Have you heard the buzz about GABA? The human enzyme that functions as a natural tranquilizer? GABA supplements are popping up in health food stores everywhere and consumer demand for GABA products is increasing every year.
With all this fanfare, little attention has been paid to GABA tea - an all natural source of GABA. GABA tea was discovered by Japanese scientists more than 20 years ago. They were attempting to preserve various foods and in the process discovered that tea leaves exposed to nitrogen increased the natural levels of GABA 10 fold.
Since then, GABA tea has become a standard part of the Japanese diet. The Japanese believe that GABA tea has calming properties and other health benefits.
However, unlike that other Japanese gift to health - green tea - GABA tea has not caught on in the western world. This is puzzling to Chen Yi Ting, the owner of a large GABA tea production facility in Taiwan.
"GABA tea has more health benefits than green tea," says Chen, "and is also more flavorful. By all rights it should enjoy more popularity than green tea."
There is a lack of awareness about GABA tea in western countries. Even though GABA tea has been a staple of the Japanese diet for more than 20 years, most people in the United States have never heard of it.
That is unfortunate, because GABA tea may be beneficial in combating the #1 scourge of the American lifestyle - high blood pressure.
Numerous scientific studies have indicated that GABA could be used to treat high blood pressure. Because of its inhibitory function it causes the muscles lining blood vessels to relax which may increase blood flow.
This same inhibitory function is also believed to play a role in anxiety reduction and stress relief. GABA is increasingly being prescribed as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical tranquilizers. It is reported to have no side effects and is non-addictive.
Many Japanese include GABA tea as part of their daily diet. It is even served to children to stimulate mental alertness thus giving them an advantage in school.
GABA tea is an all natural product. Chen Yi Ting explains the procedure for making GABA tea:
"We start with high grade tea - premium quality tea has more glutamic acid which is the precursor to GABA. The tea is shaded for about 10 days prior to harvest - this has been found to increase levels of glutamic acid even further.
"The fresh tea is placed in stainless steel vacuum drums and the oxygen is removed and replaced with nitrogen. The tea leaves are exposed to this nitrogen-rich atmosphere for about 8 hours. The temperature must be kept above 40 degrees Celsius for the duration of the processing. This procedure produces the highest concentrations of natural GABA."
Taiwan is an important supplier of GABA tea to Japan. Not only does Taiwan produce some of the best tea in the world, it also has the facilities and technicians for making GABA tea. The Japanese government has strict standards on GABA tea, and the GABA tea produced in Taiwan meets or exceeds these standards.
According to Huang Tien Ming, a well-known tea expert in Taiwan, most people are surprised by the taste of GABA tea. "It is quite different from other tea, although there are similarities to black tea." The initial surprise, though, quickly turns to enthusiasm as the tea has a pleasing taste and can be enjoyed either hot or cold. "Everyone I've served it to has come to enjoy the refreshing taste," says Huang.