Fly across the Atlantic to the US, journey down into Latin America, seek out a small boat captain and sail occasionally rough waters through the Gulf of Mexico and into South America. Now boat the Amazon taking care to avoid any schools of piranha, caimans, anacondas and giant otters (they eat anacondas). Once in the Peruvian rain forest, raftdownstream along the Mantaro River, and, among the Andes now, climb until you reach around 5000 feet or so above sea level, being sure to keep warm and regularly hydrate as you do so. There, happen upon a small remote village, go up the dusty path and past the ramshackle hut that represents the local school and find your way to where there may be some pitahaya or lucuma fruits for sale. Hidden at the very back leans an old fridge. Creak open the rusty door…. and inside you will likely find a bottle of Coca Cola. Such is the all-pervading, protuberant, latitudinousreach of the American drinks giant. Yet, pale into insignificance does Coca Cola when matched against the towering prepotence of green tea: the world’s favourite drink.
But why is green tea the world’s most popular drink? Well, aside from the fact that it’s because more people drink it, one could argue that green tea’s popularity is owed to three separate crucial truths.
Firstly, variety. All green teas may come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis (as do all true teas), but there are in fact over 600 different cultivars of the plant in China alone. Combine this with the various ways in which tea can be grown, harvested and prepared (pan fried, steamed, rolled, shaded, ground), and the result is one green-tea super genre that branches off into innumerable types, styles and assortments, offering great depth and range in colour, texture, flavour and aroma.
Secondly, origins. Green tea has been around for donkey’s years – Coca Cola is by comparison nothing more than a passing fad – and, because of this, it has over the centuries, or millennia even, managed to gain a firm stranglehold throughout age-old cultures. More green tea is produced in China than in the rest of the world combined, yet in Japan it is by far the country’s most popular drink (over 91,000 tonnes produced per year), as it is in Vietnam, Indonesia and Taiwan.
Thirdly, deliciousness. Bright, subtle, rich and lingering, green tea’s many pleasing shifts in taste and fragrance, not to mention the fact of its positive physical and psychological effects on those who drink it, ensure that people the world over continue to enjoy green tea in ever-increasing numbers.