New Year, New Ritual

Posted by Zach Mangan on

With the New Year upon us, consideration of our daily practice is at the forefront of many of our minds. The New Year brings a renewed sense of purpose, an attention to our own personal wellness, and a recommitment to creating new rituals. Japanese tea embodies many aspects of wellness and provides the perfect canvas for the exploration of self and the pursuit of healthier living. But just how does Japanese Green Tea impact our health? 

"I think tea in general is a healthful beverage and I am tempted to say the healthiest form of caffeine you can ingest." - Dr Andrew Weil

Tea and Your Health

If you type the words green and tea into Google, the predictive text that appears after is “health benefits.” I’d wager most peo- ple have heard that green tea is good for you. Beyond that, things get vague. You might have wondered: Exactly how does tea support health? Are all green teas healthy? How much green tea should I consume for better health? Is my tea provider over-promising on the benefits of the tea they sold me? These are all things I’ve wanted answers to myself. Here, I share the information I’ve learned about the power of the tea and its effects on our health.

First of all, it is important to be clear: green tea is not a wonder drink that will solve all of your health problems or "detox" your system. While green tea is now sold in ready-to-drink bottles and pill and powder form, it is generally overhyped as a cure-all. And most of the time, the quality of the tea or tea supplement you are being sold is bottom of the barrel. And the companies that promote their tea this way are doing it for one reason: to sell it to you. But even in spite of all the noise and false marketing, high-quality green tea is a powerful anti-inflammatory that is capable of supporting better health. And while I can tell you from experience that tea can enhance your health, I feel more comfortable sharing the latest clinical data. Read on to learn more.

Catechins: The anti-inflammatory component of Tea

Green tea is a natural, healthy beverage that has been shown again and again in peer-reviewed research to have positive effects on the body and mind. The tea plant contains a full spectrum of health-supporting chem- icals that likely work synergistically, but the most well understood are polyphenols, especially the polyphenols known as flavonoids. Among flavonoids, the subgroup called catechins, a family of powerful antiox- idants, is by far the most well researched. The four main catechins that occur in green tea are (-)-epicatechin (EC), (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), (-)-epigallocatechin (EGC), and (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).Of these catechins, EGCG and EGC are found in the highest amounts in green tea and have been the subject of the most studies. These catechins have been shown to demonstrate a variety of antimicrobial properties. Consumption of green tea has been shown to distribute these compounds and/or their metabolites throughout the body, which allows for not only the possibility of treatment of infections but also the preven- tion of infections.

Catechins are antimicrobial and have been shown to destroy many common bacteria and viruses in lab tests. So when they are consumed, it is possible that they can help to either destroy or dismantle common bacteria in the body, allowing its natural defenses to do the rest. The amount of catechin in your tea is directly related to the quality of the product. Teas made from first flush leaves that were processed and stored well have the highest levels of catechin. As we learned in the chapter on matcha, teas that are grown in full sunlight, such as sencha, convert more amino acids into catechin, making them great candidates if you are looking to increase your intake. Another tip: consuming green tea along with vitamin C has been shown to make the catechin more bioavailable in the body. In the winter I love satsuma mandarin oranges with a cup of sencha—a common breakfast in Shizuoka. Not only do they taste great together, but they work together in the body to promote health— certainly the intelligence of nature at work.

Green Tea: A natural anti-inflammatory

In addition to acting as an antimicrobial agent, catechin in green tea also works as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown prom- ising results for green tea use in treating irritable bowel syndrome and collagen-induced arthritis in mice,and it is thought to be beneficial for patients with a variety of conditions such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.And it seems that these benefits are most concentrated in green tea when compared to other styles of tea such as black tea or oolong. An in-vitro study published in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research concluded that while both green and black teas have anti-inflammatory effects, green tea’s effects are more substantial, in all likelihood due to its higher flavonoid contents.While it can be hard to say matter-of-factly that green tea can target any specific disease, Catechins are antimicrobial and have been shown to destroy many common bacteria and viruses in lab tests. So when they are consumed, it is possible that they can help to either destroy or dismantle common bacteria in the body, allowing its natural defenses to do the rest. The amount of catechin in your tea is directly related to the quality of the product. Teas made from first flush leaves that were processed and stored well have the highest levels of catechin. As we learned in the chapter on matcha, teas that are grown in full sunlight, such as sencha, convert more amino acids into catechin, making them great candidates if you are looking to increase your intake. Another tip: consuming green tea along with vitamin C has been shown to make the catechin more bioavailable in the body. In the winter I love satsuma mandarin oranges with a cup of sencha—a common breakfast in Shizuoka. Not only do they taste great together, but they work together in the body to promote health— certainly the intelligence of nature at work. an article in Arthritis Research & Therapy found EGCG to have promis ing effects on those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. 

The health benefits derived from the culture and practice of drinking tea are plentiful but rarely if ever discussed in medical journals or research papers.

Perhaps the most overlooked and understudied health effects of tea drinking are the restorative mental health benefits that can come with it. The health benefits derived from the culture and practice of drinking tea are plentiful but rarely if ever discussed in medical journals or research papers. Meditation, breath awareness, and contemplative practices have been shown time and time again to calm the mind, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and promote a positive outlook. Tea, by nature, requires an investment of time and attention, and can be a catalyst for contempla- tion. The process starts with putting on the water, opening the tea and scooping it into the pot, waiting for the water to boil, pouring the water over the leaves, and watching them unfurl as they brew. Then there’s the first sip and the contemplation that follows. Perhaps one of tea’s most positive impacts on human health is the ritual it imposes—calming the mind and creating space in a hectic schedule. Our time with tea, however short, promotes a sense of calm well-being that can have ripple effects not only on our state of mind but perhaps also on our physical selves.

Humans, being social animals, benefit from time spent with others. Whether it’s served at a child’s tea party or a traditional Japanese tea cer- emony, tea has brought people together for centuries. This “leisure time” might be better for us than we know. Studies have shown that human interaction lowers stress, positively modulates our immune systems, has a positive effect on cortisol levels, and can even prolong life. Perhaps a cup of tea among friends is just what the doctor ordered.

Its clear that the health benefits of Tea are varied and are derived from both the beverage itself as well as the act of slowing down and enjoying the process of drinking the tea. With that, the ceramics, incense, and environment surrounding your tea practice may also play a role in improving both your experience and your mood. At Kettl, these moments of slowing down and focusing on the experience around tea has been foundational - and it precisely these moments that continue to inspire us as we grow. While sharing our vision of tea is important, for us, the most important thing is you finding a daily tea practice that works for you - and inspires you to focus, recharge and experience the world of Japanese tea in your own way.

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