July 13, 2015
Picture the scene: you’ve had a really rough day. You’re cradling a just-made cup of tea and your mind wanders. What will you feed the kids for dinner? When is that college deadline? Why is your co-worker so frustrating? All normal stuff. But I bet you don’t think about your cup in hand. Yes, tea is grown in far off, exotic locations and you probably picked yours up in the supermarket. But, how did it get here?
All tea initially came from China. Yes, believe it or not, this British-adopted beverage has been drank in the East for centuries. And so, technically, it’s only a relatively new product on British shores. There is a beautiful legend that tea was first discovered by an Emperor, around 200BC, when a leaf from the Camellia sinensis plant (that’s the tea plant to you and I) dropped into his hot water and he decided to drink it anyway. Whether this is true or not, one thing is for certain, tea was the national drink over 2,000 years before it arrived on British shores.
It was first exported to Japan, where monks had tried and enjoyed the tea during educational and religious visits to China. Europe really only got a hold on tea in the 16/17th centuries and it was Portugal and Holland that first started exporting to Europe. Both countries had missionaries and traded with the East long before the UK. Due to the high prices of exporting, though, tea was very firmly only for the wealthy.
Tea was initially brought to Britain in small amounts, not as a trading item, but rather as gifts for friends
and family from the merchants and traders returning from China who had seen its popularity there. Most people didn’t really know what to do with it and it didn’t really take off. However, a Royal wedding towards the end of the 1600s saw a British monarch marry a Portuguese princess who was practically obsessed with the stuff. She’d only be able to cope with the rubbish weather and food if she had her beloved brew.
Thanks to the monopoly created by the East India Company, tea was a valuable commodity, but still too expensive for a lot of people to afford due to a whopping tax on the plant. This led to some sneaky pirating and smuggling.
Fast forward to mid 18th Century and not only was the tax on tea slashed, but the East India Company was losing its grip on the trade. As they were the sole importers of tea, there wasn’t a great rush to get it from China to England and boats were often laden with other cargo. Other companies wanted to benefit from this popular product, and so the famous tea clipper was born. These ships were solely for the export of tea and could get the leaves home much quicker than the bulky old cargo ships.
This had a massive knock-on effect, and as the East India Company was about to close its doors for the last time due to lack of revenue, someone had a genius idea. Instead of bartering, trading and essentially depending on China for tea, why don’t we grow our own? This was a seriously dangerous task – foreigners were only allowed in port cities in China and the tea plants were closely guarded. After all, they wouldn’t want to loose their most valuable source of income.
Seeds and plants were stolen and smuggled out from China to be planted in India, the Company’s main headquarters. Early crops failed, due to their location and inexperienced workers who didn’t know how to deal with tea. Chinese nationals were lured to India on the promise of big responsibility and even bigger salaries to help kick-start the tea empire outside China. By the end of the 1800s most of the tea drunk in Britain was from India.
Today, British owned companies and brands are still at the forefront of tea production and exporting.
For more on the history of tea, head to this webpage.
January 6, 2015
We all have them, don’t we? Those friends who are constantly talking about their new healthy lifestyle and how they feel so much better all of a sudden. They try to convince you to take up the same stupid fad diet they’re on, because we won’t believe just how good we’ll feel once we’ve done it. Everything that was ever wrong with them is due to the food that we are still eating and we’re idiots for not following in their footsteps.
There’s one problem: these friends are invariably huge. That’s right, they’re fat slobs. Or they’re ultra skinny. Point is, they’re unhealthy. They follow some fad diet and five months ago they were following some other fad diet. A few months from now it will be something new. They think they are living a healthy lifestyle, but they are not. They’re cutting out foods that our body needs because some idiot somewhere told them these foods are unhealthy. They’re replacing them with who knows what.
All the while, they continue to eat all kinds of junk food and drink the unhealthiest possible drinks. You know what I’m talking about. They’re sipping on sodas and putting sugar in fruit juices and smoothies and so on. And of course, there is tea. We’ve all heard that tea is a major part of a healthy lifestyle. The type of tea differs from online health blog guru to online health blog guru. Some will tell you green tea is the healthiest, others will tell you, you should absolutely be drinking white tea. I’ve seen ones pushing oolong tea a lot recently. Then there are the ones pushing pu’er tea for whatever reason.
The reality is, all teas are healthy. It doesn’t matter which variety of tea you drink, it is good for your health. The problem with this fat slob of a friend of yours who is pushing his latest fad diet and telling you how great he feels and how he started drinking tea, is that he is not really drinking tea. He’s probably buying some bottled sugar water with a slight tea flavor. Or maybe he is actually brewing the tea himself at home with a tea bag full of cheap, crappy leaves. Actually, leaves is the wrong word. You can’t really call the left-over dust and stems found inside most teabags tea leaves.
