Friday, July 11, 2008

Green Tea - good for more than what ails ya

There's several reasons for adding green tea to one's diet.

Weight Loss & Anti Oxidants
Thermogenesis is the body creating heat - burning energy - by raising the metabolic rate above normal. Green tea has been shown to be good at this - safely.

So that's one good thing about green tea for health and diet. Another is that it's a powerful anti-oxidant, and that is supposed to be a good thing in the battle with aging/free radicals/heart disease and possibly some cancers (here's an overview).

The thermogenic and anti oxidant effect is largely courtesy of epigallocatechin gallate found a bit in chocolate and in other tea types, but highest concentrations are in green tea. A 99 study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition claimed 43% increase in thermogenesis in adults with 90mg dose of per day.

Drinking about a liter of green tea a day will get these kinds of doses (32oz). That's the same as slightly less than three cans of coke. Or the amount in a typical gym water bottle.

If drinking tea is not your bag, there are alternatives like green tea in powdered pills or tablets. Also, some green tea supplements take care to get the caffeine out of the mix, too - and that is a good thing. Another product is from Tea Tech that Jackie Chan is delightfully fronting: Tea Tech Green Tea, tea with a kick. This is 'instant' tea with a difference: it contains 100mg of those ECGCs. So there's your thermogenic effect right there.

How much a day?
If you're taking green tea in pill form, Registered Dietician Ryan Andrews suggests no more than 300mg a day. Some recommend that, since Green Tea has a thermogenic effect, it's optimal to take it especially before working out so that it's giving a helping hand to fat mobilization that takes place when working out.

What Kind?
Some folks like just to grab some green tea bags, brew 'em and be done with it. If this is the only way you've had green tea, which can taste a wee bit bitter - what i imagine boiled hay would taste like - you're in for a treat if you try loose japanese green tea.

I am in no way a green tea guru (there must be a term for this like someone who knows tons about wine), but generally speaking there are nine kinds of Japanese green tea (and these kinds are big categories). I'm just going to mention the ones i've experienced and really enjoy.

Down at the worker end of loose green tea is Genmaicha. This type of green tea has brown rice kernels in it, and sometimes, what's very nice, some Matcha - the fine powdered green tea used in the Tea Ceremony. It's called Matcha-iri genmaicha. Now, i really really like this tea with the Matcha and the rice. It gives the tea a kind of grainy, meaty taste that is very satisfying, and the color (unlike the stuff in the bags) *is* green. In USD a nice genmaicha can be had for about 4USD/100g.

If you don't care for the kernels, well you can get plain old Sencha. These are steamed, dried early tea leaves, and it's this steaming rather than Chinese green tea frying that i personally prefer. Nice taste; easy to prepare.

If you decide you like Japanese green tea, you can go for the Uber Green Tea, Gyroku - another Sencha, but treated quite differently than other senchas. It's pale, delicate and requires attention to brew and drink. You give it that attention because it's dam pricey. Here in the UK, 17 quid for 100 grams is mid range.

How to Prepare
Let's skip the special prep for the Gyroku and talk about the other senchas. You can get yourself a japanese green tea pot - a pot that will have a screen in it so that you can pour out the tea as soon as it's ready into wee cups. That's nice.

The Gear. But if you want to make a less delicate more coffee-drinker like batch of tea, ideally you'll want something that lets the tea leaves expand in the water while they're steeping. Some folks use a coffee press, but that's na sa good an idea: it lets the leaves continue to sit in the water after they're supposed to stop steeping. An alternative is a tea pot designed to let the leaves expand, and where the leaves can be lifted out. Bodum makes such pots that can be had at discount houses like TK Max from time to time. The material: ceramic or glass.

Some Japanese groceries also sell stainless steel strainers that can sit on the lip of smaller (60-65mm) tea pots. Easy peasy. UPDATE - even better for letting the tea expand and dealing with leaves: this post on a super tea infuser.

Ah yes, once the steeping is done, LIFT OUT THE LEAVES. Why? well one reason is they can be used again at least once, and sometimes twice; another reason is that the taste of the tea can be botched if left to over-steep.

The Water

A critical part of making that lovely green tea green is the water. Putting it through a filter like a brita is a nice thing to do to tap water. Not essential, but nice (bottled water in most places/circumstances is evil, so don't even think about it :> ).

The water to hit the leaves needs to be cooler than boiling. So how do you get the temperature right? Boil the water. G'head. Just leave the kettle to sit for 2-5 minutes - you'll figure out what works for your type of tea.

Time to Brew
Depending on the tea, it may need to steep for 90sec or 3mins - it ain't long. When it's done just right, you'll see that lovely green jade color. It *looks* like GREEN tea. remember: lift out the leaves once the steeping is done.

And the taste.

Poured into a ceramic mug - thin walled are particularly nice - it's a soul restoringly good. This may seem like more time than you'd want to spend on a beverage, but it's easy to get the hang of mutlitasking, and the reward is not only something that's so good for us, but tastes and *feels* wonderful.


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Mark Reifkind said...

very interesting. I drink probably 5 cups of green tea each morning as part of my ritual for the warrior diet.I don't eat in the morning, I drink green tea instead. I have two and only two cups of coffee first thing in the morning and even with the green tea I sleep fine.If I drink even a HALF cup more coffee I have sleep problems.
interesting stuff mc.

dr. m.c. said...

ta rif. always good to see ya. mc

dr. m.c. said...

ps: ta means thanks. and sometimes thanks and see ya later or see ya soon or thanks and bye till next time. it's also apparently a more northern version of the more ubiquitous "cheers"


Scott Storey said...

Thanks for posting, I love green tea. Drink loads of it.


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