Legend has it that tea was first discovered in 2737 B.C. when Emperor Shen Nong of China drank water that tea leaves had fallen into. True tea comes from Camellio sinensis, a flowering evergreen that produces black, green and oolong tea leaves. The difference between the leaves is in the processing: Black tea leaves are fermented fully, oolong partially and green not at all.
Tea is mellower than coffee, has a more subtle flavor and is lower in caffeine. It is meant to be sipped, not gulped; thus, it has a more meditative, calming property than coffee. Not only is tea good for the soul but recent studies show that tea may be good for the body. What is it about tea that makes it good for you?
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals (reactive oxygen molecules) before thay have had a chance to damage the body's cells. Tea contains flavonoids, a naturally occuring plant antioxidant. This antioxidant may help prevent lung, colon and mouth cancer. Drinking tea may also reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes by lowering cholesterol and preventing blood clots. Tea that is processed into a powdered form and ready-to-drink tea still have antioxidants but at a lower level than freshly brewed tea. Some studies show that two cups of tea have the same amount of flavonoids as a typical serving of vegetables. But don't stop eating those veggies yet. It is recommended that a variety of antioxidants is the best thing for you.
How much tea you should drink is in debate. A survey in Japan says 10 cups a day are good, while a Dutch survey says only four. Another study says four cups are better than two and that periodic doses during the day are better. In other words, two cups in the morning and two at night are better than four in the morning.
Research has not yet proven which tea is better for you, green or black. Green tea contains more fluoride and epigqallocatechin gallate (EGCG). However, most of the research on the benefits of tea is done in Japan, where green tea is king.
So far the bulk of studies on the benefits of drinking tea has been done as animal testing, test-tube studies or epidemiological studies of tea drinking populations. It won't be until human studies really get going that we can hope to truly understand the benefits of drinking tea. But for now the evidence points to it being very beneficial.
How about some extra tea trivia to close with. There are more than 3,000 varieties of tea, categorized by where each is grown, how it is picked and processed, the age of the leaf when harvested and whether it's a fermented black tea, unfermented green tea or semi-fermented oolong tea.
Whether you like your tea hot or iced, the health benefits are the same. So sit back, relax and enjoy a cuppa tea, maybe even two or four.