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Tea off a Healthy New Year

Dec 4, 2018

Tea off a Healthy New Year

 

The top beverages in the world begin with water and is followed by tea; except in the United States.  We see a different set of priorities to beverages here.  The sequence is:

  1. Water
  2. Coffee
  3. Soda
  4. Beer
  5. Milk
  6. Tea

What does the rest of world know that we don’t?  Let’s take a look at the culture of tea and why it is an important part of the global beverage choice.

What is Tea?

All true tea comes from the plant Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, also known as the China BushThis tea plant thrives on cool mountainsides with southern exposure.  It has a short growing season and is grown at elevations of 6500 to 9800 feet.  The China Bush is grown throughout China, Japan, Taiwan and some areas in South-east Asia.

There is also a varietal of Camellia sinensis which is Camellia sinensis var. assamica.  This tea plant is found in jungle-like conditions of India and is referred to as the Assam Bush.

The leaves of the Assam Bush are elliptical and 4 to 8 inches long and around 3 inches wide.  The Assam Bush can be picked every ten days, year-round unlike its cousin the China Bush which are only four to five plucks a year.

The different categories of tea depend on how the tea leaves are sorted and treated.  The basic classifications are as follows:

  • White tea: Unrolled, full withered-dried, buds included
  • Green tea (China): Pan-fired, non-oxidized
  • Green tea (Japan): Steamed, non-oxidized
  • Oolong tea: oxidized 1% to 99%
  • Black tea: Fully oxidized
  • Pu-erh tea: Processed, fermented and aged

 

Health Benefits

Tea contains flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds that are believed to have antioxidant benefits. 

The polyphenols in tea assist in preventing the damaging effect of oxidation, which leads to DNA damage from free radicals.  Free radicals scavenge healthy cells and rob them of their vital cell material which can affect the immune response, add to premature physical deterioration and organ disease. 

Green tea contains the largest quantity of intact catechins which are valuable polyphenols.  The four antioxidants found in the green tea catchins are EC (epicatechin), ECG (epicatechin gallate), EGC (epigallocatechin) and ECGC (epigalloctaechingallate).  ECGC is the most bioactive of the catechins and highly abundant in green tea.  The ECGC not only offers the antioxidant benefit but also gives green tea antimicrobial properties which defend the body against various food-poisoning microbes.

Green tea is known to combat stress and help with focus.  How can tea with natural caffeine reduce stress?  The amino acid known as L-theanine stimulates the production of alpha brain waves which is the relaxation state.  L-theanine does not cause drowsiness like some herbal anti-stress remedies such as valerian root.  It is for this reason Buddist Monks may drink green tea before meditation – it keeps your mind alert and your body calm.

Although green tea gets most of the attention when it comes to claims of health benefits, all tea contains polyphenols.  The oxidation process in black tea changes the chemistry to form tannins known as theaflavins.  This is the component in black tea that gives it the brightness, briskness and flavor of black tea.  According to Heiss, some research shows the activation of tea enzymes during the manufacture of black tea may result in the formation of antioxidant compounds that are more powerful in preventing some disease than those contained in green tea.

So the question is what tea is best for you, right?  This question has come up at every Tea Conference I have attended throughout the years.  The answer is to drink the one you will drink.  In other words, find a tea you enjoy whether it is black, green, white, oolong or pu-erh.  They all provide antioxidants and amino acids to benefit your well being physically and emotionally.

Make a New Year promise to yourself and drink more tea. You will feel better because of it.

 

Proper brewing:

  1. Start with good quality loose leaf tea from a reputable retailer.
  2. Use only pure filtered water for brewing, heat water to correct temperature according to tea type (see below).
  3. Using 1 tsp, tea for 8 oz. water, pour the prepared water at the correct temperature over the tea leaves.
  4. Infuse the tea for the appropriate time and enjoy.

Tea Type                                     Water temp.                        Steep Time

White tea                                    180 degree F                       2-4 minutes

Green tea                                   180 degrees F                     1-3 minutes

Oolong tea                                 212 degrees F                     3-5 minutes

Black tea                                     212 degrees F                     4-5 minutes

Pu-erh                                         212 degrees F                     4-5 minutes

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