Thursday, March 10, 2011

Green Tea Time

Green tea. Sitting there, all smug.
I don't really like green tea. There, I said it. But it's one of the most popular beverages and flavors in Japan, so if offered some tea or a matcha (抹茶) flavored pastry, I suck it up and act like I'm delighted. There are exceptions - soft cream, Kit-Kats, I'm looking at you - you rock!

Recently, though, I've been trying to drink it at work. A lot of it. Why? Because it's healthy, and it's free. Let's start with the healthy part. It's no secret that drinking green tea has been linked with a variety of health benefits. It can reduce stress, lower the risk of certain cancers, increase mental awareness, and speed up your metabolism, among other things. Part of this is due to the fact that tea in general is pretty damn healthy. Another part is that the antioxidants found in green tea are particularly potent. The last part is, well, uncertain. In reference to taking green tea containing supplements, WebMD says:

"I don't think it can hurt to drink it. I'd focus on dietary sources rather than supplements because there are several compounds in green tea that might need to be consumed together. We just don't know yet,"[...]

So really there's a mystery element to green tea. It's good's good. Now as the WebMD article notes, green tea isn't going to cure anything, but certainly doesn't hurt to drink. At the moment I'm trying to drink a lot of the stuff so that I can acquire a taste for it, as I have with so many other consumables.

Luckily for me, right now I'm in a situation where I can drink all the green tea I want at no cost! At work, anyhow. Why is that? Well, at each of my schools, we have the Japanese equivalent of a water cooler. It looks like this:

Serves tea and also hosts the school's computer network.

I know what you're thinking "Oh, so instead of water coolers in Japan, they just havee green tea coolers. Figures." Phff, no. Racist. They have water, too. Err...well, the one at my part time school has cold water. This one only has hot water and hot green tea. Decisions, decisions.


While green tea is largely considered to be a very healthy drink, there are a few things you should keep in mind. I wasn't aware of these things, but I want you to be. It's my thanks to you for reading. Really, thank you!

  • Green tea and caffeine - I've heard that green tea doesn't have caffeine. This isn't quite a statistic, but it might qualify as a damn lie. The truth is, it's variable. There are many factors that play into it. Younger tea leaves contain more caffeine. First infusions contain more caffeine. Cold tea generally has more caffeine than hot tea. Tea from teabags often has more. Man, I'm glad I learned that. That could be why I've been feeling particularly antsy the past few days. For more information, see this Wikihow page on how to minimize green tea caffeine. Update: As Ashely points out in the comment section, tea still contains a lot less caffeine than coffee, so it's a great alternative if you're trying to cut back.
  • Tea stones! - You should be fine so long as you drink in moderation, but certain components of green tea can lead to kidney stones.
  • Green tea with milk and lemon - You can, of course, drink green tea plain, but studies have shown that adding milk actually decreases its beneficial effects. Conversely, adding citrus such as lemon helps the body absorb more antioxidants. Maybe I should start bringing lemons with me to work.
There you have it. While this is by no means a comprehensive guide to green tea, I hope you learned something you didn't know before. I know I did!


  1. Love green tea! Especially matcha. Oh, and genmaicha. Yum.

    Yeah the whole thing about caffeine, even though there is caffeine, like you said here, it's far less than what you would get in coffee or black tea. And really, chocolate also contains caffeine (and since many of eat chocolate!).

    I've also read various studies about green tea helping with weight loss and weight management... not sure how effective it is necessarily, but couldn't hurt (especially with all its other great health benefits).

  2. Thanks for commenting, Ashley!

    Yup, you're right - great tea has less caffeine than some other teas, and tea in general has a lot less than coffee. And chocolate has it too. That's why I try not to eat chocolate before bed.

    Something in the tea does seem to stimulate the metabolism, and incidentally part of that could be the caffeine, too!

  3. Ugh, good luck to you. This was a minor pet peeve of me when I was there...seems like every place offered a complimentary drink of green tea rather than water. I can't stand the taste. If you can conquer green tea, you can conquer anything.

  4. At least green tea beats coffee.

  5. Great info. :)

    I love my tea and coffee, all in a day so imagine my caffeine overload.

    Funnily enough, while I'm very much a tea drinker, I don't like them in food form. Nope, no green tea kit-kat for me!

  6. Thanks for commenting, guys!

    I think it's an acquired taste. Conversely I usually like the food flavor better than the actual tea. Probably because it's usually sweeter and less bitter.

  7. Umm, green tea definitely has caffeine. It may not have quite as much as black tea, but it does have some.

    That said, I particularly like green tea that's strong and sweet, with ginger and milk, but sometimes I drink it other ways too. (I also drink regular tea, of course, and sometimes the herbal stuff.)

    > Tea from teabags
    > often has more.

    Wait, what? Tea from teabags, as opposed to just chewing on the leaves, or do the Japanese still use metal "tea balls" like our ancestors used to do back when tea was an expensive exotic delicacy, or what? I'm confused. What's the alternative to teabags?

  8. Not sure about abroad, but at least in Japan you can buy the herbs or leaves (as the case may be) in a little bag or sack, as you might buy coffee beans. Japanese teapots have a strainer build in so that when you pour the tea out, you don't get bits of leaves and crud that you don't want to drink.

    If you use the fresh(er) ingredients, you can make several infusions. And if you're concerned about caffeine, you can discard the first infusion.