Archive for April, 2014

The Difference Between Black Tea and Green Tea

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Although there are actually four main types of tea, the two big power houses are green tea and black tea. Traditionally in the western world, black tea is the mainstay, accounting for well over 70% of our brewing. However, green tea has long been common in
Eastern societies and is rapidly gaining momentum in the west. This brief guide points out the main differences between the two, so you’ll always have the perfect cup, no matter what.

 

Where they come from?

All tea comes from the same place, which originally was China. Since then it’s been exported to Japan, India and the Himalayas. The best green tea, though, is usually Chinese. If they’re the same plant, then what’s the difference? The two big differences come from when the tea is picked and what happens after.

Green tea is the younger of the two, and picked early in the spring season for freshness. The idea is to keep the youth and its freshness in the taste. You ‘wither’ the leaves to dry them out a little, usually done on bamboo in the sun (makes me a little jealous!). The leaves are then heated to stop oxidation and keep them fresh and juicy. This can sometimes be done with a wok or steam. It also serves to help to roll the leaves easier.

Rolling the leaves locks in the oils, flavours and smells of the tea so when it’s plunged in to hot water, it comes alive again. Black tea is made in a very similar way. The first main difference is the leaves stay on the plant longer and can be picked more often during the year. They go through the same drying process, only they’re usually left out to bake more and dry out. After the rolling part, the leaves are put in a room with oxygen – this is oxidation. It does something magical to the leaves and gives then their dark colour and more robust flavour.

black tea leaves

Curled black tea leaves

 

And now, for the science bit

The chemical process that darkens the leaves also changes the chemical structure. This changes the health benefits of each tea, but only slightly. Both types of leaves have powerful health boosting agents called antioxidants. In green tea, they are a simpler structure, due to the immature leaves. What’s best to drink then?

Honestly, it’s about personal preference. Although the structure is different, the actual level of health promoting goodness is similar in both types of tea. The only variation comes from how fresh your tea is—with both teas, the fresher the better. What do antioxidants do?

Antioxidants are chemical compounds found in loads of the healthy food we eat (and in some good stuff like wine and chocolate). They’re basically disease-fighting ninjas that help protect your body from so called ‘free radicals’ that are caused by nasty things such as smoking. And too much exercise. In fact, general modern living. Antioxidants in tea have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and help lower cholesterol.

 

In the green room

Health wise, green tea ticks all the boxes. As well as promoting good cholesterol, it keeps bad cholesterol in check. It’s brilliant for the immune system as it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. It literally soothes from inside. It also has antibacterial features—very cool—and can even help reduce blood clot formation. Lately it’s been the subject of a number of studies to do with weight loss. Although the jury is still out on whether it’ll get you into small jeans, there’s no doubt that drinking green tea keeps you refreshed, reduces your caffeine, dairy and sugar in take all while promoting good health from the inside.