The first green tea was exported in 1611 from Japan, when the Dutch East India Company established a factory on Japan's Hirado Island. Currently 2.5 million metric tons of tea leaves are produced each year throughout the world, with twenty-percent produced as green tea. Green tea has recently become more widely available and very popular in the United States.
All tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis bush, a small flowering evergreen, native to China and India, which is related to the common camellia flower. During the manufacturing of green tea, preservation of the intact green leaf is of utmost importance. Green teas are not fully fermented like black teas, or partially fermented as oolongs. Instead, the tea leaves are plucked, steamed or pan-fried which removes the fermentation enzymes, then rolled and then dried. This process yields a chemical composition in green tea similar to the fresh tea leaf.
Green tea has a high content of vitamins and minerals. It contains ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) in amounts comparable to a lemon. Green tea also contains several B vitamins which are water soluble and quickly released into a cup of tea. Green tea is also high in fluoride. A cup of green tea provides approximately 0.1 mg of fluoride, which is higher than in fluorinated water.
Countless epidemiological studies and clinical trials conducted around the world have concluded that green tea (black and oolong teas to a lesser extent) may reduce the risk of many chronic health problems. The naturally occurring chemical compounds in tea, called 'polyphenols,' are powerful antioxidants. The primary polyphenols found in tea are called catechins and they account for thirty to forty percent of dry tea weight. Other polyphenols found in tea include flavanols, flavanol glycosides, flavandiols, phenolic acids, and depsides. Polyphenols act as bodyguards, preventing damage caused by free radicals (damaging forms of oxygen) by combining chemically with the free radicals. Polyphenols give tea its characteristic astringent flavor. In the past, these polyphenols have been mistakenly called tannins.
Scientific studies have shown very strong evidence that green tea (which contains high levels of polyphenols) may help lower blood pressure and therefore reduce the risk of strokes and heart disease. Further, green tea consumption is also linked with the prevention of many types of organ cancer including: lung, colon, esophagus, mouth, stomach, small intestine, kidney, pancreas, and mammary glands. Green tea may also prevent skin cancer, when used both topically and orally. It has also been linked with helping the liver to rid the body of toxins.
Due to the discovery of these many health benefits, not only are more green teas appearing on store shelves, but also many new products containing green tea are being developed. Green tea may now be found as an ingredient in a wide range of products including candy bars, hair care products, body lotions and sunscreens.
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