I love drinking tea. It is my, and most of the worlds, drink of choice. My maternal grandmother, the half Irish half Scots one, whipped up a pot of tea so strong it could melt a spoon, and I loved it. Who needed a coffee fix when you could have Granny’s tea?
All tea comes from the same plant. Whether it’s a black, oolong, white or green tea – it’s all about when it was picked and how it was processed that makes the difference.
Black teas were my Granny’s speciality and are the teas most North Americans enjoy. Black tea has been oxidized after picking to develop its distinct flavour.
Oolongs are partially oxidized and are more popular in Asia.
White teas are made from young leaf buds that are covered with whitish hairs. These tiny new buds are picked before they’re open. They are withered and then dried slowly. The tea is very mild.
Green teas are not oxidized. The leaves are withered right after picking either steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried.
I discovered green tea back in my hippy dippy phase in the early 1970’s about 4,745 years after it became popular.
Good teas really are akin to fine wines. Single estate teas and their flavours are affected by climate, soil, elevation, mists, rain fall, and sun light. These micro climates along with the help of the tea master further define each tea estate’s tea.
Chinese teas are usually pan fried after picking which gives them a slightly smoky flavour.
Japanese teas are steamed after picking which gives them a fresh green flavour.
How to Make Green Tea
If you’ve made a pot of green tea with boiling water you probably noticed that the tea was bitter. Green tea hates boiling water. It is a more delicate tea and tastes much better when made with water that is below the boiling point. It should be 80º C (176º F).
- Start with fresh cold water and bring to a rolling boil.
- Remove kettle from stove and allow water to cool for 2 minutes. I have a separate thermometer for water temperatures. The temperature varies with the type of tea but most greens do well at 80º C (176º F)
- Use one teaspoonful of loose tea (5 mL) or one teabag per 6 oz. (approx 150 mL) of water. Add leaves or bag to tea pot. I use a cast iron tea pot for my greens and a separate porcelain tea pot for my black teas.
- Pour water over the green tea leaves or bags.
- Cover and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the variety). Some estate greens only require 2 minutes of steeping. Read the label.
- Strain tea or remove the teabags. Enjoy!
Matcha is the highest quality tea from Japan and a totally different ball park. Think the champagne of the tea world. Matcha is grown primarily in the Uji area, southwest of Kyoto. These tea bushes are shaded during their last 2-3 weeks of growing to encourage chlorophyll production which will intensify the green colour and add a dimension of sweetness to the flavour. The leaves are picked and steamed to prevent any fermentation. They are dried and traditionally stored in special jars for approximately 6 months. After storage the leaves are de-spinned to reduce any bitter flavour then ground between two specially crafted grinding stones. The entire leaf is ground into a fine powder which is why the antioxidant levels are so high – you’re drinking the whole leaf, okay the whole de-spinned leaf.
When you drink 1 cup of Matcha tea you’re getting the same antioxidant equivalent as 6 cups of green and a kick of caffeine to boot.
How to Make Matcha
- Measure out ½ tsp (2 mL) of the Matcha powder
- Add ¼ cup (60 mL) to 1/3 cup (75 mL) simmering water 80º C (176º F)
- Whisk slowly at first to dissolve the powder then vigorously in a zig zag motion until the tea becomes frothy. You can use a special bamboo whisk made for this process or a small wire whisk will do.
- Add ¼ cup (60 mL) to 1/3 cup (75 mL) of boiling water and serve.
Freshly brewed green tea is loaded with flavonoids which have been shown to reduce your chances of developing heart disease. One of the flavonoids called EGCG has a strong antioxidant activity and appears to reduce your chances of developing some cancers.
Bottom line? Drink green tea daily for pleasure and for health.