There’s a right and wrong way to brew green tea. When brewing green tea, take a little extra care, as boiling water is bad for the precious catechins (tea’s healthy chemicals). Do bring your water to a boil, but let it rest for about ten minutes. Then, pour the water over the tea and brew for about one minute before serving. Of course, the brew time can be made shorter or longer, depending on your taste.
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.
There are three main varieties of tea: green, black, and oolong. All three varieties are made from the leaves of the same species of plant called Camellia sinensis; the difference is in how the tea leaves are processed. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves, while oolong tea is made from partially fermented leaves and black tea is fully fermented.
Green tea is claimed to have been popularized in Japan around 1190, when a Zen priest visiting and studying in China’s great Buddhist monasteries and temples returned to Japan with tea plant seeds and bushes. The young priest, called Eisai, used his experience growing and drinking tea in China to popularize the way of tea as a meditation ritual within his own community of Buddhist monks, eventually spreading the custom of tea drinking throughout the rest of Japan. To this day, China and Japan are the top two green tea producing and exporting countries in the world.
If you do choose to try a tea detox, the most important aspect isn't the kind of healthy tea you choose—it’s what else you eat: “Tea can only be medicinal and detoxifying if your diet isn’t taxing your system, which most American meals are guilty of,” says Lagano. In order to truly detoxify your body, cut processed and fried foods, and up your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and anti-inflammatory fats like avocados and almonds, says Villacorta. Once your diet is clean and gentle on your body, detoxifying teas can begin to enhance your natural organ function.
The oldest tea producing region in Japan is Uji, located near the former capital of Kyoto. It is thought that seeds sent by Eisai were planted in Uji, becoming the basis of the tea industry there. Today, Japan's most expensive premium teas are still grown in Uji. The largest tea producing area today is Shizuoka Prefecture, which accounts for 40% of total Japanese sencha production. Other major tea producing regions include the island of Kyushu and the prefectures of Shiga, Gifu, and Saitama in central Honshu.
Like gyokuro, matcha is shaded before plucking. The plucked and processed leaf is called tencha. This product is then ground into a fine powder, which is matcha. Because the tea powder is very perishable, matcha is usually sold in small quantities. It is typically rather expensive. Matcha is the type of tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It is prepared by whisking the tea with hot water in a bowl, until the surface is frothy. If the water is too hot, the tea may become overly bitter.
Rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss) appears to be matching -- and possibly besting -- the health benefits claimed for other more established teas. A favorite among South Africans for years, the beverage is said by some to have 50% more antioxidants than are found in green tea. Antioxidants are the organic substances believed to scavenge "free radicals," the toxic by-product of natural biological processes that can damage cells and lead to cancer.
Already nearly calorie free, matcha is a great addition to a weight loss program by tackling the problem from both sides. It boosts metabolism and burns fat. One recent study even suggested that matcha may help burn calories by four times. At the same time, matcha does not put any stress on the body. It doesn’t raise blood pressure or heart rate, making it a safe alternative to questionable quick fixes or pharmaceuticals ridden with side effects.
In 2009, King’s College researchers found that epicatechin may protect brain cells through mechanisms unrelated to its antioxidant ability, as epicatechin is one of the few flavonoids that can cross the blood-brain barrier. The King’s College researchers reported that somehow epicatechin protects brain cells from the negative effects of beta-amyloid plaques, although the exact mechanism of how this works is still not entirely know. (9)
Apart from causing premature aging, free radicals are also responsible for causing certain types of cancer. The catechins present in green tea neutralize these free radicals, prevent the formation of carcinogens like nitrosamines and reduce the risk of cancer for people who regularly consume it. Green tea is now being clinically used and prescribed as a home remedy to aid in the prevention of cancer, particularly for those patients at high risk for cancer in the colon, rectum, pancreas, and intestines.