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Green tea: why it makes us feel good and how to make a proper cup

Why green tea is so good for you, and tips for making the perfect cup of green tea from ‘tea scientist’ and Whittard tea buyer, Bethan Thomas.

A QUICK HISTORY

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The origins of drinking green tea can be traced back to 2nd century China, when it was boiled, compressed and baked into a cake.

It was only in the 14th century that the production of loose-leaf green teas increased in popularity. It was green tea in this form, as we know it today, that reached our shores 200 years later. Now, more than one in 10 people enjoy green tea on a weekly basis in the UK, and 2012 saw an 83% annual increase in the green tea market.

WHY GREEN IS OH-SO-GOOD FOR YOU

The craze for green tea has taken the UK by storm over the last five years – high in antioxidants and said to aid digestion, it’s the brew of choice in health circles.

What’s more, green tea is particularly high in the antioxidant ECGC that is reputed to slow the aging process and even protect against cancer. Generally, it also has lower amounts of caffeine in it than black tea due to its production methods and the choice of tea leaves.

The health-conscious might also enjoy white tea, believed by many to have even more powerful anti-ageing properties than green tea. Also, oolong and puerh tea have been linked to weight loss, and fruity or herbal infusions are caffeine free and boast many benefits… Whittard’s Apple and Elderflower blend, for example, is said to aid fighting off colds and flu, and Acai and Goji infusions is high in antioxidants (acai) and amino acids (goji).  

A MASTER IN ‘TEA SCIENCE’

Bethan Thomas, Tea Buyer at Whittard, has spent the last 10 years putting her passion for tea into practice. Having studied a masters degree in Tea Science at Fujian Forestry and Agricultural University in China where she was the first non-Chinese student, she is now responsible for sourcing and creating new blends from plantations around the world.

“There is so much more to green tea than meets the eye,” she says. “Too often it’s considered a one-trick pony – there are actually hundreds of different types of green tea in China alone and many couldn’t be further from the dust found in low-cost tea bags.

“The tea’s garden origin, coupled with its production methods, determine the colour, aroma and taste of your end cup . Each tea is defined by the type of bush it is picked from, its geographical heritage and the careful production it undergoes once picked. The most famous Chinese green teas are hand pressed against a hot wok like Dragon Well Green Tea, whilst in Japan the best teas are hand rolled and steamed – Gyokuro or ‘Jade Dew’ green tea is the most highly desired type of this tea”

THE PROPER WAY TO MAKE A CUP OF GREEN TEA

In order to get the most out of your cup, it needs to be brewed correctly: “Green tea is delicate,” says Bethan. “When created it is carefully handled and doesn’t undergo the heavy oxidation that black tea does… the leaves are therefore fragile, so you shouldn’t use boiling water to infuse it.”

1. Let the kettle cool for a few minutes after boiling, before pouring water on the leaves. This will allow the sweet and creamy flavours of proteins and polyphenols in the leaves to come out, and stop caffeine and tannins, which cause a bitter taste.

3. Don’t over-steep the tea leaves – green tea only needs 2-3 minutes maximum to brew.

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Feature kindly supplied by Whittard and Bethan Thomas