VT CHALLENGE: Green Tea (part 2!)

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March 18, 2009

Inspired by the recommendation of Judith Stanton, MD, to try drinking five cups of green tea a day (in VT’s March 2009 article “Healing Foods: Green Tea”), VT Food Editor Mary Margaret Chappell embarked on her own personal green tea challenge. Here’s a daily diary of her experiences:

Day 1: My first day of trying to drink all that green tea was a bust. Well, it was only half a bust, since I managed to drink about half the required dosage (2 cups). The trouble was, I started on a Saturday. While it was easy to fix myself a cup of tea mid-morning and another mid-afternoon, by the time the evening rolled around (and I was going out with friends), I wasn’t actually going to switch out a glass of red wine for a cup of green tea.

Despite this apparent failure, I think I’m off to a promising start. I really like the way I feel when I drink green tea—slightly energized but still relaxed and definitely not jittery—and I’ve managed to find a green tea I like. Genmaicha, green tea mixed with toasted brown rice, is going to be the key to making this a habit because, in case you haven’t noticed, not all green teas are created equal. I’ve had my fair share of bitter brews, weak infusions and hot beverages that taste more like chalk than tea. And since I don’t just love foods or drinks that taste “grassy,” the brown rice tempers that side of the green tea and makes it taste nutty and toasty.

Day 2: Uh oh…It looks like I’m probably only going to hit the halfway mark on green tea drinking today, too. I got a late start and only sat down to my first cup at four in the afternoon. I think I’m probably going to have to limit my intake to two cups today unless I want to find myself still awake at 3 am waiting for the caffeine to work its way out of my system.

Still, today’s intake feels like a kind of victory. Instead of popping open a can of Diet Coke (my preferred afternoon pick-me-up), I drank green tea. And enjoyed it. I’ve also discovered that I prefer green tea unsweetened which is HUGE. I usually take my tea with lots of milk and sugar.

Day 3:
Third day’s the charm! I managed to drink four cups of green tea today – probably because it was cold and snowy out. Anytime I felt chilled, I just made myself another cup. I can’t vouch for what the tea is doing for me health-wise, but I really like how it makes me feel. I definitely notice a more energized calm as I sit working at my computer. The only downside is that I’ve found green tea is a tough sell when friends stop by. Men especially seem to have an aversion to the bitter-grassy flavor, no matter how much honey or lemon I put in the cup.

Day 4: Ah…choo!! Yup. I’m coming down with a cold. But how to reconcile my surefire cold cure, ginger tea, with this green tea experiment? A gal can only drink so many hot beverages in a day. So, I’m cross-brewing and making pots of ginger-green tea. One ginger tea bag, one green tea bag (it’s more convenient than the loose genmaicha I’ve been drinking), then lots of lemon and honey.

Day 5: Today, I stopped by a friend’s house on the way to the grocery store and what did she offer me to drink? Green tea. Woo-hoo! One cup down, four more to go…I have to admit, this is not the attitude to have if I want to make this a habit. So, while at the store, I splurged. I bought a bunch of bottles of Ito-En unsweetened green tea. I love the stuff but usually limit my consumption because it’s so pricey. But I suppose a few cents more is a small price to pay to quench my thirst without artificial sweeteners and colors. And one 16-oz. bottle counts as two cups. Once again, woo-hoo!

(P.S. The heavy intake of ginger-green tea yesterday seemed to quell the oncoming cold. I feel much better today!)

Day 6: As I was dashing around completing the zillion errands I needed to get done on a Saturday morning, I started fantasizing about the Zen-like peace in Japanese tea ceremonies that I’ve read about. Sadly, my green tea ritual is less than calm—and there are no kimonos involved unless you count my bathrobe as I make a cup in the morning. But all those bottles of iced green tea I bought yesterday are paying off. I took them with me and swigged on them at stoplights and in shopping lines. I’d finished off the equivalent of four cups before it was noon!

Day 7:
Wow! I forgot it was the last day of the green tea challenge. Here I thought I’d be all ready to gleefully click “send” so that this chronicle could be posted, but now, I think I may just extend the experiment. Can I go two weeks? Three? I’m making a big pitcher of iced green tea to try, since that seems to be the way I like it best. Here’s hoping I can get hooked on my own brew…and go back to saving Ito En for special occasions or long lines at Whole Foods.

—Mary Margaret Chappell, Food Editor

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