Green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants. Specifically, it is rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant which has been called a "wonder nutrient" in terms of eliminating harmful free radicals in the body. Green tea has 8 to 10 times the polyphenol levels found in fruits and vegetables, so it's definitely worth drinking.
To get the maximum antioxidant "punch" from your green tea, how should you brew it?
Buying Green Tea
Your best choice for maximum polyphenol levels is small, loose leaf green tea, because this type infuses more quickly. Large or tightly curled tea leaves require longer infusion times.
Loose leaves are preferable to teabags, again because they infuse faster and are less processed than teabags. If you do use teabags, continuously dunk them in the teapot rather than letting them float.
Storing Green Tea
Purchase green tea in small quantities. A single ounce of tea leaves should produce 15 to 30 cups of tea, so you don't need to buy a lot. Fresher tea leaves have a higher antioxidant content. Additionally, choose a container close to the size of the tea. Extra air in the container will contribute to the tea oxidizing.
The pantry is a good place to store your tea. Refrigerating it can result in damage from moisture and odors, and the condensation that forms when thawing frozen tea will ruin it.
Brewing Green Tea
Now you're ready to make some tea. Heat water in non-reactive teapot (stainless steel, porcelain or china are good choices). These materials don't create "off" flavors or toxic residues. Never steep water for tea in an aluminum or plastic container.
There is some debate over whether or not to heat the water to boiling, with some sources recommending a lower temperature (165 - 170 degrees) for a longer steeping time (2 to 4 minutes) to allow the polyphenol content to reach higher levels.
Other sources suggest that using boiling water promotes enhanced extraction of polyphenols from the tea. So, to play it safe you may want to try brewing green tea both ways (using boiling and non-boiling water) and see which taste you prefer.
Regardless of the water temperature used, you will only want to steep the tea for a maximum of 5 minutes. You can add a heaping teaspoon of tea for every 8 ounces of water, and you can use a batch 3 or 4 times.
Evaluating Your Green Tea
Taste the tea and see if you like its flavor. If you want to tweak the taste, adjust the amount of tea and not the brewing time.
Green Tea Caveats
As with any food product, green tea has its caveats. Its caffeine conent is moderate (about half that of coffee). It does have high levels of fluoride and aluminum, which can be toxic in high amounts. It's worth noting that decaffeinated green tea has higher levels of these two substances than regular green tea, and that adding lemon to your green tea increases aluminum absorption up to 10 times.
Enjoy the health benefits of green tea by brewing a pot today!