Green Tea

Green tea leaves

All tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, of which there are two main varieties: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, also known as Chinese tea, and Camellia sinensis var. assamica, known as Indian tea. 

The Camellia sinensis var. sinensis plant is used to make green, white, yellow, and oolong tea. The plant is native to China and grows in sunny regions with drier, colder, mountainous climates.

Please note that Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is also used to make matcha. 

Overview.

The first section provides a summary of the general flavour of green tea, preparation, and health benefits. The second section covers my thoughts and recommendations for different green teas, intending to help connect tea drinkers with great products. The third section is a comprehensive discussion of green tea and speaks to the different types, where green tea is grown, how it gets produced, and what the more specific health benefits are. The fourth and final section of this article summarizes all key points discussed throughout.

Flavour, Preparation, and Health Benefits of Green Tea.

Flavour Profile of Green Tea. 

The flavour of green tea varies based on the specific type of green tea prepared, and whether the water used is the correct temperature. Overall, green tea has a fresh, grassy, and light taste.

Preparation of Loose Leaf Green Tea.

Green tea should be made with boiled water that is cooled to 76 °C (170°F), and should be steeped for one to three minutes. Loose-leaf green tea should be consumed straight, either hot or cold.

Summary of Health Benefits of Green Tea.

Green tea has shown to be beneficial in promoting health and in the prevention against a variety of diseases. Green tea may help against cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Tea Recommendations and Personal Thoughts.

Mackenzie Bailey

Founder of The Tea Tribe

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not tried green tea or heard of its espoused health benefits. However, I would argue that unless you are drinking loose leaf green tea, you have never really tasted green tea at all. Like white tea and oolong tea, loose leaf green tea offers a discernible difference in quality relative to its bagged counterparts.

As green tea has risen in popularity in North America and Europe, so too have the number of tea blends. Consumers can now choose from many different blends and some of these are exceptional.

For pure green tea, I enjoy Woojeon and Sejak by Soocha Tea, and Hojicha Gold Roast by Hojicha, as well as Organic Dragonwell by Genuine Tea. My current favourite green tea blend is Blue Raspberry by Bird & Blend Tea.

Comprehensive Discussion of Green Tea. 

Where Green Tea Is Grown.

Green tea (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis) originated in China but now grows in countries across the world. The two countries that produce most of the green tea are Japan and China. Globally, China is the largest producer of green tea by far, while Japan is famed for its product quality and matcha. 

Where Green Tea Is Grown In Japan.

Tea is grown throughout most of Japan except for Hokkaido in the north. In order of size, the three most significant tea producing regions in Japan are Shizuoka, Kagoshima and Mie. Other important tea growing areas are Nara, Kyoto and Kyushu. 

Shizuoka. 

Shizuoka is in the central region on Japan's main island Honshu and lies between Mount Fuji and the Pacific coast. Shizuoka is the most famous tea growing region in Japan; it produces around 40% of the nation's annual commercial tea production.

Kagoshima. 

Kagoshima is the capital of Kagoshima Prefecture, a seaside city situated on Japan's Kyushu Island, located southwest of Japan's central archipelago. Kagoshima accounts for approximately 20% of Japan's total tea production.

Mie. 

Mie is located in central Japan and has a long, established history of tea cultivation. While Mie produces less tea than Shizuoka and Kagoshima, the area is active in tea growing and is of historical importance. 

Where Green Tea Is Grown In China.

Green tea is the most widely grown tea in China and is produced in several provinces across the country. Most tea grows in the lower central region of China, spanning to its east coast.

This geographic area can be divided further into four tea-producing regions, each with a distinct name which makes a geographic reference. The four tea regions are Jiangnan (South of the Yangtze River), Jiangbei (North of the Yangtze River), Huanan (South China) and Xinan (Southwest China). Jiangnan is the largest tea producing region, with more than half of China's tea grown there.

It's important to note that these regions are general territory references, consisting of one or more of China's provinces. An entire province may fall within a tea-producing area or only part of it. For example, the Jiangnan region includes the provinces Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Hunan. It also includes parts of Jiangsu, Hubei and Anhui.

Each region has different topography and environmental conditions, which means the tea produced, even within a single area, can be different. While many different varieties and types of green tea are grown and produced in China, there are 8 Famous Chinese Green Teas. Of the eight, seven grow in Jiangnan (South of the Yellow River), and one is produced in Jiangbei (North of the Yangtze River).

