On cold days like these, folks take some form of warm comfort drink. For some, it's hot chocolate, for others, coffee, and yet for others (myself included), it's tea. However, there is one particular kind of tea that I would like to recommend, green tea. I will also discuss the origins of its use, its consumption and popularity in Eastern and Western Civilization, and finally, the health benefits which make it worth drinking.
Tea was discovered in China 3,000 years ago. Legend has it that the Emperor Shennoog, tired from his long travels, took a rest to refresh himself and his travelling party. Without his noticing, some leaves from a nearby tea bush chanced to fall into his cup of boiled water (it was boiled for sanitary purposes).
He was pleased with the flavor the leaves gave the water and the energy drinking this new infusion gave him that he had it prepared from that time forward. There are four types of teas: green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and white tea. All come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis and what makes each of them different are the ways they are processed.
Green Tea is made by steaming and drying the leaves as soon as they are picked. Herbal teas, or infusions differ from leaf tea since they are made by combining different kinds of herbs and use various parts of plants. Flowers, roots, stems, bark, and leaves can be prepared as an infusion while "real" tea only uses leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant.
Tea experts take tea in the strictest sense, as coming from the tea leaf and herbal teas are considered as simply infusions, not teas. Unless you are speaking with an expert, herbal "tea" and herbal "infusion" are interchangeable terms.
Even long before the steeping and processing of tea was developed, tea leaves were chewed and eaten in Asia. In the Eighth Century BC, the Chinese developed steaming. This stops the process of oxidization so the leaves stay green instead of darkening. Baking and roasting the leaves was a method developed later.
Tea became a social convention in China by the Fifth Century BC, during the Tang Dynasty. The tea ceremony, a ritualized way of preparing and presenting tea, was an intregal part of culture and life.The Chinese drank green tea after every meal to aid digestion, especially after the consumption of greasy food. Green tea provides an internal clean-up and it's tough on grease!
Leftover tea water was used to wash the dishes and table instead of soap. It was also used as a furniture cleaner and as a cooking ingredient. Tea leaves add taste to food and dissolve fat. Tea leaves added to bath water revive the skin, help circulation, cool sunburns, and have anti-aging qualities. Green tea was also used in Asian medicine.
Europeans learned about tea when Portuguese priests who were missionaries in Japan wrote about it, informing the West of the tea's flavor and health qualities. Tea was brought to Europe from East Asia in the Sixteenth Century AD by European traders. Tea was later shipped to America and became so popular in the English Colonies that Britain imposed a tax on it in 1767, which sparked what we know as the Boston Tea Party. Today, the consumption of green tea is popular because many want to reap the many health benefits that the beverage has to offer.
Drinking two to three cups of green tea a day may help prevent cancer and dementia. It can help to regulate glucose levels and thus prevent diabetes as well. Green tea could reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and heart attack. It lowers cholesterol, helps to maintain a healthy circulatory system, and increases metabolism.
Drinking green tea is helpful for weight loss as, I've mentioned before, it dissolves fat. The tea aids digestion and acts as an anti-toxin by preventing food poisoning. It strengthens tooth enamel, prevents tooth decay and bad breath. Since it is so rich in antioxidants, green tea may slow down aging and keep the skin healthy and looking young.
Green tea only contains somewhere between 35 and 70 milligrams of caffeine while coffee has an amount between 150 and 200 milligrams. It can keep you awake without a crash. The list of health benefits goes on but these listed should be enough to convince you to put green tea on your next shopping list.
During the cold winter season, which warm drink will you choose? Will it be the sugary hot chocolate? The caffeine-laden coffee? Perhaps it will be a herbal infusion. It's only a matter of preference. I recommend green tea because it is not only a warm comfort drink, it is an investment in your health.