As a newbie interested in drinking more green tea (or just curious about all its benefits), you might wonder what is the difference between Green tea and what makes this type of tea so special. And why do some people call black tea “black” while others refer to green as “green”? Let’s take a look at these questions and learn a little bit more about your favorite cup of tea!
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What Does Green Mean to Tea?
When we think about our daily cups of coffee or tea, it can be easy to forget that there are different kinds out there — even if they’re both drinks with caffeine. But when it comes to flavor, taste, and health effects, each kind has unique characteristics that make them stand apart from their caffeinated counterparts.
Let’s start by talking about color for a moment. Like many other leafy plants on Earth, the leaves off the Camellia sinensis plant turn colors over time due to exposure to sunlight and air. When those leaves are harvested before reaching maturity, they’ll have bright white peels. Once they reach full growth, though, the leaves will darken slightly to greenish shades.
During processing, however, the leaves must be turned darker still to achieve their desired shade of yellow-brown. This happens because the chlorophyll molecules responsible for turning the leaves green need further development under heat and pressure. The same goes true for any process that involves heating and pressing tea leaves for extraction purposes. These methods also help release antioxidants like polyphenols and catechins into the finished product.
If you’ve ever seen an actual tea bush in person, then you know that green leaves tend to grow along the top part of the plant where the buds sprout first. As the plant grows, the leaves move down until only the youngest, bottommost ones remain.
The reason green leaves are considered the best choice for making tea is because they contain higher concentrations of polyphenols than older leaves. In fact, between 20% and 30% of the total antioxidant capacity found within brewed green tea comes directly from these compounds. Polyphenol content varies widely among different varieties of C. sinensis tea grown around the world, which means not every brew tastes exactly alike. However, studies suggest that lighter greens such as Assam and Ceylon produce better tasting beverages with greater amounts of polyphenols.
While green tea contains plenty of flavonoids, including epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG), it doesn’t typically offer much else compared to other types of tea. Because of this, it’s often combined with other herbs, spices, fruits, flowers and vegetables to create delicious blended drinks.
Why Are Some Teas Called Black Tea?
Just like green tea isn’t made solely from young leaves, neither are other types of tea. Black tea refers specifically to Oolong tea, Pu’erh tea, Dark tea, White tea, Yellow tea, etc., depending on the variety used during production. While green tea gets its name from the color of the final processed tea, black tea takes its name from the oxidation process required to fully develop its rich flavors and aroma.
Before being dried and packaged, all loose-leaf tea products undergo fermentation processes through steaming or panning. During this step, the freshness and natural oils present in freshly picked leaves begin breaking down and releasing aromatics into the beverage. Over time, black tea oxidizes further once it’s been sealed up in jars or bags, creating a richer overall experience.
This additional layer of complexity gives black tea its distinctive character and allows drinkers to enjoy its smooth mouthfeel without worrying about any lingering bitterness. Another thing to note is that although oxidation occurs naturally, manufacturers can artificially speed up the process using specific techniques like withering or panning.
In addition, black tea is sometimes referred to as Chinese tea because of its popularity throughout East Asia. Although China was originally home to the cultivation of camellia sinensis back in 2737 B.C., evidence suggests that the ancestors of modern day Indians had discovered tea brewing long before anyone outside of Southwestern China knew anything about this tasty drink. Today, India produces approximately 80 percent of global output.
What’s So Special About Matcha?
We touched on matcha earlier, but here’s a quick recap: matcha literally translates to powdered tea. It’s traditionally prepared by grinding whole, unsweetened green tea leaves together into fine powder. Many believe this creates a superior kind of tea, especially considering the high concentration of nutrients contained within the tiny particles.
Because traditional Matcha Tea preparation involves removing nearly all moisture from the leaves prior to grinding, it offers significant advantages over normal green tea. For example, unlike green tea, matcha doesn’t require water filtration since it’s already moist enough to mix well with milk, sugar, honey, cream, cocoa, or protein powders. Also, the resulting liquid tends to retain less volatile components produced by the drying process. Lastly, traditional Japanese kitchens use specialized equipment called chasters for preparing matcha.
Depending on personal preference, some people prefer regular green tea while others prefer matcha. If you fall into the latter group, you may want to consider trying one of these five great recipes for homemade matcha.
For centuries, Matcha has been associated with longevity and good health thanks to its high levels of antioxidants and bioactive phytochemicals. Modern science now supports these beliefs by showing promising results linking green tea consumption to lower blood cholesterol, improved cardiovascular function, reduced risk of certain cancers, and decreased susceptibility to infectious disease.
People who consume large quantities of green tea regularly report feeling healthier and having more energy after several weeks. Additionally, research indicates that consuming green tea helps regulate glucose metabolism in diabetic patients while simultaneously increasing insulin secretion. Taken altogether, all these factors could explain why some people describe drinking green tea as “like magic.”
