The Top Green Tea Benefits + Best 7 Green Tea Varieties
In this guide, we dive into the proven health benefits of green tea and how it can help you live a longer healthier life. We also include a bonus list of the 7 best types of green tea to drink daily.
Living a long and healthy life is not just about good genes and good luck. In fact, your life expectancy is only 25% influenced by what you were born with, but 75% the result of what you make of what you got.
According to a now famous twin study in Denmark, it is mostly your lifestyle habits that determine how long and how well you’ll live.
This is great news for anybody who feels a little less privileged in the genetics department and a big hooray for all who believe that life is mostly what you make of it.
So, what are some of the healthy lifestyle habits worth embracing in order to live a longer and healthier life?
Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Explorer, in his multi-year research with a global group of health and longevity experts, found that some regions on this planet benefited from a significantly higher life expectancy.
These places (called Blue Zones) seem to breed way more people who live well beyond 100 years. Okinawa, Japan is one of these places and their top secret is surprisingly simple:
A drink of green tea leaves, jasmine flowers and a pinch of turmeric steeped in hot water consumed a couple of times a day seems to be their longevity elixir.
Though Buettner cautions that no one single food, drink, diet pill or hormone therapy will provide the magic bullet to longer life, it’s very comforting to know that something as simple can greatly contribute to your long-term well-being.
Drinking healthy beverages, including a few cups of green tea daily, in combination with other healthy habits, can indeed help you outsmart fate.
Why is green tea so popular?
Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages on earth. Made from dried, unoxidized leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush, green tea is one of the least processed types of tea.
As a result, it features some of the highest levels of antioxidants and polyphenols tea can have. These healthy compounds are known for binding and neutralizing free radicals, contained in the environmental toxins your body – like it or not – comes in contact with on a daily basis.
Supported by powerful, health-promoting antioxidants, your body stands a much better chance at protecting its cells from damage, thus reducing inflammation and preventing serious diseases, including cancer.
What are the unique benefits of green tea?
To start with, green tea is a zero-calorie beverage. Unsweetened, it constitutes a great alternative to consuming plain water.
This is not only relevant for anybody who likes to introduce more diversity and flavor to their beverage consumption, but also for people who struggle to achieve their daily hydration goals (11 cups of water for women, 15 cups for men).
More than that, green tea’s moderate caffeine content boosts your metabolism, speeding up the burning of body fat while suppressing your appetite. Perfect for anyone striving to lose weight or working on maintaining their current weight.
Speaking of caffeine, green tea contains much smaller doses of it than black tea and coffee. Depending on the amount of tea leaves used and the time of infusion, a regular cup of green tea holds about 20-45 mg per 8-ounce cup.
Black tea in comparison contains about 50 mg and coffee about 95 mg of caffeine per cup.
In addition to the anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties of its polyphenols, green tea also holds plenty of so-called flavonoids, responsible for the anti-ageing effect associated with green tea.
What a combination! And that’s not all.
Here are four more green tea benefits that arise from its exceptional nutritional make-up.
Increased Brain Function
A study conducted at the University Hospital of Basel in Switzerland found that people who consumed green tea extract on a regular basis showed higher working memory functionality.
Learning, memory and decision-making all located in the frontal and parietal lobes of the brain, benefited from the more seamless connectivity between these two brain regions, facilitated by the green tea extracts.
Better Focus, Higher Productivity
An additional reason why green tea increasingly finds its way into university coffee shops and office kitchens is that it provides the right amount of focus and relaxation needed for intellectual and creative work.
Green tea's moderate levels of caffeine release stimulating effects including the firing of neurons and the concentration of positive neurotransmitters such as dopamine. This is done without the well-known crash and burn impact of drinking coffee.
The positive buzz is not only related to its smaller dosage of caffeine, but also to a natural chemical compound called L-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid that has anti-anxiety effects on your brain.
Combining L-theanine and caffeine, green tea seems to put the mind in the best possible state: stimulated, but not jittery, productive, but not anxious.
Weight Loss and Fat Burning
In addition to being zero-calorie, the caffeine and water contained in green tea increase satiety which means it reduces your appetite and supports you in your efforts to lose or manage weight.
Suppressing your appetite is one thing, actively burning body fat another. Green tea catechins do both: they are true appetite suppressants and 100% natural fat burners.
A study found that 690 mg of catechins consumed every day over a 12-week period increased participants' ability to burn fat as fuel and improve muscle endurance.
Several other studies concur that green tea is particularly good at tackling body fat, especially in the abdominal area (yes to flat bellies for all!).
This is yet another reason why drinking healthy teas in general should be part of both your fitness and weight loss routines.
Lower Risks of Heart Disease and Stroke
An 11-year-long study among 40,000 participants in Japan found that those who drank 5 cups or more of green tea per day had a much lower risk of dying than those who drank one cup or less of green tea.
Green tea's high levels of health-promoting polyphenols, including catechins, are believed to have a host of protective properties.
This includes protecting the cardiovascular system and the arteries leading to your brain as the above mentioned study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded.
How many cups of green tea should you drink daily?
What allowed the centenarians from Okinawa, Japan to grow this old was combining other daily health habits with the drinking of green tea.
While there is no ultimate verdict as to how many cups a day you should drink, most experts recommend 3-4 cups per day.
As with everything, you may have to see for yourself how much caffeine is good for you. Clearly, if you are sensitive to caffeine, green tea may not be for you at all, or only in very small amounts.
Bonus: what are some of the best green tea varieties to drink?
Now for the fun part!
Frankly, why bother learning the nutritional composition and health benefits of any given drink, if after the first two sips of it, you find you don’t like its taste? That’s why, we compiled this bonus list of the tastiest green tea types for you.
