Beginner's Guide to Green Tea
Green tea is a lighter, more refreshing tea. In this guide, you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about green tea.
Did you know that both green tea and black tea come from the same plant? It’s true! Learn these facts - and more like how to brew it - in this complete beginner’s guide to green tea.
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What is Green Tea?
Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea - it’s just processed differently, which is why it has its green color.
Green tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and the Camellia sinensis assamica plant.
All types of tea (except herbal teas) are made from this plant. How they harvest and process the tea leaves is what sets green tea apart from the other types.
The origins of green tea go back 5,000 years and is commonly grown and drunk in the Far East where the health benefits of green tea are highly regarded.
How Much Caffeine Is In Green Tea?
Green tea does have caffeine, but not as much as coffee. The amount of caffeine in green tea will vary from one brand to another.
In general, a cup of green tea will have about 9-50mg of caffeine. Coffee has about 100-400mg of caffeine in a cup.
How Is Green Tea Made?
If you have ever wondered how green tea is made, then this section is just for you. Here’s how it’s processed.
Step 1: Leaves Are Harvested
The very first step is to harvest the tea leaves. In Japan, tea harvest usually happens around the end of April. Harvesting happens from April to September.
Matcha tea is made from tea leaves grown in the shade - those are grown like normal but then shaded two weeks before they harvest them.
Step 2: Leaves Are Dried
To keep the light green taste (and prevent the oxidation that makes black tea) the tea leaves must be dried.
There are three ways to dry the green tea leaves.
The first way they dry the leaves is pan-firing them in large woks over a flame or with an electric wok. They stir them in the wok constantly so that they dry evenly.
Another way to dry the tea leaves is by withering them. They do this by spreading the tea leaves on bamboo racks or woven straw and letting them dry in the sun. With this process, they move them around frequently too.
This method is used frequently in Japan. Before they begin this process, they sort and clean the leaves. Then they steam them for a certain amount of time-based on the type of tea they want to produce.
They steam the leaves in a bamboo tray over water or they revolve around a belt-conveyor machine.
After they are steamed, the leaves go into a cooling machine that blows the water off of the leaves.
Step 3: Rolling or Shaping
Tea leaves are mostly shaped by machines. There are some high-end varieties that are still hand-rolled. Rolling the tea leaves gives them a distinct look and regulates how the flavor is released in the tea.
Step 4: Final Drying
Finally, the tea leaves must be dried to completely remove all the moisture from them. For green tea, this takes about 30 minutes. They most have 5% or less moisture content.
After they are completely dried, they are sorted into tea grades - whole leaf grade, broken leaf grade, fannings, and dust.
Green Tea Health Benefits
Green tea doesn’t just taste amazing, it is packed with health benefits too. People in the Far East have used green tea medicinally for centuries. Matcha Tea also has great health benefits.
Here are a few of the many health benefits proven by science.
Lower Cancer Risk
Green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants. Studies prove that antioxidants protect against oxidative damage that can lead to diseases like cancer.
Green Tea Increases Fat Burning
Green tea is listed as an ingredient in lots of fat-burning supplements because studies show that it can increase fat burning and boost metabolic rate.
The studies are mixed - some studies show increased fat burning and some don’t. This could mean that it depends on other factors within your body.
Green tea weight loss is always being studied and it is possible that the caffeine is what helps. Two separate studies (study 1 and study 2) reported that caffeine may increase physical performance by 11-12%.
Green Tea Heart Health
More studies are starting to show that green tea may help reduce the risk of common heart diseases by improving total cholesterol levels.
The high amounts of antioxidants in green tea are what help your body and your heart. In fact, one study shows that people who drink green tea have up to a 31% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Green Tea For Healthy Skin
The antioxidants in green tea are amazing for your skin, too. Plus, green tea also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
This means green tea is an effective treatment for acne and oily skin. According to research, the polyphenols in green tea can reduce sebum secretion that leads to acne.
A DIY face mask made with green tea, honey, and baking soda will invigorate and renew your skin and keep it healthy.
Green Tea In Pregnancy
Green tea is safe to drink in moderation when you are pregnant.
Physicians often advise women to avoid caffeine during pregnancy, but green tea has such a small amount of caffeine that it’s safe to drink 1-2 cups of it a day.
If you are pregnant, discuss this with your doctor and limit how much green tea you drink to stay safe.
May Protect The Brain From Aging
Green tea has catechin compounds that have protective effects on neurons. Scientists are studying the possibility that these catechin compounds could lower the risk of dementia.
Prevents Type 2 Diabetes
Green tea might help prevent Type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar levels.
