Today would be a great day to cuddle up in front of the fireplace (lit, of course) with a good book and a pot of tea. It’s been raining since early this morning (over 2″ thus far) and is cool and gloomy. Unfortunately, life calls.
Although most people refer to any hot herbal beverage as tea, Tea is actually an herb. Its Latin binomial is Camellia sinensis. What you see on the supermarket shelves as “white”, “green”, “oolong” or “black” tea are all the same herb in a different phase of oxidation: the chlorophyll breaks down when exposed to air. White tea is made of immature leaves and buds processed immediately after harvest; green tea is wilted but hasn’t been left to oxidize; oolong is wilted and partially oxidized; and black tea is wilted and fully oxidized. Many of the American brands are “Orange Pekoe”. This is a grade of black tea and doesn’t have any orange flavoring at all. Some think the “Orange” comes from when the Dutch (House of Orange) were the largest importers of tea from China.
While the Japanese and Chinese have been drinking green tea for centuries and the British got addicted to it (bringing that addiction with them to America), it’s only been in recent years that Tea has really hit mainstream America as an alternative to coffee. Green tea has been in the news quite a bit lately. Who knew that a “cuppa” would have so many health benefits?
Tea, especially white and green, contains powerful antioxidants, most notably ECGC (and the commercial packaging will remind you if you forget). Oolong and black don’t have as much of this compound – oxidation destroys some of it.
Because of the antioxidants, Tea has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and many types of stroke. It does so by lowering cholesterol levels in the blood and preventing the buildup of fatty deposits on artery walls. Studies have shown that green tea also helps reduce the risk of most types of cancer. It may also help with diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, eczema and even tooth decay. There is a study out suggesting that drinking green tea may help with the memory problems associated with sleep deprivation caused by Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
To get all the health benefits from your tea, drink about two cups per day and don’t dilute with milk, which neutralizes many of the antioxidant compounds (a blow to the British, I’m sure). Bear in mind that Tea does have caffeine (about half of what’s in a cup of coffee) so if you’re sensitive to that, don’t overdo it. Because I’m a fan of reducing the consumption of sugar, if you don’t like your Tea plain, try one infused with another flavor like Bergamot (commonly known as Earl Grey – my favorite); Orange or Lemon; or add a pinch of Stevia rather than that spoonful of sugar.
Tea is also astringent. I’m sure many women know that putting a couple of cold tea bags over your eyes for about ten minutes will reduce undereye puffiness. Soaking your feet in a strong tea will get rid of food odor (the tannins change the skin’s pH level making it unfriendly to odor-causing bacteria). It’s also great to ease the pain of a sunburn or to reduce the swelling and itching of a bug bite.
Tea makes a wonderful addition to all money spells and charm bags, or give a charged cup of tea to someone who needs some extra courage or strength. It doesn’t smell very good burning as an incense (at least I don’t think so) but even tea from commercial bags works very well.
You can grow your own! Tea is a wonderful evergreen shrub (3 to 12 feet tall) and will grow nicely outdoors in zone 8 or higher, or you can put it in a (large) pot and bring it indoors for the winter. Be sure your soil drains well and place it where it gets some shade during the day. Yes, it’s related to the camellia most of us know as a flowering bush and smells wonderful when blooming.
So, take a hint from the English and enjoy an afternoon cup of Tea. The small amount of caffeine will help sharpen your wits and you’ll be getting all sorts of health benefits. This sounds loverly. I may just have to take a break from the desk and go make a pot.