Green tea generally can be divided into two main varieties, depending on its place of production:
Green tea produced in China is often roasted as part of the drying process, hence its toasty, smoky and rather woodsy flavors.
Japanese green teas tend to have lighter, sweeter and more floral aromas due to their tea leaves being steamed in the production process.
Quick aside: thus far we have been using the term “green tea” in a rather generic fashion which, considering the diversity of its varieties, is almost as unacceptable as just saying you like red wine rather than specifying Bordeaux, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chianti, Rioja or Shiraz.
So, with that said, here are 7 of the most flavorful and healthy green tea varieties currently available.
1. Japanese Green Tea Variety #1: Gyokuro
A friend of the shadows, the Gyokuro is a rather fascinating variety. For its light and suave notes to fully unfold, the tea bush has to be protected from the hot sun and covered by a cloth for the three-week duration of its growth.
This process affords Gyokuro to develop more caffeine and chlorophyll which make for a great brain-stimulating and skin health-promoting green tea with subtle flavors.
2. Japanese Green Tea Variety #2: Matcha
Matcha tea needs no introduction. Therefore, a quick refresher should do. Like Gyokuro, Matcha tea leaves are grown in the shade for three weeks.
A high-quality, finely ground and dense variety, Match for centuries was reserved for intricate Japanese tea ceremonies.
What makes Matcha even more special is the fact that instead of drinking hot water steeped in green tea leaves, with Matcha you are actually drinking the entire green tea leaf in the form of refined, ground up powder.
Due to its high nutrient and antioxidant content, Matcha is also known for its skin care and skin rejuvenating properties.
Its high-grade quality and refined processing make Matcha more expensive than other green teas (you get what you pay). For how to make the perfect match tea yourself, read on.
3. Japanese Green Tea Variety #3: Funmatsucha
Another ground tea, Funmatsucha (unlike Matcha) is cheap in price and a bit more bitter in taste. In contrast to the Gyokuro and Matcha, it does not enjoy the luxury treatment of being covered from the scorching sun which accounts for its acquired bitterness.
That said, it may be healthier than the others because of its higher antioxidant contents and many people enjoy its more bold taste.
4. Japanese Green Tea Variety #4: Sencha
When you ask for a green tea to accompany your sushi lunch, chances are you will be served a Sencha tea which possibly is the most popular and wide-spread of all green tea varieties.
Sencha is prepared with hot – never boiling – water (158˚ to 167˚F), so not to burn the tea leaves. It is known for its high vitamin C content.
This is great for boosting your immune system as well as stimulating your body's collagen production (the main structural protein responsible for healthy, strong and glowing skin).
5. Japanese Green Tea Variety #5: Genmaicha
If you had a Genmaicha tea (also known as brown rice tea) before, chances are you still recall the experience – this full-bodied, nutty and toasty green tea variety surely has its own very distinct taste!
It gets its peculiar flavor from being a 50-50 mesh up between Sencha tea leaves and unprocessed brown rice that is produced according to a complex protocol of soaking, steaming, roasting and popping.
6. Japanese Green Tea Variety #6: Hōjicha
Sometimes mistaken for Genmaicha because of its similarly toasty caramel notes, the Hōjicha derives its rich smoky flavors from its tea leaves undergoing a substantial toasting in the production process.
Interestingly, the Hōjicha is one of the few green teas that lend themselves equally well to be paired with sweet and savory foods.
7. Chinese Green Tea Variety #1: Longjing
If you want to indulge a little, you may want to consider this coveted Chinese green tea variety that has held the status of imperial tea since the Qing dynasty.
Untypical for Chinese green teas, Longjing gives rise to rather mild and slightly sweet aromas, with possible undertones reminiscent of chestnuts.
Bonus: How to prepare green tea?
Where possible, buy organic (i.e. pesticide-free), high-quality loose-leaf green teas.
For store-bought green tea bags, add the tea bag to your teapot and fill it with hot water (never boiling water as this would destroy the tea leaves). The ideal temperature for green tea is 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit.
For loose-leaf green tea, count 2-3 grams (or about half a teaspoon) of tea for every six ounces (or 180ml) of water in a strainer. Larger leaves need to steep longer than smaller ones.
Steep the tea for 1-3 minutes, then remove the tea bag or leaves. For stronger aroma, steep longer and/or add more leaves.
When shared, make sure to pour an equal amount of tea into each cup in order to evenly share the tea's strength.
Depending on personal preference, you may add a little lemon juice or small amounts of raw honey (without however sweetening your tea so much as to both offend the tea purist and sweep the tea’s health benefits away with sugar and calories).
Bonus: How do you prepare Matcha tea?
Heat a kettle with fresh, filtered water to just short of boiling.
Warm up the Matcha bowl by pouring hot water into it. Let it sit for 30 seconds, then pour it out again and dry the bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of Matcha powder to your bowl, preferably through a sifter to avoid clumps, then add about 2 ounces of hot (not boiling) water.
Whisk for one to two minutes until your Matcha has no more clumps and looks deliciously frothy, then add another 3-4 ounces of water.
Drink and enjoy your Matcha right away.
Healthy Tea Resources
Our list of the top 10 healthy teas to drink on a daily basis.
An awesome excerpt from George Orwell’s less well known, yet all the more memorable piece “A Nice Cup of Tea”.
Access tasty, healthy tea-based recipes in our directory of healthy drinks.
An organic herbal tea shop offering a variety of hand-blended loose leaf and packaged teas.
High-quality kitchenware brand with a full range of thoughtfully designed tea kettles, pots and mugs.