Discovering Green Tea
Description and history of green tea:
Tea is a well known and consumed beverage around the world; it has different varieties which differentiate from each other according to how the leaves are processed.Tea is extracted from buds and from the young leaves of an evergreen plant known as “Camellia Sinesis” that mainly grows in China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan and Kenya.
Depending on the process the leaves undergo, we can distinguish different kinds of tea: green tea (the japanese one is called Matcha), black tea, oolong tea. The leaves of the black tea, the one we commonly drink in the western world, are dried up and fermented; the leaves of the oolong one are partly dried, the leaves of the green one are only washed using steam and warmed up to prevent fermentation. In this way, the original components of the plant are conserved.
There are lots of myths regarding the origins and the uses of this plant, such as the one of the emperor Shen Nung, an herbalist who, to be as hygienic as possible, used to drink water only after he boiled it. One day, while the emperor was sitting and resting under a tea tree, a soft breeze caused the fall of some leaves in a jug of hot water. The emperor drank the infusion and appreciated the taste; immediately after that he felt an incredible wellness and he desired to know better about the tree that produced those wonderful and benefic leaves, favouring its use and cultivation. From the second century a.C some chinese medical texts reported its benefits and in 1211 a.C. a japanese monk, Eisai, wrote a book entitled “Preserving health drinking tea” in which he said: “tea is a miraculous medicine to preserve health, it has the extraordinary power of extending life”.
During sixteenth century, tea was discovered by portoguese people who explored Japan and was imported to Europe from the Dutch East India Company.
Green tea is a type of non-fermented tea, so the leaves keep their green color and produce a light and scented infusion. There are different myths and stories about the origins of this plant and its leaves, full of many benefic properties (antioxidants, disinfectants and digestive) that have been used as a medicine for at least 4000 years.
The buds of the leaves of green tea have the highest percentage of antioxidants you can find in nature, useful to contrast free radicals that are responsible for cellular aging. Polyphenols contained in green tea are anti-radicals, even more powerful than vitamin C and E.The antioxidant power is given by the flavonoids and catechins (about 20-40% of the dried weight) which contribute to sustain cardiac functions and keep a good state of health. These substances also reduce the level of LDL cholesterol and of triglycerides so they play a key role in preventing cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis and coronary disease. It also helps contrast the side effects of smoking.
The synergic work of the polyphenols (flavonoids, chlorogenic acid, tannin) has an anti- degenerative property that is higher than the one of the single active substances, confirming the thesis that the vegetal phytocomplex is more active than the single components, isolated and purified. The totality of the active substances, in fact, can protect cerebral cells from the damage of the neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers of Tohoku University in Japan, demonstrated that regular consumption of green tea contrasts the outbreak of Parkinson disease and Alzheimer's Syndrome. A real elixir of youth for the brain; it looks like drinking tea regularly guarantees efficiency to cerebral cells. Not by chance in Japan, where drinking green tea has been a ritual for centuries, low percentages of senile dementia are registered.
Different studies showed that green tea also has a preventing activity against cancer: in a chinese case-control study, the regular use of green tea has confirmed a lower incidence of different form of cancer (skin, lungs, stomach, liver, small intestine, pancreas, colon, bladder, prostate and glans) as compared to people who don’t drink it regularly.
Amongst all the substances that make this plant an anti-mutagen and anti-tumoral plant, the most important is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), as it inhibits the growth and proliferation of tumoral cells.
Another interesting feature of green tea is the slimming effect, due to the methylxanthines (caffeine,theobromine,theophylline) that impact on the metabolism. They have an hypoglycemic effect, as they reduce the digestion of sugar; and lipolytic effect, as they help with the degradation of fat from the adipocytes, controlled by enzymatic stimulation.
These substances promote weight loss, encouraging the mobilization of adipose tissue fats and their degradation in order to obtain energy.
This detoxifying action is explicated through diuresis: favouring the removal of fats and sugar through liquid drainage, tea is indicated in cases of hydro-retention, cellulite and infections of the urinary tract such as cystitis.
A research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in which it is said that a cup of green tea a day in women during their menopause increases bone density thanks to its mineralizing power that encourages bone and tissue metabolism. Furthermore the high percentage of fluorine allows the mineralization of the skeleton and the ename (anti-caries).
If you really love green tea, you should know that its excessive use could lead to some problems, so better stay away from that. the main side effects of green tea are:
Insomnia - for those who have trouble resting, green tea is not suitable. amongst its adverse effects there is the chance of causing insomnia. Among all the types of tea, the green one is the most “dangerous”, especially if it's consumed at night or before going to bed.
Stomach aches - there’s caffeine in green tea, a substance that can cause stomach ache. The reason is simple: a high quantity causes an increase in the production of acid inside the stomach.
Blood pressure - there’s flavonoids in green tea; these are quickly absorbed by the organism, but associated with caffeine they can lead to an increase of blood pressure. Many studies confirm this theory, and they also discourage the assumption of green tea to those who suffer from hypertension.
Vomit - once again this is caused by the concentration of caffeine together with polyphenols, that are the cause of oxidative stress too.
Osteoporosis - the consumption of caffeine prevents the correct absorption of calcium, but it can also increase its excretion. This is negative for bones: an extended use of green tea (and especially an exaggerated one) could lead to the outbreak of osteoporosis.
Iron deficiency - another side effect correlated to green tea is the difficulty in absorbing iron. Consuming tea during a meal can lead to anemia, indeed scientists encourage drinking tea at least 30 minutes after a meal
Bladder problems - drinking tea stimulates diuresis, but if you suffer from infections of the urinary tract it could be dangerous and the burning it could provoke could be quite strong.In some women green tea causes irritation of the bladder and urinary leaks too.