Anyway, your fat friend is using these teabags, putting them in hot water for a minute or two, then pouring in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Maybe they’re adding milk, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter, since the sugar ruins at all. And when you spend the rest of the day drinking 15 Cokes, a few cups of tea-flavored sugar water are not going to make you skinny. These people will always remain fat and you really shouldn’t listen to them when it comes to health advice. But, you already knew that, didn’t you?
If you want to be healthier, the best thing you can do is stick to unprocessed foods. Of course, some natural foods are less healthy than others. Red meat for example is not the healthiest thing around. Definitely eat some, though. It taste great and it’s actually good for you. But as they say, everything in moderation. Take it from me, I can tell you that even eating too many vegetables can be bad for you. If you eat gigantic portions of only vegetables, you will end up with diarrhea. You diet needs to be balanced.
So, eat unprocessed foods and drink natural drinks. I spend most of my day drinking water and tea. I’ll switch it around and have a green tea one day, an oolong tea the next day, and a lovely black tea the third day. I’ll have some white tea, too. I won’t have flavored tea, because it’s really pointless and usually there are additives in it as well. Tea and water. That’s all you really need and if that’s all you drink, you are drinking very healthy. Just don’t put any sugar in any of that.
If you are looking for a healthy green tea, try Dragon Well tea from China.
April 18, 2014
I’ll be honest, I’m exhausted trying to keep up with the latest food fads in terms of health benefits. I feel bad that I’m not making a chia seed smoothie or spooning coconut oil on everything I eat. That’s not to say I don’t like to take care of myself, though, because I do. Like many people, I have a busy life where, for five days a week, it’s a miracle I get my five cups of tea a day.
I’ve heard people talk about the virtues of green tea, and how it can do wonders for your health. But how much of that is actually true? And what about plain old black tea? I drink buckets of the stuff!
Well for a start, in the Western world, we average four cups of tea a day. And if you have it with milk, then you’re getting around 15% of your daily calcium intake. Add to that, though, potassium, zinc, manganese and a few B vitamins (2,6, and 12) and you’ve got between 5-20% of your RDA for these nutrients. The amounts vary depending on number of cups and if you take it with or without milk.
While that may sound impressive, is it? Umm, yes, actually. Getting enough of the above nutrients is essential for growth. And I’m not just talking height. We all know calcium is important for healthy bones, but so is manganese as it also helps with cartilage formation. Zinc and B12 are central to tissue repair and nerve health, while potassium is also good for regulating fluid in the body. (Ladies, take note).
Tea is also chock-full of little health bombs called antioxidants. These protect us from nasties such as heart disease, cancers and strokes. They work in a mysterious way that has something to do with free radicals roaming your body trying to do harm. Antioxidants keep them in check. This means they help fight inflammation, boost your immune system and help counter-balance your cholesterol after a massive cheeseburger.
The particular type of antioxidants found in tea are called flavonoids. You can also find them in apples, onions and parsley. Personally though, I’d rather go for wine, tea and chocolate where they can also be found. The tea plant has the highest amount of flavonoids though and so counts for more than half the flavonoid consumption in tea-drinking Europe.
That doesn’t mean we can shun the fruits and vegetables however. The amount of flavonoids in your cup depends a lot on the quality of your tea—fresh loose leaf over tea bag is best. And also whether it’s black or green tea you’re drinking. Green tea has more of the so-called ‘simple antioxidants’ due to early picking, while black tea gets more oxygen and so has more ‘complex’ antioxidants.
Some recent studies have even gone on to suggest that around three cups of tea a day can help prevent against crippling long-term diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. There have been more concrete cases for tea helping with arthritis and preventing cancer.
For general, everyday health though, tea, green in particular, helps fight against plaque, wards off the flu and helps calm you down after a stressful meeting with your boss/mother-in-law/college professor thanks to its ability to help lower blood pressure. Plus, contrary to old wives tales, there is less caffeine in tea. Meaning you get that refreshed feeling without the mid-afternoon crash or not being able to sleep at night.
Of course, all of this goes out the window if you accompany your cup with a massive slice of cake. But everything in moderation. After all what is it they say about the 80/20 rule?
January 15, 2014
Drinking tea can lead to weight loss. You’ve heard this before, I’m sure. In fact, if you search for those very words, you will get back thousands of results with articles about the weight loss benefits of tea, green tea and white tea especially. Many of those articles are trying to sell you something and that is why they are so excited about explaining how tea can help you lose weight. Sadly, the truth is that drinking tea does not directly lead to weight loss.
That is not to say that tea is not healthy and that it does not help you lose weight. It just doesn’t do so directly. What this means is that starting to drink tea one day will not result in the pounds melting off the next. In fact, if the only change you make in your life is drinking tea and everything else stays the same, you will not lose a single pound.
