Click photo to enlarge
The following review is by a reader who was given a cookbook from the Times. The included recipes were selected and prepared by the reader.

By Marcia Peterson

Chances are you've heard about the health benefits of green tea, but are you drinking it?

Maybe you've never tried it, or you don't care for the taste of it, or you love your morning coffee too much. Take a look at "Green Tea" by Mary Lou Heiss and you may find yourself imbibing those powerful antioxidants after all. Color photos for about a third of the recipes for hot and iced teas, smoothies, cocktails, entrees and desserts piqued my interest in the green tea lifestyle.

The opening chapter provides some green tea basics, such as the kinds of green tea, how to select and measure loose-leaf tea, using tea bags, tea-brewing equipment, how to brew tea, and a discussion of the healthy attributes of green tea. Chinese and Japanese teas are categorized as light and fragrant; medium and fresh; full, earthy, toasty; and full, minerally, spicy, with examples of teas in each category. Heiss notes that you can use any green teas that you like for her recipes.

A simple concoction, Soothing and Relaxing Green Tea, says it all. Turns out that it's fun to make your own potion of boiling water, lemon zest and chopped ginger (which you press against the side of the measuring cup to release the juice) and pour this infusion through a strainer over the tea leaves or bag. An initial taste suggests a bit of honey would be nice; then it's just right and lives up to the drink's moniker. Heiss also suggests variations of this brew using other kinds of citrus zest, such as an orange, lime or tangerine.

And this isn't a book to shelve once the sun comes out. How about a refreshing beverage to sip on a summer afternoon? A few enticing options are Lemon Verbena Peppermint Iced Green Tea, Blushing Peach Iced Green Tea, and Strawberry-Red Iced Green Tea, but the winner is the Pineapple-Ginger Iced Green Tea. Its recipe has a few simple ingredients: chilled green tea, chilled pineapple juice and ginger ale. Along with powerful antioxidants from the tea, the pineapple juice contains lots of vitamin C, plus vitamins A and E and potassium. Just brew and cool the tea, toss in the other liquids, and pour the concoction into a glass with ice. It's easy to make and tastes good -- an enjoyable way to get healthy.

As someone just testing the green tea waters, basic beverages suited my tasting purposes, but the book also offers up cocktails and edibles, such as a wispy almond cookie made with Japanese Sencha. An appealing-sounding happy hour recipe is the Tropical Sky -- a rosy-hued drink that you make by shaking together ice, green tea, pomegranate juice, gin and amaretto.

Maybe you'll make the switch to green tea and join the more than half of the world's population of the world who drink it daily. Even if you don't, you can enjoy a few of these recipes when a green mood strikes.

Want to be a critic? We'll give you a new cookbook to review. Contact nboer@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Pineapple-Ginger Iced Green Tea

Serves 4

1 cup chilled green tea

2 cups chilled pineapple juice

1 cup very fizzy chilled ginger ale

Ice cubes

  • Mix the chilled green tea with the pineapple juice in a medium-size pitcher. Stir well. Add the ginger ale to the pitcher and blend thoroughly. Pour the tea mixture into tall glasses filled with ice and serve immediately.

    Soothing and Relaxing Green Tea

    Serves 2-4

    2 tablespoons (8 grams) medium-size loose-leaf green tea or 4 green tea bags

    2 teaspoons lemon zest

    5 slices peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped

    4 cups boiling water

    Sugar or honey to taste (optional)

    1. Put the tea leaves or tea bags into a pre-warmed large teapot and set aside.

    2. Place the lemon zest and ginger in a 4-cup heatproof measuring cup and add the boiling water. Using the back of a spoon, press the pieces of ginger against the side of the measuring cup to release their juice, then let them infuse for 2 minutes.

    3. Quickly pour the infusion into the teapot, straining carefully to prevent the spices from going into the teapot. Steep the tea in the spice infusion for an additional 2 minutes.

    4. Add a touch of sugar or honey if desired. Strain the brewed tea into the teacups and serve immediately.

  • BOOK: "Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers, and Sweet and Savory Treats" ($12.95, Harvard Common Press, 96 pages).

  • AUTHOR: Mary Lou Heiss is the author of other hot-drink books, including the recently released "The Story of Tea : A Cultural History and Drinking Guide."

  • REVIEWER: Marcia Peterson of Benicia drinks coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.