What is Tea?
Tea refers to a beverage that is prepared by decocting the young leaves and unopened leaf buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Tea is the most common beverage consumed in the world, second only to water. It could be prepared cold or hot.
Camellia Sinensis is the botanical name of the tea-plant. The green part of the tea-plant is often pruned and allowed to grow into a bush, such that the harvesting of the young leaves is much easier. The tree plant often grows into a tree after a long time.
Camellia Sinensis leaves grow in different shapes; from upright and narrow, to flattened and broad. Only the tender leaves which have a pleasant flavour, are harvested for tea. There are various varieties of the tea-plant as in other plants. These are called cultivars, small and short in size for propagated variety.
History and Origin of Tea
The history and origin of Tea are as old as man, which range from the early legend to the tea trade spreading all over the world.
History has it that tea was first discovered by the Chinese Emperor, Shan Nong, in 2737 B.C.
The Emperor mandated it that his drinking water is boiled each time he was to be served water. One day, few tea leaves blew from a nearby tree and fell into his boiling water and changed the colour of the water. When he drank the water, he was astounded of the rich, tasty and revitalizing drink. History had it that the Emperor carried out a medicinal test on the plants and discovered that it is an antidote. He immediately ordered that tea bushes to be planted in the gardens of his palace.
The emperor was said to have used the plant as a remedy for poisoning which is a proof that the plant contains tannin. This was how the production of tea began from the brewing of the fresh leaves of the tea-plant in hot water, which later spread all over.
After the discovery
From this time, Tea was primarily used as a remedy because of the medicinal benefits attributed to it. Not long after this time, China’s upper class started packaging tea as highly valued gifts and appreciate drinking tea at social events and in private homes.
Tea arrived in Northern America at the beginning of the 18th century and it became a pleasing drink there as well. London-style tea-point started developing in New York and Boston, where the drink was sold to the general public. During that period of time, the decision was made by the British Empire to place taxes on the tea supply to Northern America states that were under their authority. This decision greatly infuriated the American colonist who decided to turn down the taxed products in protest. On every occasion when the British ships arrived at the harbors loaded with tea, the settlers would start protests which forced the ships to depart without making delivery of their wares.
The most famous incidence in this regard was called the “Boston Tea Party”, during which a group of colonists boarded one of the ships in the Boston harbor and started throwing hundreds of crates of tea from its deck into the sea. This was retaliated to by England by sending military forces to the harbor and shutting it down. This event led to the commencement of the American War of Independence.
Today, the production of tea is on the increase with the spread of tea crops throughout the world. Today the scope of the tea industry’s worldwide economic activity is now more than three billion dollars annually. Tea is cultivated and produced in over 40 countries of the world.
More than 2.5 million tons of tea is produced around the world annually, most of it in Asian countries.
Categories of tea
There are six recognised types of tea, all made from the harvested leaves of the tea-plant or its closely related plant. Each type is differentiated by the techniques used in processing develop flavor, such as firing, rolling, roasting, etc. This is what determines how the tea is categorized.
Green tea is unoxidized tea, meaning the leaves were not allowed to be decolourised. The harvested leaf is green without reds or browns. The leaves are allowed to wither only slightly after being picked. The application of heat (called firing) soon after bringing the harvest in from the field make the difference between green tea and other tea.
Green teas use a variety of techniques ranging from steaming to pan-firing to baking to hot-air roasting to even sun-drying. The major differences in the flavor of green tea are influenced by the technique that was used in firing, specifically dry heat or steam heat.
The tea is produced from the withered leaves of the tea-plant. This is done by allowing the leaves to wither, which occur before a process called oxidation .The leaves are fully oxidized to produce the complex flavour. The enzymes that cause pigment change and develop deeper aroma and flavor in the tea have completely done their work, much like a minced apple that has been allowed to brown and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black leaf.
Such as Pu-erh tea, it is allowed to grow old and ferment for some time, yielding smooth and rich flavours.
Also known as wulong tea, Oolong tea is partially oxidized tea. It falls in a wide range of white tea and black tea. The process is time-consuming which involves repeated periods of rolling, resting and re-rolling. As a result, this builds complexity in oolong which is not found in other categories. Oolongs’ taste and aroma are like that of fresh flowers or fresh fruit.
This kind is a lightly oxidized tea. White teas are not shaped in any way. White teas are not heated like others to reduce the effect the enzymes that cause oxidation (browning).
The leaves are simply harvested and allowed to air dry, making it wither on trays in a warm room, for about 2-3 days. Moisture is evaporated as the leaves are cured of the juice therein.
Health Benefits of Tea
Green tea: Green tea contain antioxidants which interfere with the growth of stomach, bladder, lung, pancreatic, colorectal, and breast cancers; it also help in burning fat, counteracting oxidative stress on the brain, reducing risk of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and reducing stroke,
Black Tea: Black tea may reduce the risk of stroke. It also protects lungs from being damaged by exposure to cigarette smoke.
White Tea: White tea contains anticancer properties which are more than other processed teas. Thereby help to prevent some cancers.
Oolong Tea: Oolong Tea contains antioxidants which were discovered to have lowered bad cholesterol levels. A variety of oolong tea is being used as a weight loss supplement.
Pu-erh Tea: A research carried out on showed that animals given pu-erh gain less weight and reduced LDL cholesterol in the body.
WHY SHOULD WE DRINK TEA?
There are a whole lot of benefits of drinking tea which range from delighting your taste buds to enhancing your health routine. Many people drink tea just to satisfy their thirst while some drink it as a normal diet routine.
There are long lists of reasons for drinking tea, but here are few important reasons why we drink tea;
Tea Strengthens the immune system
Tea strengthens the immune system. During times of illness, patients have been advised to drink tea. Far beyond the pleasant feeling of drinking a hot beverage: tea contains flavonoids, which is yet another powerful antioxidant.
Tea aids Stress relief
Whether you like it or not, the day is often filled with stress. Over time, the stress of getting through each day can accumulate, eventually leading to health problems. A simple way to relieve stress fast is to get a nice cup of tea. Drinking tea calms the body and lets you forget your worries or at least, to calm yourself before moving on with the rest of your day.
Tea is a Healthy diet
Drinking tea daily may help you to reach your ultimate health desire. Tea is naturally calorie-free, with tea in your diet, you don’t need to border about adding liquid calories to your diet.
Tea tastes great.
It is a simple beverage, just water and leaves, but it has a pleasant and enjoyable taste. Therefore, the more you gulp the cups, the more interesting it becomes. For me, a cup of tea is at heart a daily sacrament and an elemental pleasure.
Tea may help with weight loss
Research has shown that tea helps in weight loss. Studies have shown that the effect depends on consumption of large amounts of tea, often in pill form.
Tea contains antioxidants
Tea contains antioxidant. Antioxidants work to prevent the body from rust and thus help to keep us young. It also helps to protect us from damage from pollution.
Where tea fits in with social trends
In some places, tea has been at the center of social gatherings. Though, many people today see drinking tea in a group as something meant for high-class ladies from the Victorian Age. No! It’s high time for us to wake up from this misconception. The truth is, there’s no better way to catch up with your friends than to have a few of them over for a cup of organic black tea or at a tea house. Brew it hot, iced or mix it with spirits for a refreshingly fun cocktail hour. As tea can help improve your mental and physical well-being, it also helps to improve your social health.
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