Friday, February 13, 2015

The health benefits of tea

I've always been a coffee drinker since I can remember...until most recently when I've started to "wean myself" off of coffee to drinking tea. I still enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, but anything after that is tea. Surprisingly, tea has so many health benefits that perhaps many people don't even know about.

Below is an article I wrote about tea some time ago as a reminder to start adding tea into your daily routine:

Relishing a Spot of Afternoon Tea:

The alluring aroma, the magical taste and the medicinal value of tea has captivated many cultures throughout the centuries. The revelation of tea came about in China thousands of years ago thanks to the discovery of the indigenous Camellia sinensis tree (tea tree) that is recognized throughout Southeast Asia and parts of southern China. The word for tea in China is “Kia” which later evolved into what the Chinese call “Cha”.  Cha has been a well-known drink made from the green leaves of the Camellia tree and is also a staple of the Chinese diet.
Tea production originated in the East before it arrived in the West. Tea appeared in Europe at the beginning of the 17th century progress of trade relations with China.  As the popularity of tea spread to Britain and Holland, it became a popular beverage choice among the aristocracy and became a symbol of high status in Europe. The establishment of British companies that imported tea such as “The East India Trade Company” became powerful entities that influenced the royal family to ensure its continuous supply. Tea made its journey to the West in the beginning of the 18th century where it became a more accepted commodity for all to enjoy, not just the aristocrats.
The consumption of tea was so prevalent in the American colonies that it served as a gathering point to spark a revolution. Protesters couldn’t think of a better way to send a signal to England than to board British ships in the Boston Harbor and throw crates of tea into the ocean. England quickly responded which then prompted the start of the American War of Independence.
Making tea is a complex process involving the plant’s young shoots and leaf buds, which contain highly concentrated chemical defenses and vital enzymes. Accordingly, tea has been known for its significant medicinal attributes. The manufacturing of tea involves a variety of different styles ranging from cooking the leaves to pressing them and to drying them.  The Chinese have developed a half-dozen different styles of tea and three of those developments account for a large majority of the tea that is drunk world wide.
Furthermore, teas are brewed in a variety of ways in different parts of the world along with numerous ways of serving. Tea can be presented at an either moderate temperature or a more scalding one.  On this note, the water that is used when making tea is crucial for quality. The best water for excellent tea flavor has a modest amount of mineral content and as close to a neutral pH as possible. Maintaining a neutral pH of 5 allows for the complexity of support and balance of tea to be enjoyed thoroughly.
An example of the classification of tea, water temperature and steeping time can be seen in the graph below.
Today, according to Bon Appetit’s 25 Food Trends for 2013, tea is trending toward becoming the new coffee.  Here is a break down of teas and their steeping times.
WhiteDelicate and the least processed of them all, the whites’ natural, leafy flavor comes closest to what a pure tea leaf tastes like.

Water temp: 170°
Steeping time: 3-4 minutes
Brewing these vegetal, grassy teas with water that’s too hot can lead to a harsh bitterness.

Water temp: 140° (Japanese)

170° (Chinese)

Steeping time: 1-2 minutes
The most caffeinated on the spectrum, the best ones have a combination of spice, dark chocolate, or honey notes.

Water temp: Boiling
Steeping time: 2-3 minutes

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