Phytomedicine in my kitchen - Green Tea

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

Many people feel that they should drink green tea “because it’s good for me”, but they don’t really know how and why.

For example, you might not know that, green tea comes from the same plant as black tea, white tea and oolong tea: Camellia sinensis.


Camellia sinensis is a bush that grows best in high altitudes with foggy mornings, 18°C days and heavy yearly rainfall. It is ready for harvest after three years of growth and can produce viable tea leaves for 50 years. Only the bud and first two leaves of each branch are harvested, and this is done by hand. When assessing the quality of your tea it is important to note that the larger the leaf the better your tea is.


So how do we get various types of tea from one plant?


White teas are the least processed of all tea and almost all come from the Fuijan province of China. They are picked when the young tea buds are tightly enclosed in new leaves. This retains a silky, downy quality in the leaves. The flavour is so subtle it seems to be non-existent, initially. However, you will begin to notice a silkiness that coats your mouth and makes its way down your throat. White tea contains the least amount of caffeine at 10-15 milligrams a cup. White tea should be added to 80°C water (If you don’t have a thermometer, boil your kettle and wait for 3 minutes). Leave the teabag in the water for 3 minutes and then remove and enjoy!


Green tea is almost immediately steamed or pan fried, rolled to squeeze the juices out and then dried in high temperature air. Consequently, tea that is picked in the morning is then ready to drink in the same evening. This speedy process inhibits the oxidation of polyphenols and renders green tea as the most health-beneficial of the various teas. Your cup will contain vitamin C, minerals, antioxidants, tannins and lots of bitterness. The lack of oxidation is also responsible for the low caffeine levels in green tea. Generally speaking, Chinese green tea contains 30-35 milligrams per cup and Japanese green tea contains 25-30 milligrams per cup. One teaspoon of Green tea should be brewed at 80°C and steeped for 3 minutes.


Oolong means “black dragon” in Mandarin. Oolong takes the middle ground between green and black tea with a partial auto-oxidation process. This variety of tea has only been introduced since the 19th century and is the least drunk of the three but is considered the "Champagne" of teas. Oolong contains roughly 30-50 milligrams per cup. All oolongs originate from China or Taiwan. The water added to Oolong should be 90°C and the brew should steep for 1-3 minutes depending on your preference. An Oolong tea bag may be infused 3 times, each time the caffeine content reduces from 30-50mg initially to 5-10mg by the end. This means you can have a caffeine high in the morning, but as you wind down in the evening you are left with a beautiful and subtle flavour.



Black tea is left for a longer period before it is processed. This allows auto-oxidation to occur and the polyphenols are, therefore, destroyed. Black tea is brown/red in colour and has an astringent taste. It is the most popular form of tea in Western countries and 40-60 milligrams per cup. Black tea comes from China, India and Sri Lanka. It requires pure water at boiling temperature. The cup can be brewed for 3 minutes before it is strained. If you are using tea bags, remember...don't squeeze the tea bag!


Caution

Any pharmaceutical drugs that are known to have an interaction with caffeine should not be ingested at the same time as tea. Monitor your consumption of Green tea if you struggle with anaemia, anxiety, bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, diabetes, IBS or Liver disease.



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