When one drinks tea, he or she is partaking in a ritual that has been enjoyed for over 4,000 years. Only water is consumed more worldwide and while coffee has some proven benefits, tea far outranks Joe in the health department. Slow down, take the time to appreciate its many nuances in color, aroma and flavor… And now suddenly, like wine, tea is complex and sensual.
The One and Only Tea
Shopping the tea section at your local market can be a bit misleading. At first glance, the variety of flavors, colors and combinations is plenty, even overwhelming at times. However, did you know only one “tea” actually exists. Real tea has to come from the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis, the same plant that makes up tea’s five varietals: white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. Yup!… Chinese green tea and English Breakfast are the same plant. And nope!… Chamomile is not tea. Any infusion of leaves, spices or herbs steeped in your cup of hot water other than the one and only Camellia Sinesis (tea plant) is officially a tisane. That is not to say that tisanes aren’t special in their own right, but we’ll touch on those at a later time.
Why Tea is Healthy
Tea’s many health properties have been attributed to its high antioxidant, flavonoid and photochemical content. Even higher than food or drink items traditionally considered healthy, including fruits, vegetables and juices! Combined with a naturally balanced blend of caffeine and certain amino acids that have a relaxing effect on the body, a cup of tea can have a stimulating yet calming effect. Here are just a few more reasons to get really excited about your new-found indulgence:
The Health Benefits of Drinking Tea
- Tea’s chemical composition allows for a slow and prolonged release of caffeine, which translates to sustained energy with little or no “jitters” and no crash;
- Tea can increase endurance and the ability to burn fat as fuel, which accounts for better muscle retention and performance during exercise or strenuous activity (and a thinner waste line)!
- Despite its caffeine, tea is hydrating to the body;
- Studies suggest that, due to its high antioxidant levels, tea might help protect against an array of cancers, including breast, skin, lung, ovarian, prostate and oral cancers, to name a few;
- Tea helps fight the free radicals that can damage our DNA. With a high capacity to absorb oxygen radicals that are linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological degeneration, studies indicate that tea could help aid in the prevention of heart attacks and disorders like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s;
- Tea keeps you smart! Polyphenols in green tea may help maintain the parts of the brain that regulate learning and memory;
- Tea has many restorative properties and has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength. Similarly, tea might counteract some of the negative effects of smoking and studies show that tea can help the body recover from exposure to radiation;
- Tea might also protect from ultraviolet rays acting as a back-up sunscreen.
Tea, More Than Just a Healthy Beverage
Keep in mind that while most research on tea is highly positive, it is not all definitive. You can, however, rest assured that beyond its mystique and great taste, tea is a truly special beverage, a timeless drink still awaiting loads of discovery.