You know the feeling of clarity you sense about an hour or so after you treat yourself to a delicious cup of green tea? It’s not a caffeine rush – you know the difference. This feeling is a sort of “mindful awareness” that many green tea drinkers say helps them focus – or at least increase their level of selective attention.
What you’re feeling are the effects of a natural substance found in abundance in green tea called L-theanine. It’s been shown in several scientific studies to increase alpha wave activities in the brain. This subtle shift in brain activity is what’s giving you that refreshing mental boost.
Okay, so your brain is happy...but how do you make sure your taste buds are, too? Is there a secret to getting the optimal flavor from green tea?
One thing to keep in mind is that if it’s true tea, it has a single origin. It all comes comes from the camellia sinensis plant – whether it’s Pu-erh, green, Oolong, white, black, or even yellow. No matter how the leaves have been processed to achieve the different kinds of tea, the secret to extracting the most flavor is is in the water...not the leaves. And even more precisely, it’s to have the water moving around the leaves.
That means your best bet is to search for either loose tea – or in the case of Shan Valley teas, tea that is not tightly packed in bags. You want to be able to see generous movement if you pick up the tea bag and shift it in your hands.
Actually, it doesn’t matter whether the tea flows freely in the water...or the water flows freely through the tea – as long as one of these occurs. If it’s possible, pour the water directly over the tea bag so that it enters and flows through the tea leaves.
What’s the best type of water to use? Considering that your cup of tea is about 98% water, it should absolutely be the best quality you can attain. If the water from your tap is highly chlorinated or is “hard” (usually meaning it has a high mineral content), both of these characteristics will impact the overall flavor. On the other side of this equation, if you use something as extreme as distilled water, you may remove too much of the personality of it. A naturally filtered water or bottled mineral water works best.
Many people are concerned about getting the right temperature for steeping tea. You don’t have to be as extreme as needing a digital thermometer!
Start by heating water to the point where it is simmering but not boiling. If you miss that point, and the water boils, don’t panic – just pull it off the heat. Let it sit for two to three minutes. The temperature will drop from the boiling point down to just about the perfect steeping temperature.
At that point, pouring the water into your teacup will both cool the water slightly a little bit more; plus the water and the cup both seek to become the same temperature.
There you go: you’ve reach the optimal temperature. Now it’s a matter of your preference of strength. The longer you steep the tea, the bolder the flavor you’ll achieve. If in doubt, the steeping times printed right on the container from Shan Valley are the best ones to go with. Then it’s time to enjoy!