Many people today don’t think of nutrients when they’re drinking tea. They probably believe that tea doesn’t have much nutritional value to begin with. So why do so many people around the world drink tea?
It was the ancient Chinese and Japanese cultures gave rise to the proliferation of tea drinking. As Portuguese, Greek, Cyprian, and Arabian merchants made their way through Asia, they brought back the seeds of tea plants. Britain was introduced to it in the 1600s by Catherine de Braganza of Portugal, and she in turn brought it to India in an attempt to curtail the Chinese monopoly. China, unwilling to part with much of its tea for anything Britain had to trade, had by now imposed a tax on tea’s exportation. The British East India Company then discovered opium and began growing it in India and trading it for China’s tea. Thus the supply of tea to Britain became endlessly ensured.
The acceptance of tea by religious authorities and royalty, coupled with the love of tea by the privileged classes erupted into the development of tea plantations in several countries, and as the trend spread to the West and worldwide, with China no longer the “center of the world”, the proliferation of tea drinkers grew.
But other than the delightful aroma and relaxing experience of tea drinking, is there any nutritional value or calories associated with tea and green tea in particular? Let’s break it down.
- Hydration is important to health and tea is obviously mostly water. In fact, it’s the next best thing to water. It contains virtually no calories unless you add honey, milk or some other ingredient.
- Green tea, Camellia sinensis, is picked and dried, and can be brewed in its original state, so it retains most of its natural antioxidants and alkaloids.
- Green tea contains vitamins A, E, C, and K with trace amounts of other vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium, and selenium. Minerals in the soil are taken up through the plant, so the mineral content of each tea will depend on where and how it was grown.
- EGCG (epigallocatechingallate) is the real benefit of green tea. It’s an antioxidant polyphenol that’s being studied for its chemo-preventive effects and its role in DNA methylation, mitochondrial performance, neural cell growth, and other biological actions necessary for health.
Note: Taking green tea supplements can adversely affect blood platelet formation, so if you’re concerned about blood thinning, drinking green tea in moderation is OK, but don’t take supplements.
There are several types of green tea and the one you choose will depend on your own taste. For example:
- Young Green Sheng Pu-erh has a smoky character and an earthy grassy taste.
- Genmaicha is a mix of raw unfermented green tea leaves and roasted brown rice, some of which have “popped”. It has a nutty-sweet aroma.
- Dragon Well Green (LoongJien or Long Jing) has a very elemental vegetative aroma with a mellow round mouth feel.
Experiment with different types of green tea and remember, the most important part of making tea is in the 3 cardinal rules: Good tea, good tasting water, proper brewing. Once you’ve mastered that, it’s all a matter of taste. In the end, the art of tea is about the enjoyment of life.