Green tea was the first tea to be discovered.
An ancient Chinese legend tells that Emperor Shen Nung, a skilled ruler and agriculturalist, was visiting a distant region one summer day and stopped to rest.
In accordance with his ruling that all drinking water be boiled (a hygienic precaution), the servants began to boil water for him and his advisors to drink.
Dried leaves from the nearby bush fell into the boiling water, making the clear water transform to a pale green.
As a scientist and agriculturalist, the Emperor was interested in the new liquid, drank some and found it very refreshing.
Green tea is often lauded for its many health benefits
However, in Asia - the birthplace of tea – it is widely enjoyed not only for medicinal effects, but for the many dimensions of flavour experienced through the different varieties.
Nearly every town that grows green tea gives it their own twist, but the more popular varieties of green tea include Dragonwell (also known as Lung Ching), Genmai Cha, Gyokuro, Gunpowder and Sencha - to name a few.
Green tea is made from unoxidized leaves (no chemical change occurs in processing the leaves) which are simply heated after picking to destroy the enzymes that cause oxidation.
The heat applied to de-enzyme the leaf is usually in the form of either steaming or pan-firing
The leaves are then rolled and fired repeatedly to shape and dry the leaf. There are many methods within this process – from hand-crafted techniques passed down through generations (China, Korea, Vietnam) to the mechanised and automated systems more typically used in Japan.
In China, there are said to be nearly as many varieties of green tea as there are cities (over 600).
Green tea is available from all tea-growing nations but is produced primarily in China and Japan, where it is highly celebrated.
Types of green tea vary significantly, depending on:
Green tea tastes best when prepared with water that is cooler-than-boiling (80-85° ) and steeped for 3 minutes.
Using boiling water will burn the leaves and result in a bitter tasting, unpleasant cup.
If using a kettle, water is ideal when it begins to give a 'rumbling' sound as the water bubbles before boiling.
The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallo-catechin gallate (EGCG) - one of the most powerful polyphenols (natural antioxidants) found in green tea.
EGCG has also been reported as effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the formation of abnormal blood clots (thrombosis); considered among the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes.
Other health benefits indicated through scientific study include :
Helping to prevent tooth decay and reduce bacteria that causes halitosis (through naturally occurring fluoride)
A reduced risk of several cancers - skin, breast, lung, colon, oesophageal, and bladder.
Despite the health benefits, green tea should not be viewed purely as a health drink.
Many different dimensions of flavour can be achieved through a cup of green tea - rewarding your body as well as your palate.