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What to Consider When Choosing the Best Green Tea
While its easy to assume that all green teas offer similar benefits, a number of factors affect their quality. The following section looks at some of the most important characteristics to consider when selecting the best green tea for your needs.
Green teas are broadly categorized as either traditional or oolong. While both have distinct brewing methods, they can sometimes be difficult to distinguish.
- Traditional green teas are made from leaves that have been rolled and dried, which usually results in a darker brew. This is because the drying process concentrates the chlorophyll, which gives green tea its characteristic color and flavor.
- Oolong teas are typically made from younger leaves that have not fully ripened; this means they tend to brew lighter in color. However, due to their lower quality, oolongs may not be as long-lasting as traditional green teas.
The majority of green teas contain caffeine, but the amount varies considerably between products. For example, some contain up to 50 mg per cup, while others contain only 5 mg.
The reason for this variation is that the tea leaves are processed differently depending on the type. In general, the more processing a tea undergoes, the less caffeine it contains. For example, green tea that has been fermented with yeast (called white tea) will have almost no caffeine, whereas black tea will contain around 40 to 60 mg per cup.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Some herbal teas, such as chamomile, can actually increase the amount of caffeine in a drink. Also, certain blends, such as green tea with rooibos, can reduce the overall amount of caffeine in a beverage.
There are two main ways to make a green tea beverage: steeping or infusing.
- Steeping is the most common method. To make a steep, pour hot water over the leaves, cover the pot, and let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, remove the lid and add sweetener if desired.
- Infusion is a slower process that involves pouring cold water over the leaves and then heating it. The water is left to infuse for up to 30 minutes before drinking.
When making a green tea beverage, the water temperature can affect the outcome. Using cold water results in a cooler, fresher-tasting beverage. Conversely, heating the water produces a hotter, more robust taste.
Using water that is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit ensures that the tea leaves and water are both properly cooled before brewing. If the water is warmer than that, the tea may not extract as much flavor and could even hurt the environment by using energy to heat it. Also, drinking a hot beverage during the day is often an unpleasant experience, so warming the water helps ensure that the beverage is neither too cool nor too hot.
Like many other types of tea, green tea can be brewed to produce several different tastes. These include:
- A light, fresh taste somewhat reminiscent of just-brewed coffee.
- A stronger, robust flavor that might have hints of grass or earthy tones.
- A sweeter, more sugary taste that could be very close to what is described as “sweet iced tea.”
- An iced tea/cooler flavor that might feature notes of mint or citrus.
Some green teas have a particularly strong scent that can fill a room with fragrance when brewing. The scent can vary considerably between individual teas, but it is often described as having a fresh, clean smell somewhat like freshly cut grass or newly mown lawns.
This is due to the fact that green tea is often stored and brewed in environments where odors are trapped. For this reason, choosing a deodorized product can help reduce the odor of stale green tea.
Although green tea is commonly assumed to have negative health effects, scientific studies have shown that it is relatively safe and does not appear to pose a significant risk. Its also low in calories and fat, and high in antioxidants, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties.
However, these nutrients do not exist in a vacuum. Drinking green tea can deplete the body of vital minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which can lead to reduced bone strength and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The process of growing and producing food can have a major impact on the environment. For example, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), agriculture accounts for about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). As a result, reducing our consumption of food is one of the best ways to combat climate change.
One kilogram of raw sugar produces approximately 1.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide, while one kilogram of processed sugar produces 2.4 kilograms of CO2. Similarly, one kilogram of rice produces 7 kilograms of CO2, while one kilogram of cooked rice produces 10.6 kilograms of CO2.
According to the UNEP, every time we eat a meal, travel to the store to shop, or use the phone, we are emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. By cutting down on these activities, we can reduce our ecological footprint.
Many manufacturers now sell green teas with added benefits, such as flavonoids, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and EGCG, which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Other additives can boost the immune system, improve blood circulation, and reduce stress levels.
For example, one popular brand of green tea has antioxidant power thanks to the inclusion of a powerful superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzyme. SOD helps to neutralize free radicals in the body, which can damage cells and contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer.