Green tea is often discussed due to its health benefits. But is it just hype or is it really good for us?

What is green tea?

Green tea, like the black tea that is traditionally drank here in the UK, comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. However the leaves are picked and turned to tea more quickly, meaning they oxidise less and more of the beneficial properties are retained.

Matcha green tea, which is quite popular currently, is particularly beneficial, since it is grown in the shade and therefore oxidises even less, meaning even more beneficial properties are retained.

White tea is also from the same plant and is also thought to be beneficial.

Why is green tea beneficial for health?

The reason green tea is so talked about is that there have been a great many scientific studies into its benefits on health. Some of the findings show that green tea benefits due to:

  • Source of theanine: an amino acid which has been shown to stimulate the same brain waves as meditation; aiding relaxation and mental awareness. At the same time it has been found to reduce the brain waves associated with nervousness and hyperactivity.
  • Theanine combined with caffeine (which is present in a small amount in green tea) has been found to improve brain function and concentration.
  • A source of antioxidants: aiding cardiovascular health and protecting our cells from damage, potentially anti-carcinogenic.
  • A particularly potent source of the antioxidant known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which has been found to be very beneficial to physical health and brain health
  • Has been found to kick start metabolism, aiding weight loss
  • Contains a much smaller amount of caffeine than coffee, but still present for those who need a boost.

How to make green tea palatable if you don’t like the taste

A lot of people tell me they don’t like the taste of green tea. If you fall into this camp, read on for my top tips on making green tea taste good.

  • Don’t make it too strong. It’s tempting to brew green tea for a long time, like we would other teas; or even leave the bag in like we would a herbal or fruit infusion. This gives green tea a very bitter taste which we want to avoid; it is much better very lightly brewed. If it tastes bitter, try tipping some tea out of your cup and diluting it with hot water.
  • Don’t use boiling water. Unlike black tea, it is recommended to use water that is a little cooler than boiling to make green tea.
  • Add flavour. If you still don’t like the taste of green tea, you could try opting for some of the different flavoured green teas available such as green tea with lemon or ginger. Alternatively you can add a herbal tea bag in with your green tea bag, or use fresh ginger or lemon to flavour it which is delicious.
  • Try it chilled. If you aren’t a fan of hot green tea, you might like it chilled with something to flavour it, as a refreshing drink, especially when the weather is nice.
  • Add it to food. Matcha green tea powder can be bought in health food stores and added to soups or smoothies. Or try it in my recipe for matcha green energy balls which you can find here.

Is white tea as good for you as green tea?

White tea is also from the same plant as green and black tea and is also less oxidised than black tea. It is highly likely that it contains the same benefits as green tea; the reason it is less talked about is that it is less popular and there have been far fewer scientific studies carried out on it to prove the benefits. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist!

If you don’t like green tea, you may prefer the taste of white tea, which has a more delicate flavour.