The term “green tea” is used inaccurately. It conveys a sense that there is one and only definitive form of the tea, but in fact, there are multiple types of green tea. As a description, “green tea” refers more to the process of preparation and manufacture of the tea plant, rather being a specific variety of tea.
Green tea is made from the same types of tea leaves as ordinary “black tea”. The way it is harvested and processed is quite different, though. This is what gives green tea it’s more potent health-giving benefits, by comparison. Popular leaf types that are used to create green tea include Xi Hu Longjing (dragon well), Huiming, Long Ding (dragon mountain), Hua Ding, Qing Ding (green top), Zhuchá (gunpowder), Junshan Yinzhen (silver needle tea), and Huo Mountain Yellow Buds, although there are many more.
Some of the different varieties teas used to create black teas include English breakfast, Irish breakfast, Earl Grey, Ceylon, Nilgiri, Darjeeling, Sun Moon Lake, Keemun, Dian Hong, Assam, Tibet, Jin Junmei, and Lapsang souchong.
The method of green tea manufacture helps retain some of the active compounds of the tea plant. Steaming the leaves prevents the oxidation of certain compounds found in the tea called catechin, the most significant of these being epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful antioxidant that is being studied for various health benefits in relation to cancer, heart health, and fat metabolism. The more gentle steaming process helps preserve the benefits of EGCG.
Over the years, regular consumers of green tea have observed benefits and today it is widely consumed for a number of reported health reasons, including:
– Inhibiting the growth of cancer cells
– Heart protective
– Potential to lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL)
– Preventing abnormal blood clot formation
– Boosting metabolic rate and stimulating fat burning
Research is being conducted to determine what the actual benefits are and how it works.
Green tea comes in more than one form as well and is now being used as an ingredient in all kinds of food products, from ice cream to vitamin supplements. It can be found in loose-leaf form, as tea bags, as a powder, in capsules, and on supermarket shelves in the juice section as a refreshing, Tetra-packed cool drink.
Not all green tea products are of the same quality or have the same health properties. The manufacturing process varies from company to company and some brands may be better cared for during processing, to help retain maximum potency of the raw ingredient.
As with any food, nutrients can be lost along the way and, as the active ingredients in green tea are not standardized prior to production, the efficacy of these is highly variable. What that means is it may require trial and error on the part of the green tea drinker to find a brand that is potent and works for you. Experimenting with different brands will help you experience maximum benefit from the phytonutrients originally found in the gently steamed leaves of your green tea.