Tea is the common name for the evergreen Camellia Sinensis plant, found widespread throughout Asia, as it has been for many thousands of years.
Tea has many forms, but the most widespread variation of tea is ‘Green Tea’, this is one of the least processed variations which gives a fresher beverage.
Although Green Tea is more widespread, western cultures adapted one called ‘Black Tea’ after Tea was introduced to the west in the 1800’s.
Black tea (while being a very popular drink) is the most highly processed form and thus has an overall lower quality.
Black Tea does have health benefits though, in fact almost all of the health benefits you can find about Green Tea are available in Black Tea, just in a diminished quantity which furthers lessens with the addition of milk.
In fact, a recent study completed just this year proved that (based on a sample size of more than 4,800 men and women over the age of 65 over a period of 14 years) people who regularly consume tea have a lower decline in cognitive function (tea drinkers will keep a healthier brain at later ages) when compared to non tea drinkers.
As one major comparison of the health differences between Green and Black Teas, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) currently lists Black tea as a Group 3 Carcinogen.
These days most people are aware that smoke, or rotting organic particles can have a negative effect on cancer, but many people also do not realise that Black tea is produced by oxidising tea leaves (that is, allowing them to rot for a period of time).
While it has not been proven in humans, Black Tea (in the form of a concentrated injection) has been shown to cause cancerous growths in mice.
This is nothing to worry about, as the amount you would need to consume would be extravagant in comparison to an injection in mice, but as a personal preference of mine – if it has any risk, steer clear.
Green Tea, you’re not always getting what you pay for at the supermarket.
Now what you have to be aware of, is that while a couple of pounds/dollars for a pack of 20 Green Tea Bags might be expensive compared to the common ‘160 Black teabags for a couple of pounds/dollars’, you are mostly paying for an inferior product.
Some people may argue against this, but the more well known Black Tea brands, who sell ‘Green’ tea in bag form are selling you an inferior product at an extortionate price.
Many supermarket brand teas source their Green Tea from China and to minimise the price the older and lower quality leaves are used.
To add to this, Black Tea is mixed in as a bulking agent, which results in a brown/yellow tea, sometimes with only a slight hint of green, or in other cases, not a hint of what you would expect from a ‘Green’ tea.
To get an idea of the quality differences try buying a packet of this supermarket grade stuff and see what it’s like – It’s as if you mixed old grass with common Black Tea right?
Ok, now go ahead and purchase a proper Tea, preferably from a brand you can’t find in the stores. For a guarantee of higher qualities you want to look for a Japanese Tea Store and pay a price of at least £4* per 100g (that’s right, but even then you’re more likely to pay £7* or more per 100g for higher qualities with better taste). * Or the equivalent in your currency.
Sencha is the most common type of tea in Japan and from personal experience I can vouch for the quality you get.
If you are thinking that you might buy Green Tea online (rather than buying in store) then you should research Japanese Sencha.
A high quality Green Tea product should result in a cloudy dark green colour, with a fresh taste and sweet aroma. If the end result is Yellow / Brown / Black, or tastes too bitter then one of two things have occurred: