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What is GABA Tea?

GABA Tea, also known as Gabaron in Japan, is a tea that has a high content of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It has been praised for its potential benefits in managing insomnia, high blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. The secret lies in its processing - it's crafted under anaerobic conditions (that's without any oxygen if you're wondering). This method is what gives the tea its high GABA content.

What does GABA mean

So, what exactly is GABA? Standing for gamma-aminobutyric acid, GABA is an amino acid our brains produce naturally. It serves as a neurotransmitter, facilitating communication between brain cells. GABA’s job is to lower the activity of the neurons in the brain and central nervous system, which can lead to feelings of relaxation and a reduction in stress levels.

In addition to the human brain, GABA can also be found naturally in Tea. GABA Tea, specifically, is the food and beverage with the highest content of GABA.

What's in GABA Tea

The GABA content in GABA Tea can vary depending on the quality of the tea. As a benchmark, you should look for at least 150mg of GABA per 100g of dry tea leaves.

Tea stems in GABA Tea have the highest GABA content, followed by the tea bud, second leaf, third leaf, and older leaves. So, if your GABA Tea contains a lot of stems, that's a good thing! Higher GABA content means higher quality GABA Tea.

You might also come across GABA Tea under other names, such as GABA Oolong Tea or Gabalong.

What GABA tea looks like

To give you a visual, let's take a look at the variety we carry. Remember that other GABA teas might have slightly different shapes or colors.

gaba dry leaf
steeped gaba tea
gaba tea color

Origin of GABA Tea

Developed in Japan

The roots of GABA Tea trace back to Japan, where the unique process for its production was developed. The key figure in the discovery of GABA Tea was Prof. Tsushida.

Back in 1987, he and his colleagues at the National Tea Research Institute were on a search to extend the shelf life of fresh tea leaves. Their approach? Packaging the harvested tea leaves under anaerobic conditions, just like fresh vegetables.

After examining the tea leaves, it's research found that the content of GABA and alanine in the tea had exponentially increased. The study also found that the glutamic acid and aspartic acid had almost disappeared.

Initially, the research was made with green tea but they later discover that the GABA levels increased also in black tea and oolong tea. The results of this started more experimentation with tea processing aiming at improving the natural GABA content of the tea leaf.

Adoption in Taiwan

This innovative method eventually made its way to Taiwan, where the production of Gaba Tea has been fine-tuned for over a decade.

How is GABA Tea Made?

GABA Tea, known for its high gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) content, was initially developed in Japan and is produced through a unique fermentation process.

  • Anaerobic Oxidation: After harvesting, the tea leaves undergo a special process called anaerobic oxidation. They are placed in airtight containers, where oxygen is replaced with nitrogen. This environment facilitates the increase of GABA in the leaves. The skill of the tea master is crucial in ensuring that this process is conducted uniformly and effectively.
  • Agitation: During the anaerobic oxidation phase, the leaves are periodically agitated. This step is essential for promoting even fermentation and maximizing the development of GABA within the leaves.
  • Exposure to Air: Once the desired level of GABA is achieved, the leaves are exposed to air. This step halts the anaerobic fermentation process and helps to stabilize the GABA content.
  • Rolling: Similar to making Oolong, the leaves are then rolled. This can be done by machine or hand, forming the leaves into their distinctive semi-balled shape. This step also enhances the tea's flavor profile.
  • Sorting: The rolled leaves are carefully sorted to remove broken bits or stems, ensuring a uniform quality in the final product.
  • Roasting: The final step in the process is roasting the leaves. This removes any remaining moisture, further refine the tea's flavor, and develops its characteristic aroma. The roasting process is carefully controlled to bring out the unique qualities of the GABA Tea.

How does it affect the flavor

The processing of GABA Tea lends it a unique sour and tangy flavor. Over time, thanks to improvements in the GABA tea-making process, some GABA teas now boast savory notes and a pleasing aroma. 

Why Drink GABA Tea

As fascinating as the process and history are, discussing the effects of consuming GABA is equally important. When GABA is ingested orally, as in tea, it has little effect on levels of GABA in the brain, because it cannot penetrate the blood-brain barrier or enter the central nervous system. However, an excess of GABA in the body can potentially lead to negative side effects, such as nausea or shortness of breath.

Besides its unique taste, GABA Tea packs a punch when it comes to health perks. The GABA in tea is all naturally occurring, not chemically made, meaning you're treating your body to something it's already familiar with, but in a new format (GABA exists naturally in the brain). It's also important to mention that many of the benefits attributed to GABA teas are associated with L-theanine, another compound found naturally within the tea plant, which has been shown to boost levels of GABA in the brain.

While high levels of GABA are thought to have health benefits, more research is needed to confirm this. So, take the health benefits section with a grain of salt. We've got a whole blog post where we chat about all the possible benefits.

Curious and want to learn more? Please pop over to Benefits of GABA Tea.

The Bottom Line

As we get older, our body's production of GABA may decrease naturally. While it's found in various foods, GABA Tea is recognized as one of the richest sources of this amino acid. This tea offers a distinct flavor profile and has the potential to contribute positively to health, as suggested by some studies.

While no significant adverse side effects have been reported from drinking GABA Tea, and it may be considered a beneficial addition to one's diet, it should not be used as a standalone treatment. For personalized health advice, especially concerning specific health conditions, we're firm believers in seeking professional advice regarding individual health matters.


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