Green Tea Yesterday and Today
Green tea has been a popular drink throughout the world for thousands of years. Tea comes from brewing the leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis in water to produce a flavorful liquid. Camellia Sinensis grows in tropical regions of the globe, with most tea plants being grown in India and China. Leaves from the plant are picked and processed, creating one of several kinds of tea. The processing of the tea leaf involves wilting the leaves with heat and using an oxidation process to darken the leaves, giving them a distinctive flavor. Black teas, such as earl grey, are wilted and oxidized through this process. Green teas, however, are not oxidized and are untouched by heat. The processed tea leaves are then brewed into tea by the consumer. The leaves are placed into a container, such as a bag or mesh, and mixed with boiling water. The resulting liquid is then poured into a cup to be drunk.
Green tea has been enjoyed in Asia for thousands of years. As much as 5000 years ago, the Chinese have been enjoying the taste and benefits of drinking tea. The Chinese myth of the first discovery of tea was when the Emperor Shen Nung drank a glass of water into which a tea leaf had fallen. All of the tea drunk in ancient China was green – no oxidation process was used. The importance of tea in the Japanese culture can be seen in their traditions of tea ceremonies, rituals in which tea is prepared for consumption. During the 1700s and later, British colonialism to in East Asian and the Indian subcontinent spread the tea leaf throughout Europe and the west.
Green tea has long been known to have medical benefits as well. Tea leaves, like coffee beans, contain caffeine which is an effective stimulant, making the drinker more alert. The ancient Chinese found that drinking tea helped in the digestion of meals and believed it was beneficial to the drinker’s well being. Recent medical studies have found that tea has a great many positive effects on health. Studies have shown that drinking tea leads to a reduction in the risk of heart disease and may even help prevent breast or prostate cancer. The caffeine and enzymes found in tea may also help drinkers lose weight. The potential health benefits and enjoyable taste of green tea makes it as popular a drink today as in the past.