What is Green Tea – Short History

What is Green Tea – Short History

What is Green Tea


As far as history, culture and healing effects are concerned, tea is one of the most fascinating healing plants. On the market you can find various sorts of black and green tea. What is Green Tea

After water tea is the most popular drink in the world. Even Eskimos like tea! In many countries tea drinking is part of the nation’s culture. In Zen Buddhism tea is an irrevocable part of the religious ceremony, and especially in England and in the countries of the British Commonwealth, tea has a longstanding tradition. However, people know too little about tea and about this extremely interesting tea plant

There is hardly another drink which is used as an effective remedy and at the same time people drink it simply for pleasure. Tea, and especially green tea, is a drink with a rich tradition and millenary history

The tea plant is an evergreen shrub or a small tree. The leaves are arranged successively; they are elongated, egg-shaped, pointed and finely indented. The blossoms are white, with five petals and have a pleasant aroma. The fruits are three-angular, and slightly hardened. The tea plant needs a tropical or a sub-tropical climate and grows up to 2,100 m above sea level. The higher the plantation is, the lower the tea shrubs are, and, hence, the lower the yield is. Most tea experts prefer the sort Camellia sinensis. Green tea is made mainly from this sort and from Camellia japonica (the Japanese Camellia). In the traditional regions where tea is grown, leaves are gathered by hand every week by specially hired women. In modern countries gathering is made by machines. The yield is assorted into old and young leaves according to their quality, and they are additionally divided into a lot of sorting degrees.

Tea and the world history

From the oldest Chinese written documents it becomes clear that tea in China has been used as a remedy ever since 2700 B.C. Buddhist monks cultivated the tea plant in the monastery gardens and spread the tea culture in China, Tibet, India and Japan.

During the early Han dynasty (202 B.C. — 1 A.D.) tea plants were already grown in Sichuan and out of the monasteries. It was only in the sixth century that tea became a really popular drink available to all population in China and Tibet. Tea is not only an important element of Buddhist Zen ceremonies but a valuable remedy as well. In the twelfth century large quantities of tea plants were carried over to Japan from China; they grew so well that botanists selected a special sort Camellia japonica. Today in Japan green tea is the most popular tea produced.

In the fourteenth century by Silk Road (or Silk Route) the first news about the exotic drink arrived in Europe. The Portuguese who owned the best ships in the world and were capable traders, delivered the first leads of tea to Lisbon. On Dutch ships the tea went to France and Holland.

In 1618 the Chinese ambassador to Russia in Moscow gave the Russian tzar Mihail, the first of the Romanov dynasty, several boxes of tea as a present. The Russian court liked the unknown drink and this set the start of a brisk trade between Russia and China. Historical documents testify that about 200 or 300 camels were constantly on the road in tea caravans between China and Moscow in the summer months. The Russian people appreciated tea highly as a warm and refreshing drink in cold winter. The samovar, which was made according to the Tibetan model, soon became a part of every Russian household.

In 1650 the well known governor of New Holland in America, Peter Stuyvesant, sent tea to Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, which later was renamed into New York. Although tea was heavily taxed, it spread quickly in the other colonies, too.

The first shipments with tea arrived in England only in 1652-1654. Tea is a rarity, an exotic commodity, available only for the aristocracy and the rich merchants. When England stepped into the trade with tea, this drink became a favourite with the middle class and there was a real “tea boom” in the country. In mid-1800s the English began to grow tea in their colonies India and Ceylon (Shri Lanka). Before that the biggest tea exporters were China and Japan who traded with green tea; they sold dry and not fermented leaves of the tea plant.

Black tea with its “new” aroma imposed itself only in the beginning of the 20th century. The production of black tea in the English tea plantations was improving more and more. This new English tea culture was quickly spreading in Europe.

Active substances in the tea leaves

The main active substances, which tea leaves contain, are caffeine (called earlier theine), tannins (flavonoids), theophylline, theobromine, fat, wax, saponins (a class of chemical compounds found in particular abundance in various plant species), essential oils, catechins, carotenes, a lot of vitamin C, vitamins А, В, B2, В12, Е и Р, fluorides, iron, magnesium, calcium, strontium, copper, nickel, and zinc, trace elements like molybdenum and phosphorus, plus three hundred more partly aromatic substances. The quantity of the basic  components is different according to the region where tea is grown; it depends on the altitude and the climatic zone, and the degree of growth. Caffeine content is the biggest in young leaves and buds. Older leaves contain more tannins.

Like all dry plants, which are used in naturopathy, tea in the scientific language is called a drug. If tea is dried carefully, active components are almost unchanged. This is a process of natural conservation which man has learned from nature. Fermentation and oxidation, however, which are characteristic of the processing of black tea, are biochemical and chemical processes, which lead to respective changes in the active components of the drug. Due to that fact, black tea differs considerably from green tea in taste and effect.

The stimulating effect of tea is due to the alkaloid caffeine, which is connected with tannins. As caffeine dissolves well in hot water, almost all quantity of caffeine contained in the drug goes into the tea in the first one or two minutes after tea is prepared. Therefore, if you leave the tea in the cup only for a minute or two, you will get a drink with a high content of caffeine, which is not connected with tannins and is absorbed very quickly by the body. Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and the brain functions.

If the tea is kept in the teapot for a longer time, for about four to seven minutes, tannins and the other active components of tea are gradually dissolved. Tannins can partially prevent caffeine absorption in the stomach and the intestines. If the tea is left for a long time in the teapot, it has a stronger aroma but the caffeine in it has a slower and lower effect. This tea does not have a calming effect as tea leaves do not contain calming components. The most pleasant and useful tea for your health is the tea in a smaller dose, maximum one flat tea spoonful per cup if it is left for a longer time, four to six minutes, in the hot water  without sugar or any artificial sweeteners. If you drink it in moderate quantities, tea will have a stimulating effect and will not over stimulate you. Before it was thought that tea increased blood pressure but this is not true. You should be careful with the content of caffeine. It is known that when you drink coffee, the caffeine effect is comparatively fast and reaches its maximum after about 30 minutes and lasts for about 2 or 3 hours. When you drink tea with the same content of caffeine, its effect is slower but it lasts longer. If you add some alcohol to your tea, for example rum, the caffeine effect becomes stronger.

If you take caffeine every day in natural products, no permanent harm occurs. People with unstable nervous system often have insomnia, anxiety or other problems if they take high doses of caffeine. However, with elderly people caffeine can facilitate their falling asleep as this is probably due to the improved blood circulation of the brain and better heart functioning. It is proved that if you drink green tea regularly, there is no addiction to tea or harm for the body. Green tea in particular has  an anti- atherosclerotic effect; furthermore, it is an alkaline drink, unlike coffee, and counteracts over oxidation.

More about the green tea history



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