Now that fall is officially here and the dead of winter is soon approaching the nights are going to get much longer and colder from here on end. I used to be a hot chocolate kind of girl during these unforgiving times (with whip cream and a hint of cinnamon of course) but since my sinuses tend to flare up when it comes to most things dairy (on top of trying to curb my sweet tooth) I’ve had to find a decent substitute. So why not substitute with a nice cup of tea?
I never used to be a tea person, not even iced tea during the summer. The after taste would be a huge turn off. I guess now that I’m getting older and less picky about food, I’ve come to embrace tea. When most think of tea they think herbs…all kinds of herbs. However, tea is in a league of it’s own. Most “teas” out on the market are not really teas per se. Here’s why…..
*****Herbal Infusions (tisanes) Vs. Tea (Camellia sinensis)*****
In order for a tea to be considered an official tea it should come from the plant Camellia sinensis aka Tea. Unless it contains this plant it’s technically not a tea. The leaves and several other parts of this plant are used to provide what we know to be official tea.
Herbal teas (really herbal infusions or Tisane) on the other hand comes from a variety of seeds, herbs and spices such as chamomile, cinnamon, ginger, lavender etc. The slight difference is that tea is a plant of it’s own kind and tea tends to have more caffeine than most herbal infusions. Not that herbal teas (tisane) are not as good, just that tea has it’s own chemical structure unique to itself just like any other plant.
All tea comes from Camellia Sinensis (tea plant) which has been cultivated for thousands of years all throughout the world especially Asia, with China being the most popular country to cultivate tea. Tea has an extensive history throughout not only China but around the world as well. The many varieties of teas we are familiar with all depends on the different techniques and fermentation processes the tea plant has gone through.
The color of most teas can vary from white, green to black. Depending on the level of fermentation, processing, climate, mountain, picking method and season the aroma, taste and color of tea can vary significantly.
*****Types of Teas*****
White Tea (unfermented) sweet in taste
Green Tea (unfermented) bitter-sweet in taste
Black Tea (fermented) Bitter sweet
Oolong Tea (semi fermented) Bitter sweet
As I mentioned, tea is in a league of it’s own especially when it comes to it’s medicinal properties.
The history of tea began as a medicinal one and with no wonder considering the many health benefits a cup of tea every now and then can provide. In China especially, tea has been consumed for thousands of years for it’s incredible medicinal properties.
Tea has been related to reducing the risk of many types of cancers. Ovarian, breast, colon, esophageal and even skin cancer to name a few.
Heart Disease/Weight loss
Tea has also been been attributed with boosting metabolism levels which helps encourage healthy weight loss. Tea is also diuretic helping reduce water retention making it an ideal slimming beverage. Tea also reduces the risk of arterial disease, high blood pressure and helps keep bad cholesterol levels at bay.
Anti aging and Immune Boosting Qualities
Tea contains high levels of antioxidants (polyphenols) which is what sets tea apart. Essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, Tea helps detoxify the body eliminating excess waste and toxins. It’s antioxidant level slows down the process of aging as well.
One of the reasons why I was not too keen to tea was because of it’s almost grassy bitter after taste. Trying not to give up such great benefits I decided to give tea another try. With white tea as far as bitterness that is not the case. I went out to my natural health store last weekend and picked up this White Tea for 4.50, a pack of 16 by Choice Organic Teas. Since white tea goes through less processing the taste is not as strong. This tea is very sweet and smooth and it’s just right for me in terms of after taste.
Unlike green and black tea, white tea contains little to no caffeine, which is great especially for the evenings. White tea is great for gynecological problems, headaches, arthritis and helps detoxify the blood as well.
White tea contains a load of antioxidants, it’s also antibacterial and antiviral while it enhances the immune system. It’s also rich in fluoride helping make your bones and teeth healthier.
I will keep exploring the many varieties of teas out there and see which one works best for me. I have a cup of white tea every morning with a little brown sugar, even though this white tea is naturally sweet. Although I have never had issues with constipation, I find that I “go” to the bathroom more often than usual. A sign perhaps that the white tea is helping me cleanse. One of the reasons why I purchased it in the first place.
In the mean time I will be indulging in tea and herbal infusions most of this winter as well as try other varieties of tea to see what else works best for me. Until then indulge in a cup of tea it cleanses, warms you up and provides your immune system with many benefits as well.
Tea and tea products: chemistry and health-promoting properties
By Chi-Tang Ho, Jen-Kun Lin, Fereidoon Shahidi
The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody
Asian Health Secrets by Letha Hadady