You will notice that today in some malls around Metro Manila, we now have different tea shops – something like coffee shops and café but instead of serving coffee, they serve tea. Moreover, teas are now more than just a hot drink to sip in a cold night or something that we drink if we have a fever. Now, teas have different flavors and styles – like cold tea and even something called “bubble tea.” So, you might wonder…
… what is a tea?
Tea is simply a drink made from boiling the young leaves and leaf bud of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis).
|Tea Plant (Camellia sinensis)|
Today, there are so many types of tea we find in the market, but tea drinkers have divided them into 5:
1. Green Tea - This is a type of tea where the leaves were immediately heated just after harvesting to prevent oxidation. The heating process varies: either by steam off from dry heat (pan firing). Since the tea didn't get too much oxidization, it has more of a green appearance.
2. Black Tea - This tea has undergone full oxidation process. After being harvested, the leaves are then laid out to wither for about 8 to 24 hours. This gives it a black appearance and it has a stronger flavor.
3. White Tea - Tea that came from the immature (youngest) leaf buds of the Chinese Carmella Sinensis. It is called "white" because of the silver/snowy colored brew. The Silver Needle (Bai Hao) is the most expensive of the white teas.
4. Oolong Tea - Also known as Wu long tea, are partially fermented teas. Their leaves are intentionally bruised by shaking so that when dried, they create these lovely reddish and yellowish color. Oolong teas are often served in Chinese restaurants.
5. Pu-Erh Tea - Unlike black teas, pu-erh teas were oxidized and aged for years like those fine wines in Europe - there are even those teas that are more than 50 years old. This process makes the pu-erh tea very expensive compare to all the types of tea.
Other than the 5 types of tea, we now have teas made from leaves, bark, roots and fruits of different plants. Here in the Philippines, we are familiar with ginger tea (salabat), banaba leaves, and guyabano (sursop) leaves. In the market, there are teas made from ginseng, jasmine, chamomile and mint.
History of Tea
Legend has it that tea originated from China since 2737 BCE. The story goes like this: The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung (or Shennong, also known as the Emperor of the Five Grains) was sitting beneath a Camellia while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the plant blew into the water. Being an herbalist himself, The Emperor Shen Nung decided to recreate this infusion that his servant accidentally created and the result is what we now called "tea."
We really don't know if the story was true, but archeological excavations in China have shown tea drinking became established in China by 206 BCE - 220CE when tea containers were found in tombs dating from the Han Dynasty. However, it was under the Tang Dynasty (618-906 CE) when tea cultivation and processing began.
Traveling monks from Japan have brought the Camella seeds to Japan around 800CE and it became an integral part of Japanese culture and tradition.
Christian missionaries from Europe discovered the tea from China and the Portuguese were the first to bring tea to Europe as a commercial import. The Dutch followed and by 1610 the Dutch East India Company has made the first consignment of Chinese tea to Europe.
The first reference of tea in England came from Mercurius Politicus, a London newspaper on September 1658 where it announced the sale of the Chinese "tcha" at a coffee house in Sweeting's Rents in London. However, it was the marriage of Catherine of Braganza to Charles II that brought tea to England's attention. Catherine was a Portuguese princess and a tea addict and because of her love of the drink, tea became a fashionable beverage on King Charles Court and then it became the favorite drink of the wealthy class. In 1664, the East India Company began to import tea into Britain.
Benefits of Drinking Tea
Like what I have said earlier in this article, we drink tea when we have a fever, but the benefits of drinking tea don’t end there.
First, the most common tea benefit is its calming effect. People drink tea to calm their nerves. In a recent research done in Australia, it was discovered that L-theanine in tea appears to have a definite calming effect. For flavored teas, the flower of the Chamomile contains a mild sedative called Apigenin which is anxiolytic (inhibits anxiety).
Compare to coffee, tea has two to three times less caffeine, which prevents you from getting the jitters, and a cup of tea for your night cap will not interfere with your sleep.
Tea is used to lose weight. A study has shown that tea drinking can reduce fat by burning more calories.
Tea contains antioxidants, which prevent premature aging and makes your skin always looking fresh.
A study in Netherlands discovers that drinking tea can keep your arteries clog-free reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Drinking unsweetened tea can make your teeth and gums healthy. Tea contains fluoride and tannins that keep your gums and teeth strong and plaque free.
It can boost your immune defenses. The L-theanine in your tea which helps to produce gamma-delta T cells in the blood. The gamma-delta T cells prompt the secretion of interferon, a key part of the body's chemical defense against infection. Tea also contains polyphenols, an antioxidant that prevents cancer.