Legend has it that Shen Nung, an old Chinese emperor and herbalist, preferred his water boiled prior to drinking it to help ensure cleanliness. While on a trip, his servant began to boil his water; leaves from a nearby bush fell into it, turning it a brownish color. The addition was overlooked, and the emperor was served the drink. Soon after consuming it, he felt refreshed and invigorated by what is now known as tea.
Like the emperor, many of us still turn to tea for its natural healing benefits; studies are continually conducted to help support these claims, but many of us rely on the common belief that it’s just good for you. Then there are those who detest the taste of the drink or don’t know enough about it to make the jump onto the brewing bandwagon. Learning some interesting facts about the different tea varieties and associated healing benefits may change your mind.
Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed drink in the world. According to The Tea Association of the USA, it can be found in nearly 80 percent of households across America—that’s a lot of tea! And though most of us turn to coffee to get our caffeine fix, tea leaves contain more caffeine than coffee by weight. But because it takes less tea to make one cup compared to the amount of ground coffee used to make java, the overall amount of caffeine in a cup of tea is less than the amount in coffee.
There are several types of tea —black, green, white, and oolong —and all come from the exact same family of plant, Camellia Sinensis, according to Jon-Michael Merriman, a certified “Tea Master” and co-owner of the Tehku Tea Company in Dublin.
“The way the leaves are processed, the variety of the tea plant, and the environment that it’s grown in all helps to differentiate the type of tea produced,” he said. Black tea and oolong tea leaves undergo oxidation and crushing processes, and green tea leaves are steamed and withered but not oxidized. After taking the first sip of tea, one may find calm and inner peace.
“Tea contains two different types of molecules, caffeine and theanine, which balances both hemispheres of your brain and leads to an increased mental clarity,” said Merriman. “Caffeine is a stimulant, and the theanine has a calming effect that helps lead to a relaxed state of mind.”
Teas are also rich in antioxidants, offer cancer-fighting agents, and can help promote weight-loss. When enjoyed without any added sweeteners, tea is at its healthful peak, but many people include a bit of honey for additional flavor. According to the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, “Allow tea to steep for three to five minutes to bring out its catechins [a type of disease-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant]. The best way to get the catechins and other flavonoids in tea is to drink it freshly brewed.”
To ensure the best experience, it’s essential to find your perfect cup of tea by talking with your physician about the health benefits of the drink. It also helps to do some research to find your favorite variety, all of which takes time and patience, but the end result is a tea enthusiast’s nirvana.