If you’re a true tea lover, green tea has certainly made its way into your tea rotation – it might even be one of your favorites, thanks to its sweet and soft taste and wonderful benefits. Lower in caffeine content, uniquely colored, and gentler on the tongue than black tea, green tea is a fantastic in-between for those who aren’t quite white or oolong fans, or who prefer something other than black or herbal. Although you may be familiar with many different varieties of green tea and its leaves, it’s a type of tea that carries an interesting history, and some surprising facts. Here are a few facts about green tea leaves that might teach you a little more about this tea.
1. Green Tea Leaves Got Their Start as a Tonic, Not a Tea.
Although you’re familiar with boiling water and steeping green tea leaves to create a relaxing, tasty, and comforting cup of tea, tea wasn’t exactly what this beverage was when it was first invented. Legend has it that tea was invented accidentally, when a gust of wind blew tree leaves into Chinese Emperor Shen Nung’s pot of boiling water – and once Nung drank that surprising mixture, the beverage took off. However, those who drank it in China for the first centuries of its existence sipped only for their health. Tea was known not by its current name, but as tonic. The Chinese people drank it as a medicinal beverage, hoping to cure ailments and promote health.
2. You Can Use Green Tea Leaves to Repel Pests.
If you’re worried about suffering countless itchy red bumps from mosquito bites during the summer months, grab some green tea leaves or premade bags. You don’t need to boil or heat any water, or even create tea; simply place the tea leaves into an empty tea bag and get them a tiny bit wet. Mosquitos hate the smell green tea leaves emit, and once the tea is wet, the pests will want to stay away. Surround yourself with these leaves, and you’ll be safe all night long.
Green tea leaves may be your favorite of all tea types, but there’s a common thread among every tea: all varieties come from the same single plant, the Camellia sinensis. This plant is a variety of the flowering Camellia plant that can be found in gardens around the world, but grows larger and more tree like in its shape. Black, white, oolong, and green tea leaves are all plucked from a Camellia sinensis plant – it’s their processing that creates differences in taste and coloring. Green tea leaves, along with white, are picked while still young and processed only minimally.
4. Green Tea Leaves Are Processed – Just Not as Much as Others.
Yes, it’s true that green tea leaves are processed. However, that doesn’t mean they undergo the same mechanical or handmade processes as other teas. Green tea leaves are kept very close to their natural state, which leaves them with a higher number of antioxidants as well. Once picked, green tea leaves are cracked and rolled only slightly to limit the amount of oxygen that enters the leaves’ inner areas, helping to maintain their natural state and green coloring.
5. The British Used to Smuggle Green Tea.
Green tea wasn’t always as popular as it is today, but it certainly was valuable. In the late 1700s, not too many years after England first joined the budding tea craze, all tea leaves had to be smuggled into the country illegally. Due to trading restrictions and the high price of tea throughout the United Kingdom, tea smuggling became lucrative business – and, in an effort to make even more money off of unsuspecting tea lovers, some smugglers would stretch out their green tea leaves by adding different, non-tea leaves and even potentially poisonous plants. It wasn’t until 1785 that the British government caught on and stopped green tea smuggling by lowering taxes.
The next time you brew yourself a kettle or cup of green tea leaves, dried to perfection and flavored just the way you love most, sometimes even made in the sun, you’ll know there’s a little more history and a little more intrigue behind those green leaves. It’s more than tasty, and more than a healthy drink; green tea leaves bring a natural, varied, and unique story to every cup thanks to their special attributes.