Green tea comes from a tea plant native to Asia called Camellia sinensis, the same plant that is the source of black tea. What makes green tea different, and green, is not the plant used to make the tea, but how it is processed. It is the least processed of commercial teas, and the method used preserves more of the nutrients and health benefits. Green tea has been used for thousands of years in both China and Japan, this type of tea is reputed to provide major health benefits.
To make green tea, the leaves are picked and then immediately fired, a tea processing term which means they are either steamed or heated. The leaves are then dried and prepared for either sale or further processing. Other teas are picked, dried by a process commonly called "withering," rolled or broken to induce oxidation, and then dried. Oxidation removes most of the necessary nutritional values from the tea, and then the leaves are dried to halt the process. Teas that have been oxidized are called black teas, and they include most of the tea people drink in the Western hemisphere. Because of the process used to make this tea, most of the antioxidants that are proven to provide health benefits are removed.
Green tea has a much lighter hue and flavor than black tea, due to the minimal processing. It also still includes most of the plant's antioxidants.
Many people believe that green tea has curative effects. Recent studies indicate that the antioxidants it contains do boost health and the immune system, and the American Cancer Society has studied whether this tea may prevent or treat cancer. Other studies indicate that it may ward off or slow Alzheimer's disease. Many believe that green teas are an effective aid in weight loss and others believe they offer benefits for arthritic patients.
Green teas are available in leaf form, in tea bags, in nutritional supplements, and as prepared beverages. People who are interested in how using this tea may improve their health should check with a medical professional or an herbalist, or look in bookstores for complete information about its proven and perceived benefits.