So What Makes Green Tea Unique?
Although green tea shares some qualities with other types of tea, it boasts distinct differences that distinguish it from everything else. We talked about how green tea leaves don’t lose much nutritional value while oxidizing during processing, but this characteristic alone sets it aside from other forms of tea.
Aside from its general nutrient profile, green tea also differs from other types of tea in that it’s relatively low in tannic acid. Tannic acids are bitter phenolic substances extracted from tea plants. They contribute to the astringency experienced when drinking tea, causing people to feel fuller faster. Traditionalists argue that this trait improves digestion and promotes healthy urinary flow. However, recent research shows that tannic acid provides no real benefit when consumed in moderation.
Since green tea lacks tannins, drinking it won’t leave you feeling overly full and bloated like other forms of tea would. Plus, green tea usually doesn’t cause a problem for sensitive stomachs either. Overall, this combination of properties makes green tea ideal for people looking to avoid unnecessary side effects caused by excessive consumption.
Another way in which green tea stands out is its ability to improve mental performance. Studies show that subjects performed significantly worse on memory tests following periods of sleep deprivation. On the flipside, people taking 2 grams of EGCG per day showed improvements comparable to someone getting eight hours worth of shut eye. Since green tea contains lots of ECG, it seems reasonable that drinking the right amount should provide similar results.
Green Tea FAQs
Now that we’ve taken a closer look at green versus other kinds of tea, let’s talk about a few common questions people ask about this beloved beverage. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about green tea:
Q: How do I get my hands on green tea?
A: There are two main ways to acquire green tea: purchasing it online or growing it yourself. People who live in colder climates generally purchase the tea themselves, whereas people located near tropical areas can cultivate wild batches. Even if you choose to buy the tea yourself, prices vary wildly based on region. You can find it cheaper online and in bulk.
Q: Can I substitute other ingredients for green tea?
A: Sure! Just keep the ratios correct. A teaspoon of green tea leaves mixed with half a tablespoon of raw honey should give you roughly the same effect as a standard 8 oz cup of green tea. Remember that you can always adjust ingredient proportions to suit your preferences.
Q: How Can I Prepare Green tea?
A: The most common way to prepare green tea is by steeping the leaves in hot water. For an easy way to prepare green tea, invest in a quality electric tea kettle with infuser. This will allow you to heat your water to the perfect temperature, then steep your tea right in the kettle. You can also prepare green tea using a teapot or French press. Just be sure not to over steep the leaves, as this will result in a bitter-tasting cup of tea.
Q What is the Best Way to Keep Green Tea Warm In My Mug?
A: If you’re looking to maintain green tea’s warmth, the best way is to use a double-walled mug. This type of mug has an inner and outer layer with a space in between. The air pocket acts as insulation, slowing down the transfer of heat from the beverage to the outside world. You can also use a mug warmer to keep your tea at a comfortable temperature.
Q: How can I make green tea taste better?
A: If you find green tea’s taste a bit too bitter for your liking, try adding a natural sweetener like raw honey or stevia. You can also experiment with different ratios of tea leaves to water. More leaves will give the tea a stronger flavor, while fewer will result in a more mild-tasting cup. And of course, you can always add milk or cream if you want a richer beverage.
Q: Where can I go to see images of various green tea bushes?
A: Try searching Google Images under the keyword [tea plant] + [varieties]. Alternatively, you can visit Japan’s National Agriculture Center website, where you can view thousands of photos depicting hundreds of tea plantations across Japan. Finally, check out the International Federation of Gelatin Manufacturers Association webpage.
Q: Why did scientists decide to study green tea instead of another kind of tea?
A: Researchers studied green tea primarily because of its abundant polyphenols, which help prevent cancer and heart disease as mentioned above. Scientists figured that studying something that can potentially fight these conditions would yield valuable information. Also, researchers were intrigued by the possibility of learning more about the potential anti-cancer mechanisms behind green tea.
Finally, green tea has historically played a major role in eastern cultures worldwide. As such, scientists thought that it would be interesting to explore all of the possible benefits this beverage has to offer.
Q: How much green tea should I drink per day?
A: That really depends on your goals. If you’re simply looking to enjoy the beverage’s taste, then 1-2 cups per day should suffice. However, if you want to experience the full extent of green tea’s health benefits, then 4 cups or more may be necessary. Just remember to listen to your body and drink in moderation.
Q: How Do I Keep Green Tea Fresh?
A: You can keep green tea fresh by storing it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Tea leaves generally stay fresh for 6-12 months when stored this way. You can also keep green tea fresh by storing it in the fridge, although it will develop a more intense flavor over time.
The next time you’re at the grocery store, head over to the tea aisle and give green tea a try. With its myriad of potential health benefits, there’s no reason not to add it to your daily routine. Enjoy!