has it that tea was first discovered accidentally by Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2737 BCE. He was sitting beneath a tree as his servant brought him a cup of boiling water. Leaves from the tree blew into his cup. Coincidentally, Shen Nung was also a renowned herbalist and he decided to try the concoction his servant had accidentally created. And tea was born.
It’s hard to imagine that a simple breeze, couple of falling leaves and the timely arrival of a cup of boiling water could have led to the multi billion dollar industry of Tea! (Too bad the servant remained un named)
regardless of the truth behind this tale, the fact of the matter is that evidence of tea has been found in tombs in China dating back as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). And while in Asia,tea has been rooted firmly in their culture for centuries- does anyone remember the Japanese tea ceremony from Karate Kid 2, so beautiful and romantic to 6 year old me – it did not gain popularity in Britain until Catherine Braganza, a Portuguese Princess who married Charles II, made it fashionable to drink at court.
if only all tea ceremonies included Ralph Macchio circa 1986.. sigh…
Fast forward past the heavy taxation of tea, the smuggling and illegal selling of counterfeit tea, the Boston Tea Party and stop at your local David’s Tea or the Starbucks owned Teavana. These shops are the Catherine Braganza’s of today. Drinking tea has moved past milk and sugar to a vast array of choices that can make your head spin. Tea Sommelier is a certification offered out there in the world for those who are passionate about, well, tea. And if that isn’t something that interests you, here is your crash course to get through ordering a “cuppa.”
All tea, which is called “true tea” comes from the same plant – Camellia sinensis. Teas which are made from flowers, herbs, other plants are considered herbal teas, for example Chamomile.
True tea is divided into four categories, based on level of oxidization.
White Tea – un oxidized
- has high amount of antioxidant content (higher than green tea)
- Stress relieving
- boosts metabolism
- Promotes weight loss
- High in antioxidant content
Oolong Tea – semi oxidized
- said to reduce plaque in arteries
- Lower cholesterol
- Boost metabolism
- Promote weight loss
Black Tea – oxidized
- “western” teas such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey fall into this category
- Highest caffeine content
- Rich in theoflavins and thearubigens which have been shown to lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular conditions
While there are so many teas which fall into these categories, company specific blends that are both gratifyingly yummy as well as good for you, always remember to follow specific brewing instructions. For example, contrary to what most of us do, using boiling water actually can burn the tea! Better to boil the water and then let it cool to 160 – 180 degrees farenheit.
Visit these sites to learn more about the perfect brew:
Regardless of oxidization levels, benefits or even flavour, the best thing about tea is the chance to take a moment by yourself or with a favourite person and just relax – that perhaps is the most beneficial property of all.
What’s your flavour or preferred way to drink a cup of tea? I love mine with milk and a spoon of sugar (I am a Tetley girl at the core)