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Green tea has had a long and steady history. Several varieties have also developed throughout the years, like sencha, gyokuro, bancha, and hojicha. These varieties stem from the variety of tea plant used, its growing conditions, processing, and time of harvest. Each variety also slightly differs in terms of how it should be brewed.
Making Your Tea
One thing you must remember about green tea is that it does not keep well. Sure, it won’t go bad, but it might as well do. Tea leaves of this variety that have been kept for quite some time lose not only their flavor but also much of their anti-oxidants. It’s therefore important not to buy too much at once. It’s also important to store the leaves properly to keep their freshness for longer. You can keep the tea leaves in an airtight and reseal-able caddy or any other opaque container. Store the container in a cool and dark place, perhaps a pantry or a cupboard away from direct sunlight, or even your refrigerator.
You can use any kind of teapot—glass, clay, or ceramic—for brewing this tea. Just make sure that everything you use, from the pot to the strainer to the cups, is as clean as possible. It’s also best to brew just enough for the number of people that will be drinking the tea, as it won’t taste as good after some time has passed after brewing.
There are different types of this tea, and each type needs a slightly different tea-to-water ratio for the flavor to attain its full potential. For both standard and high grade sencha, you need about a tablespoon and a half of tea leaves for every six ounces of water. For standard and high grade gyokuro, you need a lot more tea leaves for every six ounces—approximately ten level tablespoons. For bancha and hojicha, you need about a tablespoon and a half of tea leaves for every six ounces of water.
Of course, these ratios are just guidelines. You can add or subtract some tea leaves according to your preferences.
You can use any type of drinkable water available to you for brewing tea. There are some things you do need to consider, though. Distilled water tends to taste flat, and it can affect the flavor of your tea. It’s best to use filtered or purified water to make sure the tea’s flavor is brought out and unaffected by impurities in the water. You can also use tap water, if it’s been filtered. If you live in an area that does not supply hard water to residents, though, then this won’t be much of a problem for you. Whichever kind of water you use, just make sure that it’s fresh and cold when you boil it. It’s also best if the water has not already been boiled before.
When making green tea, it’s important to note that if the water temperature is too high, the tea will have a bitter and somewhat unpleasant taste. There are also different recommended water temperatures for the different kinds of tea mentioned above. For standard sencha, the water should be 176 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit, while for high grade sencha, the water should be 158 degrees Fahrenheit. For standard gyokuro, the water should be 140 degrees Fahrenheit, while for high grade gyokuro, the water should be 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Both bancha and hojicha would do well in boiling water. A tea kettle with a thermometer and temperature control should be able to help you hit these recommended temperatures with no trouble at all.
Before you start brewing your tea, you need to prepare the pot you’ll be using for steeping. Take your pot and pour hot water over it to keep it warm. This ensure that once you pour the water in, it won’t cool down immediately and it will be able to brew the tea properly. Keep in mind that the tea leaves can only be used two to three times. You can keep the leaves in your cup or in the pot for the next brewing.
The different kinds of teas also have different steeping times. Standard sencha should be steeped for only a minute. High grade sencha and standard gyokuro should be steeped for two minutes. High grade gyokuro should be steeped for two and a half minutes, while both bancha and hojicha should be steeped for thirty seconds.
Loose leaf, matcha, or tea bags?
Serious tea drinkers and aficionados usually turn their noses up on any tea that was not brewed from loose leaves. In some ways, they do have a point. You can get better flavor and aroma from loose tea leaves because the leaves have more room to expand. Tea leaves in tea bags tend to be of lower quality and they don’t give off the flavor and aroma quality that lose leaves can. The bags can also keep some nutrients in instead of releasing them into the water.
Matcha, however, is a different story. Matcha is made by grinding tea leaves into a fine powder that can be dissolved in hot water. It is certainly simpler to prepare, but is it better? The answer to that depends on your own preferences and lifestyle. Matcha has nearly double the caffeine content of tea leaves and about as many amino acids. It is also sweeter than the tea brewed from loose tea leaves. You can prefer one or the other, but you’ll be getting nearly the same health benefits from either one.
Benefits and Risks
Drinking this tea is known to have a lot of health benefits. It can lessen the risk of heart disease, lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and it can lower the risk of death from any natural cause. It’s also marketed as a slimming beverage, though no conclusive scientific studies have found weight loss properties in the tea. You should therefore avoid taking green tea extract dietary supplements because they’ve been found to cause liver toxicity. Habitually drinking actual green tea in moderation, though, can possibly add more years to your life.
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