Loose leaf green tea has been the most popular form of tea in China since at least the Southern Song dynasty. While Chinese green tea was originally steamed, as it still is in Japan, after the early Ming dynasty it has typically been processed by being pan-fired in a dry wok. Other processes employed in China today include oven-firing, basket-firing, tumble-drying and sun-drying. Green tea is the most widely produced form of tea in China, with 1.42 million tons grown in 2014.
Neither red nor black tea is to be confused with Rooibos, often called “Red Bush Tea” or “Rea Tea” for short. Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a South African plant that is a member of the legume family and is not related to the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). Rooibos has a very different taste and feel than red (or black!) tea, it is much sweeter and lighter than black tea, although it is often mixed with sugar and cream or a lemon as you might find heavy black tea drinking countries such as England or the United States.
Evidence pointing to a boost exists in abundance. But first, let’s clarify what matcha is to begin with — in case you were trapped under something heavy these past few years. It’s basically green tea, derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, finely ground. Oxford’s Living Dictionary cites its origins in Japan as a combo of two terms, “from matsu ‘to rub’ + cha ‘tea’, from Chinese (Mandarin dialect) chá (see tea).” Matcha masters House of Matcha say the beverage is steeped in history. “Samurai warriors drank matcha green tea before going into battle because of its energizing properties, and Zen Buddhist monks drank it as a way to flow through meditation while remaining alert,” reads the website.
Rooibos is being heavily hyped by producers and distributors as a new health beverage. Unlike true “tea,” it is caffeine-free and low in tannins. It contains minimal amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and much less fluoride than found in real teas. Studies have shown that Rooibos does contain antioxidants and therefore might have some of the health benefits of green tea, but very little research has confirmed this. I found only 17 scientific studies of Rooibos compared to more than 1,000 on green tea. So far, none suggest that Rooibos is the health equivalent of green tea.
Sejak (세작; 細雀; lit. "thin sparrow"), or dumul-cha (두물차; lit. "second flush tea"), is made of hand-picked leaves plucked after gogu (20–21 April) but before ipha (5–6 May). The tea is also called jakseol (작설; 雀舌; lit. "sparrow tongue") as the tea leaves are plucked when they are about the size of a sparrow's tongue. The ideal steeping temperature for sejak tea is 60–70 °C (140–158 °F).
Green tea is processed and grown in a variety of ways, depending on the type of green tea desired. As a result of these methods, maximum amounts of polyphenols and volatile organic compounds are retained, affecting aroma and taste. The growing conditions can be broken down into two basic types − those grown in the sun and those grown under the shade. The green tea plants are grown in rows that are pruned to produce shoots in a regular manner, and in general are harvested three times per year. The first flush takes place in late April to early May. The second harvest usually takes place from June through July, and the third picking takes place in late July to early August. Sometimes, there will also be a fourth harvest. It is the first flush in the spring that brings the best-quality leaves, with higher prices to match.
Over a thousand years ago, matcha came to Japan as an aid to meditation practice. During long hours of sitting, monks would drink matcha to remain alert yet calm. Modern science has recently confirmed the lessons of centuries of tradition. Matcha is rich in L-Theanine, a rare amino acid that actually promotes a state of relaxation and well-being by acting upon the brains functioning. While stress can induce beta waves an excited, more agitated state, L-Theanine creates alpha waves, which lead to a state of relaxed alertness. And while L-Theanine is common in all tea, matcha may contain up to five times more of this amino acid than common black and green teas.
Shade grown: All matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves—a labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sun and light is filtered to the bushes in a very controlled manor. Shading boosts the chlorophyll production in the plant, giving the leaves a rich green color. The lack of sun reduces the plant’s photosynthesis of the leaves, which in turn alters the naturally occurring levels of caffeine, flavanols, sugars, antioxidants, and theanine. By controlling the sun exposure, tea producers can significantly alter the chemical make-up and flavor of the final tea leaves.