Teeth problems - for those who love white teeth, green tea is discouraged. It contains tannins, an acid substance that can ruin our smile staining the teeth. Remember that whatever we eat or drink has consequences for our organism. For this reason we should be even more watchful if we are using medicines. There are components that can interact with medicine that contain sibutramine. It's important to read the package insert, always! And if you are not convinced, better ask for advice from your doctor.
Moreover, green tea is prohibited to pregnant or breastfeeding women. It’s better to find another way to drain the collected liquid during this wonderful moment of life! Obviously, drinking a cup of tea in the morning or before going to bed is totally recommended. The side effects of green tea are linked to its abuse!
Let's find out more about the 5 varieties of tea.
- MATCHA TEA
Matcha tea is a type of green tea sold as powder in Italy and known as being the main ingredient of the japanese tea ritual. Matcha tea is particular because of the process it undergoes: leaves are ground till they are powder and poured into boiling water. Some of the many characteristics of matcha tea is its ability of stimulating metabolism, enhancing the immunitary system and preventing tiredness.
- BANCHA TEA
Bancha tea is a type of japanese green tea with a low percentage of theine, the exciting substance of tea. The leaves are toasted and this lends a particular flavour and scent, that reminds the ones of hazelnuts.Usually this kind of tea is considered less precious than the other, although it’s rich in benefic substances. Among these there are antioxidants, some minerals such as calcium and iron for those who suffer from anemia.
- SANCHA TEA
Sancha tea is a precious type of green japanese tea that is obtained from steamed leaves that are later rolled up and dried out. What makes this tea unique is the different flavour that can be perceived based on the preparation: the more it is infused into hot water, the sourest; if the water is warmer the flavour will be sweeter. In this way anyone can regulate the intensity based on their preference. This variety is rich in vitamin C, it contains manganese and potassium and it’s capable of improving the elasticity of blood vessels, encouraging the assumption of nutrients from the cells of our organism.
- GUNPOWDER TEA
Gunpowder tea is the most famous chinese tea. Its particular name comes from the process of the leaves: they are rolled up till they look like small, dark green spheres, very similar to gunpowder. The flavour is slightly sour and if the doses are not correct, it can be too strong and bitter. It has good digestive, draining and depurative properties. Gunpowder tea can be drunk alone or in addition to some mint leaves, as usual in north-african culture, or as an iced tea during summer.
- TAI PING HOU KUI TEA
Tai Ping Hou Kui is one of the finest teas in China, also known as “monkeys tea”, because the tradition says the tea was harvested by trained monkeys in the past.Today it is harvested exclusively by specialized people and, differently from other green teas, its leaves, once they are picked up, are not rolled up or cut into powder, but they are only covered with a cloth and dried up. The flavour of Tai Ping Hou Kui tea is delicate and soft as it is characterised by a mix of benefic substances such as sodium, minerals, magnesium and potassium, that help enhance the immunitary system. Moreover, this type of tea is appreciated for its antimicrobial and antifungal activity.
ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO DRINK TEA
In addition to the traditional way of drinking tea, let’s take a look at all the possible alternatives and the benefits that they give.
1. Green tea with lemon
This combination is wonderful: lemon is full of antioxidants and vitamin C, in addition to being great at burning fats. This combination helps with weight loss and with skincare. You should only add lemon juice to the basic recipe of green tea.
2. Green tea and avocado smoothie
Mixing together the energetic feature of green tea with the healthy fats of avocado, you will get a benefic smoothie.
- To prepare it, blend half an avocado with half a cup of green tea
- We recommend drinking it during morning or at lunch time to use all the energy it will give you.
3. With anise and chamomile
If you suffer from digestive problems, one of the best alternatives to solve them is this recipe. Combining all these properties, you will get a super natural digestive and a good ally to lose weight.
- 1 litre of green tea
- 1 spoon of anise (10g)
- 1 spoon of chamomile (10g)
- First of all, heat up tea in the water and, before it reaches the boil, add the anise and the chamomile.
- Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes
4. With mint and ginger
It’s one of the most loved ways to drink tea, thanks to the refreshing effect of the mint. Ginger is powerful to burn fats and is an activator of metabolism, just like tea.
- 1 litre of green tea
- 1 spoon of mint (10g)
- A small piece of fresh ginger
- 2 ice-cubes
Blend all the ingredients together and sip this drink, enjoying all of its properties.
Once you’ve known some of the alternative ways to drink this beverage, you would definitely want to know which are the best moments to drink it and get the benefits.
If you want to lose weight:
The best moment to enjoy this drink is 20 minutes before meals, because in this way tea will start burning fats before they are absorbed from your body.
If you want to increase levels of proteins and minerals: Enjoy green tea before meals, because in this way you will help your body to increase the level of absorption of magnesium, vitamin C and E. On an empty stomach:
Many people drink coffee on an empty stomach. If you are among these people, replace coffee with a cup of green tea. In fact, this drink will have the same effect as coffee but it will not be as aggressive for the stomach. In addition to that, drinking green tea on an empty stomach increases the ability of our body of benefitting from all of its properties.
Even though it is in fact true that drinking tea is good for your health, keep in mind that it’s not good to abuse this beverage.
- Recommended doses are of a maximum of 5 cup a day if you don't drink coffee. If you do drink coffee, you should subtract the number of cups of coffee.
- Besides, if you suffer from tachycardia or hypertension, you should not exceed 2 cups a day and you shouldn't drink it together with medicines without asking your doctor first.
Have a good cup of tea!