The History of Green tea: From Myth to Modern Days
08. March 2021
When we think of tea, someone connects it with Japan, someone with England, someone with China, and some of us with cold or even warm weather. You can drink this wonderful, flavored drink all year round. The reason does not even matter but just enjoying a cup of tea.
“If you are cold, tea will keep you warm. If you are hot, tea will cool you down. If you are depressed, tea will cheer you up. If you are excited, tea will calm you down.” – William Gladstone (British statesman and Liberal politician)
Where does tea come from?
The origin of tea is shrouded in myths and legends. From Chinese emperors to Portuguese princesses, the history of tea is as rich as its taste. It is believed that green tea is originated 5,000 years ago in China. At that time, the advanced civilization was ruled by an emperor named Shen Nung. He demanded the drinking water to be boiled for health reasons.
The legend of Chinese Emperor’s journey
One windy day, when the Emperor stopped with his entourage to rest and refresh himself, a couple of dry leaves from a nearby bush fell into his cup of boiled water. The water turned dark brown. The Emperor did not want to try it immediately, but first, he gave it to some of his soldiers to try and waited for the result. He was fascinated by the strong smell and finally tried the new drink himself. The Chinese Emperor was delighted with the aroma, and soon he felt the refreshment, which he liked. And so, legend has it, the first cup of tea was drunk.
The magic of green tea and its preparation
Green tea was initially prepared in a completely different way than it is today. The tea leaves were steamed, kneaded in the oven, made into small brick shapes, and dried. Those “bricks” made of tea, were later cooked together with rice, ginger, salt, orange peel, spices, milk, and sometimes onions. Such a way of making tea exists even today in Mongolia and Tibet.
Tea was brought from China by Japanese monks in the early Middle Ages to Japan. It immediately became a favorite drink among priests and aristocrats. The preparation of tea was characteristically from the era of the Chinese Sung dynasty. Then, by grinding tea leaves in small stone mills, the tea powder was poured over hot water and mixed with a small bamboo whisk. Based on this ritual, the Japanese later made their special ritual of drinking and making tea. Since then, green tea has experienced great popularity in Japan and has become a semi-religious social tradition.
In Japan, even today, there are schools where children learn about techniques of preparing and serving green tea. Centuries later, the use of this plant spread and was globally popularized. So, the Turks like to drink black tea, as do the Indians, with the difference that they usually drink it with milk or various aromatic spices.
If history is the teacher of life, it is clearly showing us that tea is a special and beneficial kind of beverage. Tea was adored by emperors, drunk by nobles, but by ordinary people too. Battles were fought for this miraculous drink. And finally, nowadays, different tea blends and flavors are available for us to choose from. We just need to decide which one suits our taste best…
Few rules how to drink green tea to get the best of it:
• Don’t add green tea directly into the boiling water – it distroys its beneficial catechins
• Don’t do decaf – because the decaffeination hurts more of the nutrients found in green tea
• Add lemon into your tea – it aids in the absorption in some of its nutritients
• Don’t cheap out! Go for the good premium stuff! – it contains more of the nutritients
What is the best time to drink green tea?
When it comes to drinking green tea some parts of the day are more optimal than others.
Drink green tea between your meals: A cup of green tea between meals will go down nicely. Drinking two hours or so before or after a meal will help to maximise the nutrient intake and iron absorption of your diet.
Drink green tea pre-workout: As we already know, green tea could speed up our metabolism. It can also give you an energy boost because of its caffeine content. All these add up to a great drink to try just before exercising.
And you should never drink green tea that has been left out overnight. This can promote bacteria and mould growth, which can cause serious health problems. The tea will also start to lose its flavour.
Green tea fun facts:
Did you know that the popularity of green tea starts with a really bad hangover? Yes, believe it or not, but it was centuries ago, when a shogun of Japan named Sanetamo (1192 – 1219 CE) was suffering from a hangover so terrible that everyone around him thought that he was about to die, until a monk named Myoan Eisai made him some tea and saved him. After that, Sanetamo became a tea aficionado and he started spreading the green tea across Japan.
So, if you still don’t have a bag of green tea somewhere in your kitchen, then after this story, you should try to get some! And, for those of you who are not enthusiastic about its taste but still want the ‘goodies’ it provides, there is another option- the green tea extract supplements.
„As we wash with water on the outside, so we wash with tea on the inside.“ – old Chinese saying
Photos by Shutterstock-1770462452, JodieWangss
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