Can you eat green tea leaves?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat green tea leaves?” with an in-depth analysis of green tea leaves, different types of green tea, the nutritional composition of green tea leaves, along with the health benefits and risks of eating green tea leaves.

Can you eat green tea leaves?

Yes, you can eat green tea leaves. In fact, green tea leaves are pretty delicious, they can be added in many recipes, for instance, you can sprinkle green tea leaves over salads and pour over salad dressings. Moisture from salad dressing gets absorbed in green tea leaves causing the leaves to smooth out by the time it is served.  

Green tea leaves can also be utilised as a herb or seasoning to add an earthy taste to recipes such as omelettes.

Adding green tea leaves to desserts such as cakes, sweets and smoothies, is an excellent way to prepare them. Green tea leaves can also be taken in capsule form. 

Myanmar is one of the countries that have an eating habit of tea leaves. Laphet is fermented pickled tea leaves, which are rather eaten than processed into a drink. . It is believed that eating tea increases life for as long as 120 years (2).

Black tea is the type of tea most largely consumed worldwide (about 80 % of the market) and is very popular in North America and Europe: Green tea is mainly consumed in China and Japan. White tea is the rarest and the least handled tea (1).  

Green tea, an introduction

Green tea originates from the Camellia sinensis, a plant that is native to Asia but now can be found just about anywhere in the world.  

Types of green tea

Organic Green Tea

Organic green tea is produced without using any fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides. It is much healthier than non-organic green tea and does not contain any harmful substances. 

Organic farming  is a farming system that uses environmentally friendly methods of weed, pest, and disease control. The principles and practices of OF have been expressed in the standards of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements as the principle of health, ecology, fairness, and care (4).

Loose Leaf Green Tea

Loose green tea leaf is the most familiar variety of green tea that can be found in almost every coffee store and supermarket. Although all loose green tea originates from the same plant, the way the plant has grown, the method of harvesting its leaves, and the techniques used for processing can lead to a variety of green tea. 

There are two basic varieties of green tea: Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica, a large-leaf, tall and quick-growing tree well-suited to very warm climates, and Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, a small-leaf, slower-growing bush that can withstand colder climates.Some of them are mentioned below (3):

  • Sencha
  • Fukamushi Sencha
  • Gyokuro
  • Kabusecha
  • Genmaicha
  • Hojicha
  • Shincha
  • Nibancha, Ichibancha, Sanbancha

Matcha

Tencha that us stoneground immediately before shipping is called Matcha. It is a powdered form of green tea that is grounded into a fine powder instead of brewing the green tea leaves, Matcha can be added to liquid or foods and is used widely in the making of popular Japanese sweets and various delicious dishes. 

Matcha is a powdered green tea produced by grinding with a stone mill. It has been popularly used in the traditional tea ceremony and foods in Japan. It is well known that Matcha is richer in some nutritional elements and epigallocatechin 3-O-gallate than other green teas (3).

The composition of green tea leaves

Green tea is rich in (3,5):

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Niacin
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B2
  • Fibre (when eaten only)
  • Vitamin A (when eaten only)
  • Protein (mostly when eaten)

Green tea leaves also contain L-Theanine, which is an amino acid that gives a relaxed and pleasant feeling of wellness. In addition, green tea leaves are also packed with flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants. These include catechin, quercetin, epicatechin etc. 

Health benefits of green tea leaves 

Green tea leaves are considered the most beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants play essential roles in (3):

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Preventing cancer
  • Keeping the skin youthful
  • Aiding mental health
  • Improving arthritis pain
  • weight loss

Other health benefits of green tea include (3): 

  • Help fight infections: Green tea has antibacterial properties, therefore, it may be beneficial in fighting infections. 
  • Provides relaxation: green tea consists of L-theanine amino acids which is an incredible source of relaxation and reduces anxiety. It gives you a feeling of well-being throughout the day.
  • Promote brain activity: The combination of L-theanine and caffeine present in green tea is regarded as a brain booster, that is perfect for improving strength, promoting vigilance, intensifying efficiency, and capturing attention.
  • Hel in weight loss: The compounds in green tea leaves can help enhance the oxidation of fat, thus helping in weight loss. 
  • Decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases: It has been found that regular consumption of green tea decreases the risk of cardiovascular problems.
  • Prevent cancer: Interestingly, some of the antioxidant properties of green tea leaves can likely hinder tumour growth, stimulate enzymes that detoxify, thus helps in preventing tumours, and help counteract radiation damage.

Risks of eating green tea leaves

Green tea leaves are harmless to consume for most individuals, but people with certain health problems should avoid eating green tea leaves. 

Side effects of ingesting green tea including insomnia, restlessness, flushing, diuresis, twitches, nervousness, rambling thoughts and speech, tachycardia, and psychomotor agitation caused by overconsumption of green tea infusion were also reported. Drinking green tea would cause indigestion when or immediately after eating. Furthermore, urinary oxalate levels in healthy individuals could be increased by tea consumption and those prone to calcium oxalate stone formation are continuously advised to limit their tea consumption (3).

People who are allergic to green tea or any other type of tea should avoid eating the green tea leaves as they may stimulate a more powerful response as compared to brewed tea (6).

Individuals with heart diseases or who are susceptible to caffeine should also limit the consumption of green tea. 

Pregnant or lactating females should ask their doctor before consuming green tea leaves. If anyone is using any prescription medicines, he should consult a pharmacist to know if any of their medicines may interact with tea leaves.

Other FAQs about Tea that you may be interested in.

Can you boil cold brew tea bags?

Can you freeze brewed tea?

Can you eat tea bags?

Can you burn tea?

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have answered the question, “Can you eat green tea leaves?” with an in-depth analysis of green tea leaves, different types of green tea, the nutritional composition of green tea leaves, along with the health benefits and risks of eating green tea leaves.

References 

  1. Mazzanti, Gabriela, Antonella Di Sotto, and Annabella Vitalone. Hepatotoxicity of green tea: an update. Arch toxicol, 2015, 89, 1175-1191.
  2. Maung, Pyie Phyo, Qian He, and Moses Vernoxious Madalitso Chamba. Comparison of polyphenol content between laboratory processed Laphet and China and Myanmar tea (Camellia sinensis) products. Pak J Food Sci, 2012, 22, 180-184.  
  3. Ali, Nesreen, et al. Green tea: varieties, production and health benefits. Food and beverage consumption and health (Eds Wu, W), Nova Biochemical, USA, 2013, 33-74.
  4. Singh, M. Organic farming for sustainable agriculture. In J Organic Farm, 2021, 1, 1-8.
  5. Wang, Jin, et al. Green tea leaf powder prevents dyslipidemia in high-fat diet-fed mice by modulating gut microbiota. Food Nutr Res, 2020, 64.
  6. Shirai, Toshihiro, et al. Food allergy to green tea. J all clin immunol, 2003, 112, 805-806.