Ignorance is not bliss. In Secret 33, Sally Beare sings the praises of green tea. She writes:
"High quality loose green tea leaves are the best, but you can also buy teabags". I agree with the first part of her statement, but would like to alert you to the danger in the second part. The five populations on which she bases her recommendations do not use teabags. And with good reason. Are you familiar with epichlorohydrin? Tea bags used to be made out of silk, but nowadays the most common material is paper. You know what happens when paper gets wet. If you've ever read a book in the bathtub, and your book falls in the water, the pages start to dissolve. Untreated paper tea bags do just that. Some sort of vehicle or medium is necessary to prevent the paper tea bag from dissolving while allowing the hot water to extract the tea flavor. The solution is to add epichlorohydrin. Epichlorohydrin is used by the food industry as a paper reinforcement in tea bags, coffee filters and sausage casings. It is a mildly toxic irritant. In water epichlorohydrin hydrolyzes to 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol or 3-chloro-1,2-propanediol (3-MCPD). 3-MCPD is a carcinogen that also has undesirable affects on male fertility. Surely you would like to reap the benefits of green tea without running the risk of needlessly exposing yourself to carcinogens?
|Camellia sinensis: the source of white, green oolong and black teas|
To reduce your exposure to 3-MCPD, you have several options:
- only drink tea in loose leaf form
- call your favorite tea company and ask them about the source of their tea bags and the presence of epichlorohydrin. Some tea companies use biodegradable tea bags
- if you already have a drawer full of tea bags, rather than throw out your stock, tear open the bag (it’s just paper) and use a tea infuser for the leaves when steeping them in hot water.
|Use a tea infuser in lieu of tea bags|
One last thought regarding 'tea bags': the tea leaves hidden in tea bags are often of lesser quality than those in loose leaf tea (if the customer cannot even see the tea leaves, why not throw in the dregs?). If you cannot visually inspect the tea, why purchase it? Who knows what is in it? Would you be willing to swallow food blind-folded or food that is totally wrapped up?
Now that we have addressed a risk of drinking green tea, let us examine the benefits:
|Green tea and the leaves from which it derives|
- green tea contains a powerful antioxidant called "epigallocatechin-3-gallate". Supposedly this is more powerful than resveratrol (from the skin of red graoes and other fruit) and Vitamin E. It also has anti-carcinogenic properties (especially against cancers of the brain, bladder, genital). EGCG has been shown to reduce AIDS-related dementia plaques. It also enhances the body's defense system against systemic inflammation.
- it has antibiotic characteristics
- it protects against dental caries
- it is effective against bacteria that produces bad breath
- it has less caffeine than other teas (one average serving size of green tea has 25 mg of caffeine. Compare this to 50-60 mg in black tea, and 150 mg in coffee).
- it has beneficial cardiovascular effects. Supposedly the presence of milk reduces these benefits.
Adding lemon to green tea enhances the absorption of EGCG and other beneficial catechins. Note that the benefits of green tea are less prevalent in decaffeinated, flavored, bottled teas and instant tea mixes. The greatest benefits are found in the young tea leaf that grows right beneath the tea bud. Premium green tea consists of buds and the first leaves (rarely also the second leaves).
So how does green tea differ from black tea? Both teas are made of the leaves of Camellia sinensis but are processed (oxidized) for different lengths of time. Green tea is minimally oxidized. The oxidization is halted either by steam (Japanese tea) or by dry cooking in hot pans (Chinese tea). Black tea, on the other hand, is allowed to completely oxidize (thus reducing the concentration of catchins such as EGCG). The Japanese green tea 'gyukuro' is often referred to as the highest quality green tea. Unlike other teas, gyukuro comes from plants that have been entirely grown in the shade.
So irrespective of which green tea you choose, select the best quality available and affordable, invest in some stainless steel tea infusers (or use a tea infuser ball in a tea pot), and buy tea in loose leaves!