May 12, 2011

The secret life of Green Tea

“All green tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, but the final aromas and tastes differ depending on where the leaves are grown and how they’re produced,” says Mary Lou Heiss, co-author of The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas. More surprising? In Asia, green tea is a common recipe ingredient, which is a great – and sneaky – way to incorporate this nutritional powerhouse into your diet. Here’s a quick primer on six different varieties, plus ideas for how to cook with each.

Leaves are ground into a fine powder, which you can whisk into water for tea. Since you consume the actual leaves, you get more antioxidants than from other green teas.

FLAVOUR Strong and grassy.

CREATIVE USE Stir one teaspoon into a smoothie or dust it over vanilla ice-cream or a bar of dark chocolate. You’ll find that the tea’s earthiness is a pleasant contrast to the food’s sweetness.

This yellowish-green flat leaf tea is one of the most popular drinking teas in China.
Soft chestnut notes, toasty.

CREATIVE USE Chop the tea leaves, combine with spices, and use them to coat chicken or steak before cooking.

This Chinese tea is pan-fired before being tightly rolled into small pellet shapes.

FLAVOUR Robust with a sweet finish.

CREATIVE USE Substitute a cup of gunpowder tea for a cup of broth in vegetable-based soups. Throw steeped chopped leaves into soup while it simmers to add extra greens.

The most popular green tea in Japan, sencha leaves are steamed, producing a bright green colour, then rolled into needle form.

FLAVOUR Mild and slightly sweet.

CREATIVE USE After mixing the dough for biscuits, muffins or scones, fold two tablespoons of dried sencha tea leaves directly into it, then bake as usual.

Called “twig tea,” kukicha is derived from thinly cut stalks of sencha and gyokuro leaves.

FLAVOUR Light and smooth with roasted, woody notes.

CREATIVE USE Add a dash to a marinade. Kukicha balances out sweeter fish, like snapper, whiting or scallops, says food consultant Brigid Treloar.

It’s made from leaves that are roasted until they’re dark brown. Because it’s picked at the end of the season and roasted at a higher heat than other teas, hojicha contains less caffeine.

FLAVOUR Roasted and nutty.

CREATIVE USE Ladle a cup of steeped hojicha tea over a mixture of brown rice and roasted vegies, like pumpkin.
Green tea’s superpowers
 Scientifically proven ways it does a body good
MELTS BELLY FAT Overweight and obese adult exercisers burned seven per cent more abdominal fat when they drank caffeinated green tea compared with other caffeinated beverages, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition.
KEEPS TEETH HEALTHYDrinking two or more cups of green tea a day is associated with a lower risk of tooth loss, reports a new study in the journal Preventive Medicine.
LOWERS BMIPeople who drink two or three cups of green tea a day report a lower BMI and body weight, according to a University of Connecticut, US, review.
PREVENTS STROKEThree cups a day lowered stroke risk by 21 per cent, found a 2009 US study.
REDUCES THE CHANCE OF SKIN CANCERGreen tea can help repair DNA damage caused by UVB rays and lower risk of melanoma, according to an animal study in Cancer Prevention Research.
In a recent study, Taiwanese researchers found that drinking more than a cup of green tea a day reduced people’s odds of getting lung cancer, regardless of smoking status. In fact, non-smokers who drank green tea daily had five times less risk compared with their non-sipping peers.