Sunday, September 24, 2023

How To Select Green Tea?

Selecting good quality green tea involves paying attention to many aspects, not all of which are easily accessible.

Green tea has been consumed for centuries in many Oriental cultures.

Modern science is slowly discovering its benefits to a varying extent as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, anti-obesity, and protective of the brain, heart, bones, joints, and oral health.

Note that this does not mean that green tea is a medicine for those diseases. The right interpretation is that green tea has displayed properties that may help in prevention and management of these conditions. To incorporate green tea in the treatment regimen is the sole discretion of your doctor and you should consult her for the same.

But you can use green tea as a healthy beverage for preventive purposes.

The consumption of green tea is increasing worldwide. However, as with any food item, green tea’s quality and nutrient composition varies based on multiple factors. In this article, I will share some ideas on selecting good green tea.

Disclaimer: Many links in this article are from websites of green tea brands. I had to use them because there are no non-commercial sites that offer such information. I have no business or financial relationship with any green tea company, nor do I endorse any particular brand.

Selecting Green Tea

Green Tea Should Be Green In Colour

This is not in jest. It is not good if your tea pack has some brown or black leaves.

After harvesting, green tea leaves are heated by pan-firing or steaming and then dried to prevent oxidation that turns the leaves brown. If you find brown or black leaves in your green tea, it means the tea was not processed correctly and may not have the best fresh-picked flavour.

Incidentally, Japanese tea producers use the steaming process, which preserves the herbal and grassy flavour. Chinese tea planters use pan-firing, which gives their green teas a more roasted aroma.

Read on this Website about how green tea leaves are processed: Green Tea or Black Tea: Which is the ‘Real’ Tea?

Buy Whole-Leaf Green Teas

Green tea bags are purchased for their convenience, but they are not ideal as they often contain small broken pieces of tea leaves—called dusts or fannings—which are left behind while making high-quality tea leaves.

When a tea leaf cracks, its essential tea oils start evaporating. So green tea dust does not have the best aroma or smoothness.

Colour Guide for Green Tea Leaves

Here is a handy guide to the colour of green tea leaves:

  • Dark green: Very intense herbal and grassy flavour indicative of strong steaming;
  • Bright green: Less herbal flavour due to a light steaming process;
  • Greyish green: Bitter taste and astringent flavour; and
  • Olive green: Pleasant, slightly sweet, and toasty flavour due to pan-firing.

If you have a preference for a particular flavour, choose accordingly.

Select The First Harvest of The Season

Green tea is harvested in spring starting in February. The leaves from the first harvest of the season have the best aroma and nutrients.

When you buy green tea from a shop or online, you may not get its harvest information. However, if you are buying from a tea estate, specialised shops, or dedicated websites, you can request the harvest details.

Consider Organic Green Tea

Some studies have found contaminants in green tea leaves: Pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals.

Pesticides in Green Tea

Green tea leaves are not washed during the preparation. Some leaves may be contaminated with folpet and anthraquinone.

Chemicals in Green Tea

Some teas contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are organic compounds produced by certain plants as a defence against animals that eat them. In humans, they can cause liver toxicity and cancer. If tea farming is not done correctly, those compounds can get mixed with tea leaves.

If you use green tea bags, you must also worry about mineral oils on the labels and polymers coming off the bags.

Heavy Metals in Green Tea

Tea plants grow best in acidic soils, from which they absorb a lot of heavy metals. Tea plants are known as ‘hyperaccumulators’ and naturally collect heavy metals such as mercury, lead, aluminium, and arsenic.

How To Avoid Green Tea Contaminants

If you are worried about these contaminants, choose green tea from a ‘genuine’ organic tea plantation.

Another good option is to rinse your green tea leaves before brewing them, which can reduce contamination by 5%–59%, as per a study.

Traditional Chinese tea brewing involves putting tea leaves in a pot and then pouring some water heated to roughly 85°C (185°F). After 30 seconds, this water is thrown away. It is called ‘washing’ the tea leaves. It removes dust and other contaminants. Then the final water is poured on the leaves, and the tea is brewed for 3 minutes. The tea is then served in cups.

You can not remove heavy metals by just washing the leaves as unlike pesticides and chemicals, they are inside the leaves. But good organic green tea will not have heavy metal contamination.

Ignore The Expiry Date & Check The Production Date

Green tea leaves lose their nutrients and flavour over time. Consume green tea within a year of production, independent of the expiry date printed on its package.

I have excluded information about selecting Matcha Green Tea, whose consumption is far more limited. You can read here to know about it: The Complete Guide To Matcha.

Most of the information in this article is taken from my upcoming book to be published by Macmillan Publishers in Nov 2023. The book discusses a thousand such preventive health tidbits. It covers twenty superfoods, their nutrients, health benefits, recommended amounts and excess levels. It also explains how to select and store and who should avoid them. Some of the superfoods are tomatoes, coconut, capsicum (Shimla mirch), drumsticks, amla (Indian gooseberry), jamun (Java plum), turmeric, cinnamon, flax seeds, asafoetida (hing), and sabja (sweet basil seeds).

To Read More

First Published on: 6th July 2023
Image Credit: macrovector on Freepik


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