TeaProvinceRegion
BiluochunJiangsuSouth of Yellow River 
Chun MeeZhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi, as well as some other provinces.South of Yellow River 
Gunpowder TeaGrows in Zhejiang province and some other provinces.
South of Yellow River 
Huangshan MaofengAnhuiSouth of Yellow River 
Longjing ("Dragon Well")ZhejiangSouth of Yellow River 
Lu'an Melon SeedAnhuiSouth of Yellow River 
Taiping Houkui
AnhuiSouth of Yellow River 
Xinyang MaojianHenanNorth of Yellow River 

History of Green Tea.

While green tea's origins are rooted in China, The History of Tea in Japan is also steeped in tradition. It has been consumed in both countries for centuries (Mancini, 2017; Pastoriza, 2017), so it is not surprising that both China and Japan are well known for producing green tea.

China has the highest green tea consumption in the world, with needle-shaped green tea, such as Maofeng tea and Sparrow Tongue tea, accounting for more than 40% of the green tea consumed (Dong, 2017). There are many different types of green teas produced, the differences of which are attributable to harvesting time, production procedures, and horticulture (Qadir, 2017).

A detailed discussion on the history of green tea in China and Japan is covered separately in the blog posts "The History of Green Tea In China" and "The History of Green Tea in Japan."  

Timeline of the History of Green Tea.

  • Green tea traces its history as far back as 2737 BC when Emperor Shennong is said to have first discovered the drink. 
  • During the 3rd-6th century (220-589 AD), tea gradually changed from a luxury item to a drink widely consumed in China. 
  • In the 8th century, 'steaming' tea leaves to inhibit their oxidation was discovered. 
  • In the 9th century (around 800 AD), Lu Yu wrote "The Classic of Tea."
  • During the 9th century, the first references to tea were made in Japan.
  • During the 12th century, tea consumption became popular among Japan's gentry. 
  • In the 13th and 14th centuries, Japanese tea culture developed its distinctive features.
  • In the 16th century, China discovered roasting as a means to stop tea oxidation.
  • In 1600 and 1602, the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company (VOC), respectively, were founded.
  • In 1662 Catherine of Braganza from Portugal arrived in England to marry King Charles II. She brought crates of tea with her as a dowry. During her reign, tea was popularized in England among the royalty and aristocracy.
  • In the 18th century, sencha tea was developed in Japan.
  • On December 16th, 1773, The Boston Tea Party occurred. American protesters dumped crates of Chinese green and black tea, imported from the East India Company, into the ocean.  
  • In 1799 the Dutch East India Company stopped operating. 
  • In 1874 the British East India Company ceased operations.
  • During the 19th and 20th centuries, industrialization and automation transformed the Japanese tea industry into a highly efficient operation.
  • In 2015 the US was the largest importer of Chinese green tea. 

Beyond having a long and exciting heritage, green tea has become a popular beverage consumed across the globe. In Western countries, green tea has experienced a massive surge in popularity (Mancini, 2017)(Roh, 2017), primarily due to rising trends in health and wellness, in which consumers are looking for health-aiding benefits in products.

Health Benefits of Green Tea.

Green tea has many health benefits attributed to it. Green tea can help prevent signs of skin ageing, help prevent cancer, offer cognitive benefits, and help with weight loss. Green tea also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal effects, as well as wound-healing properties. The major bioactive compounds in green tea are epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), and catechins (Butt, 2015).

Antioxidants.

Toxins are natural or chemical substances that have adverse effects on human health. People are exposed to toxins via air, soil, water, and food (Rameshrad, 2017). Green tea consumption is shown to protect against natural and chemical toxins.

Catechins are the main flavonoids present in green tea (Yiannakopoulou, 2014), and this compound, as well as EGCG, gives green tea its antioxidant benefits (Rameshrad, 2017). These compounds have health benefits because of their anti-oxidative, radical scavenging, chelating, anti-apoptotic properties, as well as their ability to regulate inflammatory responses (Rameshrad, 2017). Antioxidants help minimize cell damage which can lead to diseases like cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and more.

Anti-ageing. 

Polyphenols are micronutrients found in green and black tea, and growing evidence suggests these polyphenols protect your skin against ultraviolet (UV) light. More specifically, green tea polyphenols can protect against skin ageing through anti-melanogenic, anti-wrinkle, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory effects (Roh, 2017). Beyond being used in drinks and health foods, green tea can also be included in cosmetics (Qadir, 2017). 

