I have a few vices, some are good and others, not so much... However, one I would like to pass to you is my daily ritual of drinking green tea. I'm kind of addicted to it - which, luckily, is a really good thing!
The Chinese have been drinking green tea for 4,000 years - and many other Eastern countries have adapted this tradition; Japan and Thailand, among them. All teas are made from the leaves of the plant, camellia senensis. What sets green tea apart from other teas, such as oolong and black tea, is that green tea leaves are steamed, rather than fermented, which lowers the caffeine content and prevents oxidation. This process prevents the EGCG compound, (a powerful antioxidant), from being destroyed. This amazing compound is responsible for inhibiting growth of cancer cells and killing harmful cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. It's also attributed to lowering LDL cholesterol levels and inhibiting the formation of blood clots. But the health benefits go on and on...
- reduces inflammation, i.e. arthritis symptoms
- protects the liver from toxins, such as alcohol
- boosts metabolism
- controls blood sugar levels. May prevent development of type 1 diabetes
- prevents tooth decay
- aids in auto immune dysfunctions
Studies show that drinking 3 - 5 cups of green tea a day is necessary to reap the full benefits. (Space your tea times out throughout the day, ending around 4pm). Since the caffeine content is much lower than other teas, drinking this many cups of tea will not make you feel like you need to grab the ladder and repaint the whole house. There are, however, decaffeinated green teas available. Your grocery store might only carry teas labeled simply, "green tea". I recommend you to branch out and find an Asian market and sample the many different types of green teas available. Here are some of the most common/popular:
Sencha - the most popular, slightly astringent, sweet flavor.
Dragon Well - (lung ching), the ultimate green tea - bright green and brisk. More expensive.
Macha - used in traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Ground into a powder and usually whisked. Light and sweet.
Gunpowder - leaves are rolled into little balls, resembling gun powder. Grassy flavor.
Genmaicha - (pictured below), blend of sencha and toasted brown rice.
Jasmine - a blend of green tea and jasmine leaves. Very light and fragrant.
The most common mistake people make when brewing tea is the temperature of the hot water.
The recommended temperature to add to your tea is about 180 - 190. This is just before the boiling point. (If you don't catch the teapot in time and find yourself with an angry whistle, allow the water to cool slightly before adding the tea to it.) Boiling water will destroy it's beneficial compounds and will leave you with a bitter flavor. Steep tea for about 3 minutes. The longer you steep, the stronger and more bitter your tea will taste. Finally, store your tea in an airtight container, out of the sunlight.