Green tea

Drinking green tea is a healthy habit, it may not make you wealthy but it is certainly wise.

It is not always that we are so fortunate that something we enjoy is good for us. How lucky we are that green tea fits that role so well!

The role of green tea in promoting health has been much in the news in the last few years. There is ample evidence that, consumed in moderation, green tea indeed does aid many aspects of functioning. Some of these benefits have been known for over a thousand years.

The polyphenols, flavonoids and even caffeine (in moderate quantities) present in green tea are all known to help the body protect itself. Green tea helps lower cholesterol (the 'bad' kind), absorbs free radicals that can damage cell membranes and reduces the prospect of certain cancers.

Despite Federal FDA denials, many studies lend strong support to those who tout green tea's benefits. Black tea, as well, has most of the same benefits.

But green tea has many virtues beyond the medicinal. It tastes delightful and provides a relaxing form of enjoyment in a hectic world.

Just as with black or Oolong tea, green tea comes from the leaves of an evergreen called Camellia Sinensis. They are plucked, then processed. But unlike black tea, green tea leaves do not go through a long oxidation process.

Instead, green tea leaves are steamed, which retains the EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) antioxidants. Black and Oolong teas undergo 'fermentation' which converts the EGCG into other compounds. 'Fermentation' in tea, despite the use of the same word, is not the same process as in winemaking. No sugars are converted to alcohol. It's simply a synonym for oxidation, more or less.

As a result, the tea flavor is much more delicate and the aroma and taste retain much more of the 'vegetative' quality from the original bush. That flavor is enjoyed in a hundred varieties by tea drinkers the world over.

The Long Jing tea from Hang Zhou in China, pan dried and flat in appearance, often goes by the name Dragon Well. This green tea is among the most common drinks in China. Yet for all its commonality, it makes a fine brew. The Gyokuro, also known as Jewel Dew as a consequence of its color, is another fine green tea from China.

The Ryokucha from Japan is a green tea that is so common there that a form of the word (ocha) is often taken to mean simply 'tea'. Connoisseurs regard the green tea from the Uji region of Kyoto to be among the finest. Matcha is a powdered green tea once used primarily in tea ceremonies. Now it is so popular throughout Japan and elsewhere that it finds its way into ice cream and other sweets.

Gunpowder, which has nothing to do with the explosive, is another popular variety. The leaves are rolled into tiny pellets, making for a very intense infusion. Its muscatel overtones make for a wonderful brew.

There is even a green tea-style Earl Grey. Though without the heady flavor of the more common black tea type, the bergamot oil combines well with green tea.

So if you have always been a committed black tea drinker, it's time to open up your horizons. It may not make you wealthy, but it can give you enjoyment and promote your health. And isn't that very wise?