Cancer Protection.

Many studies have shown that green tea can protect against cancer (Shirakami, 2018) through its anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic effects (Butts, 2015). Green tea helps protect against cancer specifically through antioxidant activity, cell cycle regulation, specific receptor pathway inhibition, immune system regulation, and by influencing gene expression favourably (Shirakami, 2018). Research has also examined how green tea helps against colon, skin, lung, prostate, and breast cancers (Butt, 2015).

Many studies have found higher green tea consumption correlated with a lower prevalence of cancer (Butt, 2015). One study found that long-term and high-dose consumption of green tea showed a preventive effect, reducing the risk of gastric cancer (Huang, 2017). Another study found that the catechins in green tea, especially EGCG, may help prevent breast cell carcinogenesis as EGCG inhibits breast cancer cells from growing and multiplying (Yiannakopoulou, 2014). Green tea catechins can also be beneficial in chemoprevention, especially in individuals at high-risk of developing cancer (Yiannakopoulou, 2014).

Once you get cancer, it is not known how helpful green tea is to "cure" the disease. That said, it has been shown that green tea acts as a carcinoma blocker by modulating the signal transduction pathways involved in cell proliferation, transformation, inflammation, and metastasis (Butt, 2015). More research is needed to examine how effective green tea is during cancer treatment, as this is currently lacking (Jacob, 2017). It is possible that, in combination with medical treatment, drinking green tea is beneficial even after being diagnosed with cancer. 

Cognitive Benefits.

Green tea helps with mental health and cognitive performance: studies show green tea reduces anxiety and improves cognition and brain function. The benefits of cognition come in the form of memory and attention; green tea improves brain function through its activation of working memory, which can be seen in functional MRI scans (Mancini, 2017).

Interestingly, it is the combination of compounds in green tea, specifically caffeine and L-theanine, rather than a particular compound, which benefits cognition (Mancini, 2017). What this means is that green tea offers a more powerful boost than coffee, which has caffeine but not L-theanine. Matcha, which is powdered green tea, has higher concentrations of L-theanine and antioxidants than leaf tea, making it more potent for focus and memory.

The second cognitive benefit of green tea is protecting against neurodegenerative diseases. Research has studied how green tea can help against Parkinson's disease, the most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer's disease (Jurado-Coronel, 2016). One study concluded that drinking green tea may offer neuroprotective benefits (Sárközi, 2016). Another study highlighted how green tea's phenolic compounds helped regulate signalling pathways in the brain, specifically in minds affected by Parkinson's disease (Jurado-Coronel, 2016).

Anti-Inflammatory, Antibacterial, Antifungal & Wound-Healing Properties.

In cellular, animal, and human experiments, green tea has proven anti-inflammatory effects (Ohishi, 2016).

The anti-inflammatory effects of green tea are due to epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a significant component in green tea (Ohishi, 2016). Green tea also has substantial antifungal and antibacterial properties (Muthu, 2016), and once again, EGCG was identified as the crucial catechin for antimicrobial activity (Muthu, 2016). Green tea also has analgesic and wound-healing properties (Shahrahmani, 2017), and one study found that when included in an ointment, green tea appears to be effective in relieving pain and improving healing. Oral consumption of green tea distributes compounds throughout the body, which allows for the treatment and prevention of infections (Reygaert, 2018).

Weight Loss.

Green tea is shown to reduce body fat in moderately obese adults (Kobayashi, 2016), and while drinking green tea in leaf form may help with weight loss, the benificial effects of consuming matcha are higher. 

Summary.

Green tea is made from the Camellia sinensis var. sinensis plant and goes through no fermentation. Green tea was the first type of tea discovered and has a long history in China and Japan.

There are many different types of green tea, some more famous than others, and each has a slightly different taste. The flavour of green tea varies based on the specific kind of green tea, and if you prepare it correctly. When making green tea, you want to use boiled water that is cooled to 76 degrees C (170°F) and steep the drink for one to three minutes.

Overall, green tea has a fresh, light, grassy taste. Buying loose leaf tea, rather than bagged tea, makes a significant improvement in the quality of taste.

It is only relatively recently that green tea has skyrocketed in popularity in North America, primarily due to the increasing focus on health and wellness. Green tea is thought to prevent signs of skin ageing, help prevent cancer, offer cognitive benefits, and help with weight loss. Green tea also has beneficial antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.