Green tea is one of the world’s most popular teas. Enjoyed widely for its wonderful health benefits, green tea is hailed as having a hand in everything from fighting cancer to boosting brain power and slowing down weight gain.
Loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that support its standing as a stimulating brew, it’s the tea’s high flavonoid content that makes it particularly powerful. In fact, a study from Tufts University in the U.S. revealed that a single cup of green tea contained the same amount of flavonoids as found in 8 apples!
While different types of the tea are now grown all over the world, in places as far apart as South Carolina to Sri Lanka, green tea actually originated in China over 2,000 years ago.
Even then it was revered for its medicinal properties, prescribed as a herbal remedy for certain conditions and classed as one of the seven ingredients considered essential for daily living, alongside firewood, rice, cooking oil, salt, soya sauce and vinegar.
China’s Yunnan Province is thought to be the original home of the Camellia sinensis, the plant that yields all teas, whether green, black or white, and even today the area grows 260 of the world’s 400 varieties of tea!
However, across all of China green tea is considered very special and, unlike the Western person’s habit of dunking a tea bag in a cup of boiling water to make a quick cuppa, the making of tea in China can involve very specific preparation. In fact, here tea drinking and tea tasting are two very different things.
The latter has a cultural context and often happens on occasions such as a family gathering, a wedding, a meeting with a prominent person or even as a means of apologizing to someone. In these moments, green tea and tea wares must generally relate to the surrounding natural elements, echoing wind, sun, snow, bright moons, waving tree boughs or high bamboo stalks. This reflects the ancient Chinese idea of a harmonious unity of human life and nature. The tea should also mirror the person’s character or be used to induce certain pleasant qualities, such as peacefulness and pleasance; it should be savoured and enjoyed slowly.
While it may be difficult to parallel much of that from the confines of your city-centre apartment building or high-rise office block, there are some tips from China’s cultural tea brewing that you should use to make yourself a great cup of green tea.
For example, to ensure that the best aromatic qualities of the tea are brought forth, water temperature is very important. If the water is too hot, the green tea will become bitter and much of its delicate aroma will be lost; if the water temperature is too cool, the fuller sweeter flavor contained in the leaves will not be extracted.
So, for the best brew prepare the tea at a temperature between 140°F – 185°F. To reach this you can use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water in the kettle.
If this sounds like too much work, boil the kettle and then let it cool down a little before pouring the hot water into the teapot. This should be about right in terms of heat. Let it steep for around 2 to 3 minutes. Once you’ve poured your cup all that’s left to do is to sit back, close your eyes and imagine the wind rustling through the trees of an ancient Chinese mountainside as you sip slowly and enjoy!