The Japanese are well-known for leading a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to food, they are also particular about eating the right foods and in moderation.
One of the main components of a Japanese meal is the green tea. Known as a healthy drink, it is a part of Japanese tradition handed down from one generation to another. It also comes in different varieties such as the popular matcha, gyokuro, sencha and kukicha. In short, green tea is Japan’s coffee, the drink most preferred by the people in the land of the rising sun from morning until night. In fact, this is also served to guests as a sign of hospitality.
The Japanese drink their tea several times every day much like other people drink their coffee. They drink it after waking up in the morning, during their break in the afternoon and also during nighttime. Restaurants serve tea to diners free of charge and refills are provided when requested.
Reasons for Drinking
There are several reasons why the Japanese love their tea. Foremost is the drink’s health benefits. People from Japan believe in the curative properties of the tea more than the pleasure they derive from drinking it. Tea helps them feel well when not in good condition such as when having a cold.
The Japanese also believe that certain properties in green tea bring them good fortune although not necessarily in terms of finances but in terms of having a sound mind and body. One of the reasons they drink tea every day and several times in a day is because of the Vitamin C benefits they gain. Green tea is known to contain five times as much vitamin C as that of a lemon and also has catechin which is an antioxidant. Hence apart from boosting the immune system, tea also helps in preventing diabetes and high bloog pressure.
In addition to the health benefits, green tea today is used as an active ingreadient in odor-fighting products. This is because of its anti-bacterial and odor-resistant properties that can help prevent foul odor. It can even be used as a breath freshener.
Varieties of Green Tea
Green tea is usually heat-treated and not fermented after being picked. It is classified into several varieties such as sencha, matcha, gyokuro and kukicha.
Sencha makes use of the youngest tea leaves which are first steamed and then crumpled when dried. This method of preparing the green tea dates back to the early 18th century and since then, sencha has become the green tea of choice among the Japanese.
Matcha, on the other hand, refers to powdered green tea. Ma is a Japanese term for powder while cha refers to tea thus the word matcha. The very first green tea seeds in Japan were said to have originated from China in 1191 A.D. The seeds were first planted on the temple grounds in Kyoto and Eisai who first introduced the Zen philosophy to Japan was the first person to grind and consume the powdered green tea.
As for the Gyokuro tea, its history can be traced to the Edo period particularly in 1835. A man named Eguchi Shigejuro from Uji is credited for introducing the method of creating the Gyokuro tea while Tsujiri Emon, the founder of Tsujiri tea, was said to have further refined the tea. While the process of making Gyokuro tea is quite similar to Sencha, it is prepared differently in many parts of Japan.
Finally, the kukicha tea was originally cultivated in the region of Uji known as Japan’s oldest area for tea production. This so-called “tea of the poor” is produced only in the early spring season and is said to have the least caffeine content compared to the traditional green tea.