often are void of cardiovascular diseases[iv]. The study concluded that the reason for such a phenomenon is due to the culture of tea drinking, especially the consumption of green tea. The study suggests that the presence of flavonoids and other antioxidants are the main reason for the prevention of heart diseases, thus the reason as to why doctors encourage the habit of drinking green tea[v].
Reduces blood sugar
In addition to controlling the cardiovascular system, the blood circulatory system is also something that green tea helps in keeping healthy. Green tea benefits for diabetes is quite clear in many instances. One study in Japan claims that individuals who drink the tea are 42 per cent less vulnerable to developing Type 2 Diabetes, which in short can be due to the tea compounds and antioxidants present in tea, controlling the insulin sensitivity of the body[vi]. Studies that have been conducted elsewhere point to the same conclusion, which has made the eastern beverage a mainstay in western culture.
While green tea health benefits are mainly centred on the physical side of the body, the beverage also has a positive impact on the psychological side of the body. Studies claim that the tea is a source for an amino acid, known as L-theanine. This unique amino acid is the source to produce chemicals responsible that calm the mind. As a result, the consumption of the beverage allows individuals to be more focused on their daily tasks and feel less worried about the obstacles that lie ahead. In other words, green tea reduces anxiety, which reduces stress levels, and keeps your mind at ease[vii].
Myths of Green Tea
There are several myths when it comes to the consumption of green tea, but none too drastic.
Does green tea affect your kidneys?
There are claims to say that consumption of the beverage is bad for the kidneys. However, recent studies have shown that green tea is good for kidneys, as long as it is consumed in controlled quantities. The reason for this is that the plant’s strong detoxifying compounds can be quite damaging for the kidneys if taken in large quantities.
Is green tea safe for pregnant mothers?
One of the more popular myths that circulate for women is the adverse effects it has on pregnant women. This, however, is found on false ground. The claim states that the beverage can result in the caffeine being transferred to the child through breast milk, which may result in insomnia. As long as pregnant ladies do not consume too much of the tea, there would not be any problem for the child or the mother.
Does green tea prevent aging?
There is no actual study to justify the fact that the compounds in the plant results in eradication of free radicals lurking inside the skin, however, there is reason to believe that it slows down the aging process due to the many health benefits.
In conclusion, green tea is something that should not be taken for granted in the modern world, as it is a preventive mechanism of certain illnesses, and aids in promoting a healthy mind and body too.
Where to Buy Green Tea?