National Hot Tea Month: Green Tea Spotlight
January is National Hot Tea Month here in the good ol’ U.S. of A, and for the next three weeks we’ll be featuring a different type of tea in a blog here on the PLYMC website. Last week, we took a turn looking at black tea, but this week we’re switching it up to green tea.
Drinking green tea is said to have a TON of health benefits. First and foremost, it’s filled with a bunch of antioxidants, which can lower your inflammation levels and may even decrease your risk for various types of cancer. Studies also suggest that drinking green tea can cut down on your halitosis – bad breath, that is. Green tea also improves blood flow and lowers cholesterol, and some doctors and nutritionists think that it is the healthiest thing that you can be drinking (besides water).
There are a lot of different types of green tea: Dragonwell, Sencha, Matcha, and Kukicha, to name just a few. Besides Matcha, though, you may have not heard of these other varieties. Dragonwell and Sencha are the most popular teas in China and Japan respectively. Dragonwell – China’s most popular green tea – has a mild and sweet chestnut flavor, while Sencha – Japan’s most popular green tea – is grassy and natural in taste. Matcha is a finely powdered green tea and its preparation is commonly seen in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It’s also often used as a flavoring in many other foods from cakes and other baked goods, to entrees and more. If you’re interested in cooking with matcha, check out The Healthy Matcha Cookbook by Miryam Quinn Doblas, which is available on Hoopla. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget to explain what Kukicha is. This is a green tea made not from the leaf itself, but from the stems and stalks of the tea plant, and it’s often known as “twig tea” due to its appearance. It has a has a mildly nutty and slightly creamy sweet flavor and is a great sustainable tea as it uses parts of the tea plant not often otherwise used. If you’re on a macrobiotic diet, twig tea is often a fantastic addition to your pantry!
So how does one go about brewing green tea? Well, if you read our black tea blog, it’s very similar, though it has a shorter steeping time and brews at a lower temperature. You’ll still use the same amount of tea (1-2 tsp, depending on your preference), but some other methods are different.
Loose leaf is often the preferred method for brewing green tea (unless, of course, you’re preparing matcha, which we’ll talk about below), but if bagged is your preference, that’s absolutely fine. If you can find tea that’s bagged in a triangular or pyramid shape, that is best, as the flavor within green tea is heightened as the leaf expands within its container.
Once your tea is in its container (tea ball, bag, what have you), you’ll want to next pour your water. Unlike black tea, which requires boiling water, green tea requires water just under boiling. 170-180 degrees is the optimal temperature, but if you’re going by sound or look simmering is what you’re looking for. Because green tea is often unprocessed, anything hotter will damage the leaves, which can be steeped more than once!
Once your slightly-below-boiled water is in, let your tea steep for one to three minutes – definitely not the 4-5 that black tea calls for. It’s recommended to taste check your tea at one minute, and if the flavor is not robust enough for you, let it steep for longer, checking again every 30 seconds or so.
But if you’re making matcha, that’s a whole other ball game. Matcha is steeped (pun intended) in ceremonial tradition and it has its own set of tools to create it. You can learn more about Japanese tea ceremonies from Tea Ceremony: Explore the Unique Japanese Tradition of Sharing Tea by Shozo Sato (available to hold through BiblioCommons), or The Japanese Tea Ceremony: Cha-no-Yu and the Zen Art of Mindfulness by A. Sadler (available on Hoopla).
To make Matcha at home, you’ll need a small tea bowl, a bamboo whisk, and a small sifter, if you want your matcha to be as smooth as possible. You will first want to sift about 1-2 tsp of matcha powder into a small bowl, then add about 2 ounces of hot water (just before boiling, as with other green tea varieties). After that, you’ll want to whisk your matcha powder and water vigorously, until the tea starts to get nice and frothy. You can drink your matcha right from the bowl (as is tradition) or transfer to a cup. Traditionally, matcha is not paired with any milk or sweetener, but if you want to add one, that is absolutely your prerogative. I add a little bit of oat milk to mine!
For most green teas, it’s common to leave it plain or pair it with honey, but you can add anything that you want – drinking tea is your experience, and you should create a tea that you’re happy drinking!
If you want to check out some books on the health benefits of drinking green tea, I recommend Essential Natural Uses of Green Tea by Ben Raines (available on Hoopla) or Green Tea: Antioxidants in a Cup by Diana Rosen (also available on Hoopla).
Happy sipping, and check back next week for our entry on white tea, where we will share some tips and tricks for making the perfect cup of white tea!