Insider’s Guide to Chinese Teas – Part 4 Green

Imagine a drink that is the very essence of nature, capturing the flavours and aromas of a spring mountain meadow, the morning dew combined with the smells of the earth and flowers. A drink that can restore you and keep you healthy. A drink that revives. What a drink that would be! But there is no need to dream, such a drink is available, and has indeed been available for centuries – green tea!

The most prized green tea is Dragon Well (also know as Long Jin or Lung Ching). Legend has it that the well that gives the tea its name lies not far from Hangshou. Far back in the mists of time, the well ran dry and the local peasants were on the verge of disaster, their crops would fail and they would starve. So a local monk summoned up a friendly dragon that he knew could help. He offered up a prayer and the dragon made the rains come and starvation was avoided. The well became known as the Dragon Well and the local tea was named after it.

The Chinese have always known that green tea is beneficial to health and there have been many studies that back up these claims. It seems that Green tea contains a variety of beneficial chemicals, including anti-oxidants. With just two or three cups a day you could feel a difference in your body and mind. The anti-oxidants combat the harmful chemicals called ‘free radicals’ that are a by-product of processes within the cells of your body. These free radicals are believed to contribute to a variety of ailments and diseases including cancer and heart disease. Out of all the types of tea, green is understood to be the most potent in terms of health giving properties. This is because it is the least processed of all teas. The leaves are barely oxidised and so the anti-oxidants remain intact. There are no hard and fast rules for how much to drink each day, some sources quote a figure in grams, others quote cups. As with all natural remedies, persistence is the key, you are unlikely to benefit from taking the occasional cup. Several cups every day seems to be an average figure.

In common with the other types, to gain any health benefit and to obtain the full flavour and aroma, you should use high quality loose leaf tea. The tea bags that are sold in health shops are cheap, and with good reason. They are made from the fannings (or dust) from the processing of higher grade teas. Since they are finely ground (they need to be in order to be able to brew whilst surrounded by the paper of the bag), they are more quickly and more thoroughly oxidised. The friendly anti-oxidants are destroyed and there is virtually no flavour or aroma. The same can be said of the cheap loose leaf green teas, again from the health shops. These are the inferior pickings, the finest leaves are picked in the spring and will be used in the gourmet quality brands. You get what you pay for.

There are probably as many methods of brewing this drink as there are suppliers! The common elements are to use spring water that is not boiling and not to overbrew. Good quality teas will come with instructions on how to get the best from your particular type.

So go on, treat your body and taste buds to the stuff of dreams…