The Herb of the Month for June 2021 is Green Tea, Camellia sinensis
Camellia sinensis is a species of evergreen shrub or tree which flowers during the late summer. It is often referred to as a tea plant, tea shrub, or tea tree of which there are only two main varieties but thousands of cultivars. The techniques used after harvest determine what type of tea will be produced, such as green tea, white tea, yellow tea, oolong, dark or black tea. Each process produces a different level of oxidation and, thereby, taste.
The tea plant is a native of East Asia, and it is assumed that the point of origin is north Burma and southwest China. Much hybridization has occurred over the centuries, especially considering that the Chinese small leaf tea diverged from the Assam tea about 22,000 years ago, and the Chinese and Indian Assam teas diverged 2,800 years ago. Today, most tea is produced in India, Sri Lanka, and China’s rich acidic soil.
After water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world.
This cultivar does best in a tropical or subtropical area and can be grown in hardiness zones 7 — 9. Through pruning, the plant can be maintained as an easily harvested bush.
The top two leaves and the bud are harvested and then processed. The fragrant white flowers are also consumable and are used in making a beverage.
The leaves are then heated to stop oxidation by roasting, steaming or pan frying. The resulting product is then shaped into pellets (gunpowder), strands (Sencha), or ground into a powder (Matcha) before the drying process is completed. Matcha is the type traditionally used in tea ceremonies by Zen Buddhists.
Tea has been consumed to boost health. Some of the claims are improved brain function, fat loss, protection against cancer, and lowering heart disease risk. As an aside, heating tea water has eliminated many pathogens in drinking water over the centuries.
Tips for Making Tea
- The loose leaf tea is of higher quality and therefore less bitter.
- Tea is to be steeped in hot water, not boiling water.
- Every tea has a different steeping time, refer to the direction for each type.
- Some teas can be brewed up to three times before discarding in your compost.
- Tea should be stored air-tight and in an opaque container.
- Tea powder can be blended into a variety of foods such as cookies, salad dressings and smoothies.
- Roasted teas require a longer steeping time, tea bags require a shorter steeping time.
Green Tea with Apple Spice
- 4 cups water
- 2 Tablespoon honey to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 tart apple, coarsely chopped, removing seeds. Reserve some thin slices for serving. (or 1 cup of Honeycrisp apple juice)
- 4 strips of orange zest
- ⅓ cup loose green tea
- Combine all ingredients except the tea and honey, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and allow to boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and strain thoroughly. Reheat and use this liquid to steep the loose tea leaves for 2 minutes. Strain & cool, adding honey to taste. If you have time constraints, add one cup of juice.
- A variation could be white grape juice.
- This tea combination can be served over ice, adding decorative thin apple slices or a few halved grapes.
Easy Green Tea Smoothie
- 1 cup green grapes or 1 cup peach chunks, peeled and pitted
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 cup frozen ripe banana slices
- 1 cup green tea
- ½ teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 Tablespoon honey optional. Add according to taste.
- Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth and serve.
- The first fruit ingredient chosen is interchangeable and according to the season and personal preference.
- Garnish with a sprig of mint!