In fact, one study in Japan discovered that those who drank the most green tea had a 42% lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
Types of Green Tea
All green tea comes from the same plant, but there are different types of green tea grown all over the world. Just a few of the places that grow green tea include:
- Sri Lanka
- New Zealand
- United States
There are also a lot of things that happen in the growing and processing phases that affect the type of green tea you buy. Some of the things that will change the variety of green tea include:
- Time of year tea is harvested
- The parts of the plant that are plucked
- How the plant is pruned
- Treated with chemicals or organically grown
- Type of heat that is applied to the plant to prevent oxidation
- How the tea leaves are shaped, rolled, and dried
The most popular types of green tea that most people drink are from China and Japan. They are usually pan-fired in China and Steamed in Japan.
Steamed Japanese Green Teas
Japanese green teas are usually steamed. Tea leaves are briefly treated with steam within hours of plucking. This process stops the oxidation process and brings out the rich green color.
Some of the most popular Japanese green teas are Sencha, Hojicha, and Matcha.
Sencha Green Tea
This is the most popular kind of green tea - it makes up 80% of the tea produced in Japan.
Sencha green tea is Japan’s most popular variety. These leaves are steamed and then shaped. This tea makes a clear yellow/green tea that is sweet and grassy.
When they roast sencha green tea over high heat, it produces hojicha tea. This gives the tea a nutty flavor. The high heat also reduces the caffeine content.
Matcha Green Tea
Matcha green tea is made from tea leaves that were grown in the shade. This gives them a higher chlorophyll content which makes them a really vibrant green color.
In order to make matcha, the entire tea leaf is ground into a powder. Then, this powder is mixed with boiling water and gently whisked before being served.
Pan-Fired Chinese Green Teas
Chinese green teas are typically pan-fired to stop the oxidation process. The leaves are either heated in a basket, pan, or rotating drum.
The flavor can be changed depending on the types of firings they use and how many times they use them.
Two popular types of Chinese green teas are Dragonwell and Gunpowder.
Dragonwell Green Tea
This is also known as Longjing tea. It is produced mostly by hand and has a distinctive flavor. The tea leaves are narrow and flat which produces a soothing aroma.
Gunpowder Green Tea
This is one of the oldest green tea types that are still in existence.
Gunpowder green tea leaves are rolled into small round pellets. It’s one of the most versatile green teas - you can drink it with milk, add it to cocktails, and even cold-brew it.
Popular Green Tea Drinks
Since it has such a mild flavor, green tea is really popular in bottled drinks. From Starbucks to Snapple and even Arizona, almost anywhere that sells tea is going to sell a green tea drink.
These are the most popular green tea drinks that you can find, along with what kind of green tea they have.
Starbucks is constantly changing its menu, but one of the most popular green tea drinks they sell is the Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte. It has the iconic bright-green color of matcha and is served with milk over ice.
They also sell sweetened or unsweetened iced green tea.
Another really popular choice is the super-sweet green tea frappuccino. This is made with matcha powder, milk, ice cubes, and syrup.
They produce a few different varieties of green tea. The Green Dragon tea is organic and sweetened with passion fruit flavors and lemon juice.
They also make a sweetened green tea with honey that is crisp and delightful.
Tazo Green Tea
Tazo sells both tea bags and bottled drinks. Starbucks actually bought Tazo in 1999 - so whenever you buy a green tea at Starbucks, it will be a Tazo tea.
How To Brew Green Tea
Whether you enjoy your green tea hot in a teacup or over ice, here’s how to make the perfect cup.
How To Brew Loose Leaf Tea
In order to brew loose leaf tea, you will need a way to contain the tea leaves. I suggest buying a sachet or tea infuser. Then, put 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea for every 8-10 ounces of water.
If you don’t have a sachet or tea infuser, just add the loose tea leaves directly to your cup and pour the water over them.
Fill your cup with boiling water and let the sachet or infuser sit in the cup (or pour the water over the leaves in the cup).
Let them steep for about 1-3 minutes. Remove the sachet or strain your cup of tea and enjoy it.
What To Add To Green Tea
There are countless green tea recipes online. The one thing that they all have in common is finding ways to sweeten green tea without losing its distinct flavor.
One of the most popular things to add to green tea is honey and lemon. This will sweeten it and accentuate the bright flavors of the tea.
Other people enjoy placing flower petals in their tea. Jasmine petals in green tea is a perfect pair. In fact, Jasmine green tea is a very popular blend.
Rosebuds or lavender can also be stirred into your tea, but be prepared for the strong smell - it might be too strong for some people.
Finally, steep some peppermint leaves with your green tea. Not only is peppermint incredibly delicious, but it helps reduce inflammation and improves focus.
How Green Tea Compares To Black Tea
They both come from the leaves of the same plant, but there are still differences between black tea and green tea because of how they are harvested and processed.
Since green tea doesn’t undergo the same oxidation process as black tea, more polyphenols are preserved in the leaves. That means green tea has far more antioxidants in it than black tea.
Green tea also has a lot less caffeine than black tea. Green tea contains anywhere from 9-50mg of caffeine and black tea has 42-72mg.
Black tea is more acidic and more people prefer the strong taste of black tea over the more mild green tea.
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