Tea seeds were first brought to Japan in the early 9th century by the Buddhist monks Saicho and Kukai. During the Heian period (794–1185), Emperor Saga introduced the practice of drinking tea to the imperial family. The Zen Buddhist priest Eisai (1141–1215), founder of the Rinzai school of Buddhism, brought tea seeds from China to plant in various places in Japan. Eisai advocated that all people, not just Buddhist monks and the elite, drink tea for its health benefits.
Asian countries like Japan and China are the biggest producers of green tea (they produce the best quality too) and are also its biggest consumers. Green tea available in other markets is found in far smaller quantities than black tea. Moreover, it is still gaining popularity, and you can get it at any modern shop. You can also order it from a local tea supplier, over the phone or on the internet. It is almost invariably imported from China (cheaper) and Japan (more expensive) and is packed in sealed packs of 200 grams, 250 grams, and 500 grams. Buy smaller quantities if possible, so that you get to make a fresh brew. Also, always check the date of manufacturing and packing before you buy.
One study that was published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry investigated the effects of catechins on eye diseases and found that consuming more catechins may help protect the eyes from oxidative damage and vision loss. Scientists involved in the study found evidence that catechins can pass from the digestive tract of rodents to the tissues of their eyes and reduce oxidative stress for up to 20 hours after ingestion. (11)
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Matcha typically has more caffeine content than green tea, similar caffeine to black tea, and less caffeine than brewed coffee. Because matcha is produced from shade-grown tea bushes, the tea leaves tend to retain more of their caffeine content. In addition, since you’re consuming the ground tea leaf when sipping matcha, you’re ingesting more caffeine content than you would from the extraction of steeped green or black tea leaves. Like all drinks cultivated from caffeinated plants, however, a specific level of caffeine per cup of matcha tea will depend on the how the matcha was processed and prepared. Be sure and read the packaging carefully or ask your tea supplier directly for the caffeine information specific to the matcha you are buying.
Although numerous claims have been made for the health benefits of green tea, human clinical research has not provided conclusive evidence of any effects. In 2011, a panel of scientists published a report on the claims for health effects at the request of the European Commission: in general they found that the claims made for green tea were not supported by sufficient scientific evidence. Although green tea may enhance mental alertness due to its caffeine content, there is only weak, inconclusive evidence that regular consumption of green tea affects the risk of cancer or cardiovascular diseases, and there is no evidence that it benefits weight loss.
Yup, those samurai. The samurai were cultured, fearsome warriors who ranked highly in ancient Japanese caste society. Their identity was built on Zen Buddhism, practicing the principles of discipline, ritual, and purification. The tea ceremony developed into an art form and cultural tradition as the samurai added hundreds of detailed steps in the practice. Specific instructions for how to sit and how to prepare Matcha green tea, the proper hand movements and even the proper design for a tea room were recorded in detail.
One thing to watch out for in detox teas, though, is a common ingredient—and herbal laxative—senna. “One part of detoxing is the cleansing of the intestines, and senna aids this process,” he explains. While it can be helpful as a night-time drink short-term, taking senna for too long can cause vomiting, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration. If you feel stopped up, incorporate a senna tea for a few nights (Villacorta recommends Traditional Medicinals Organic Smooth Move). But stick to senna-free varieties for your habitual cup.
Green tea is processed using either artisanal or modern methods. Sun-drying, basket or charcoal firing, or pan-firing are common artisanal methods. Oven-drying, tumbling, or steaming are common modern methods. Processed green teas, known as aracha, are stored under low humidity refrigeration in 30- or 60-kg paper bags at 0–5 °C (32–41 °F). This aracha has yet to be refined at this stage, with a final firing taking place before blending, selection and packaging take place. The leaves in this state will be re-fired throughout the year as they are needed, giving the green teas a longer shelf-life and better flavor. The first flush tea of May will readily store in this fashion until the next year's harvest. After this re-drying process, each crude tea will be sifted and graded according to size. Finally, each lot will be blended according to the blending order by the tasters and packed for sale.
Both nutritionists we spoke to agree that drinking tea when you wake up and before bed can help your system rev up and calm down, depending on which variety you choose. If you’re a tea fanatic, work in a few cups throughout the day: Unless you’re sensitive to caffeine, you can probably handle five to seven cups a day without any negative side effects, says Lagano.
This is yet another powerful benefit of green tea. Astringent substances trigger contractions in muscles and tissues while toning up muscles and skin. Even if you do not wish to drink green tea, a simple, daily mouthwash with it can cause sufficient contraction in your gums to keep them firm and tight on the teeth, thus preventing loosening and loss of teeth. You can also wash your hair with green tea and feel it grow stronger and healthier every day.
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Studies on green tea’s impact on cancer have been mixed. But green tea is known to aid healthy cells in all stages of growth. There are some clues that green tea may help destroy cancer cells, but that research is still in its early stages, so you shouldn’t count on green tea to prevent cancer. In fact, the National Cancer Institute's web site says it "does not recommend for or against the use of tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer."
The Japanese tea ceremony, still called The Way of Tea, is a revered practice in Japan and is centered around the art of preparing and presenting matcha in an almost meditative fashion. It was originally developed as a spiritual practice and the principals of the practice—harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility—are still central to tea ceremony today.
Instead of being rolled, shaped and dried like traditional green tea leaves, the leaves destined to become Matcha are laid flat to dry. Grinding the leaves into Matcha is a slow process. If the mill stones overheat, the delicate green tea leaves might become damaged, which alters the flavor and taste. For reference, it takes about one hour to grind 30g of Matcha.
It’s important to point out that while it might be very beneficial, drinking green tea alone likely won’t improve your life span or protect you from disease. Research suggests that a combination of lifestyle components account for the health benefits observed in people that drink tea. The problem with many studies that investigate the effects of green tea is that they are population studies rather than controlled clinical studies, according to the Mayo Clinic. In many of these studies, other lifestyle factors and habits besides drinking green tea are not well-controlled, so it’s difficult to draw conclusions. Overall, studies have found a great number of health benefits of green tea, especially as it relates to anti-aging, but the bottom line is that the quality of your overall diet is really what’s most important.
"It's only in the last 10 year that Western science has tried to look at antioxidant activities of tea," says Dave Ringer, PhD, scientific program director at the ACS. "It's a young science. Generally, it is felt that tea can inhibit the initiation of cancer and delay its progression in animal studies. But we don't really have large well-controlled epidemiological studies to look at this yet [in humans], because you need to correct for the effects of other dietary components."
Green tea contains significant amounts of flavonoids, antioxidants that protect against heart disease by slowing the breakdown of LDL cholesterol, preventing blood clots, and improving blood vessel function. The benefits of green tea also include associations with lower cholesterol and lower rates of artery blockages. People who drink a cup or two a day have a 46 percent lower risk of developing narrowed arteries. Upping that to three cups a day lowers the risk of having a heart attack by 43 percent and of dying from a heart attack by 70 percent. It can even help prevent a second heart attack. In a study of 1,900 patients recovering from heart attacks at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the death rate among patients who drank at least two cups of tea a day was 44 percent lower than among non-tea drinkers.