How can people say that drinking green tea or white tea leads to weight loss then? Well, first of all, when people begin drinking tea, they drink less of something else. We only need so much liquid per day, so every cup of tea replaces a cup of some other liquid and usually that other liquid is much less healthy than tea. The type of people who are trying to lose weight generally drink a lot of unhealthy drinks, like sodas and other drinks with a ton of sugar. When they start drinking tea, they will drink fewer of these unhealthy drinks and that will help them lose weight. The weight loss does not result directly from the tea intake, but from what was given up for that tea.
Beyond that, drinking tea functions as a type of signal. By this I mean it is a signal to yourself, to your mind, that you will now begin to live healthier. It is an easy first step on the road to a healthier lifestyle. In order to actually lose weight, you will need to change your diet and it would not hurt to exercise as well. The steps are fairly hard, but just adding tea to your daily routine is relatively simple. Because of this, many people begin with the tea and then take on incrementally more difficult tasks that can result in weight loss. In this way, a daily tea habit is a great beginning to a healthier lifestyle.
For this article I have mentioned green tea and white tea, but any other tea made from the actual tea plant is just as healthy. Herbal teas do not enter into the equation here. They come from different plants and as such have very different properties from real tea. Some of them are very healthy and some of them don’t do much at all. They are beyond the scope of this article and you’ll have to look elsewhere to find out about herbal teas.
As far as actual teas go, we have the two I have already mentioned plus oolong tea, black tea, yellow tea and pu erh tea. You will find a ton of articles on each of these, many of them claiming that whatever tea they are talking about is the healthiest and that you should buy their pills or supplements or whatever, but the truth is the health benefits of every one of these teas is about the same. The type of tea does not have as much effect on this as other factors, like the type of plant the tea leaves cam from or the location where the plant was grown or the manner in which it was processed.
January 14, 2014
You’ll hear a lot of different answers to this question and they’re mostly all right and all wrong. Others make it simple: the healthiest tea is matcha. This is a high quality powdered green tea from Japan. It is made by grinding the tea leaves from the highest-quality teas into a fine powder. Because of this the whole leaves are consumed, not just the brewed essence, which means the health benefits are multiplied by a factor of at least 10. For more on matcha green tea powder, go here.
Apart from matcha, it gets a little bit complicated. Mostly you’ll hear that white tea is the next healthiest, but that isn’t really true. It often gets credit for having less caffeine and more nutrients, but none of those things really depend on the type of the tea. They depend on the tea plant itself and the area and manner in which it is grown. This means that a white tea from a less healthy plant is less healthy than a white tea from a healthier plant. Similarly the less healthy white tea is less healthy than a black tea from a healthier plant. Does that make sense?
Because of this, I wouldn’t worry too much about what type of tea you’re drinking. It’s hard to know what kind of plant it came from and where it came from and how it was grown. You’re best off just drinking whatever you prefer and whatever one tastes best to you, as the differences in the health benefits are not generally all that great anyway.
The one thing you might want to look out for are human pollutants. By that I mean chemicals, pesticides, etc. You want to be especially wary of these in teas from China and even more in teas from India. Regulation is somewhat lax in these countries and enforcement is virtually nonexistent due to ridiculous levels of corruption. It’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting when you buy an Indian or a Chinese tea. That said, you could say the same thing for any food we buy. Personally, I tend not to even worry about it, since there is nothing I can do. If I like the taste of the tea, I’ll drink it.
So what was my conclusion exactly? Well, I guess I didn’t really have one. Basically, if you’re drinking tea especially for the health benefits, you’ll want to go with matcha. The main problem with this green tea powder is that it is very difficult to brew. Luckily, you don’t have to brew it. As a powder it can easily be added to all kinds of foods and there are hundreds of recipes to be found online. After that, I’d go for whatever you like. Personally, I enjoy green teas like sencha from Japan or, if you prefer milder tea, a Dragon well from China. White teas are also incredibly delicious. Here I’d recommend the highest-quality white hair silver needle, or the second highest-quality white peony. Whatever you choose, make sure to follow the brewing instructions carefully, so that you get a cup you’ll actually enjoy. Here’s to your new healthy lifestyle.
For more on white tea:
(1) White tea guide from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_tea
(2) White tea guide from Let’s Drink Tea: http://www.letsdrinktea.com/types-of-tea/white-tea/
January 14, 2014
I suppose most people know tea originated in Asia, but do you know which country? And you know where all it is produced today? The answer to the first question is China. The answer to the second is pretty much everywhere. Okay, not quite, but it is produced in a lot more countries than you might think.
Originally, tea was grown in China. From there it spread to Japan (go here for a budget travel guide) and I suppose also to Korea (travel guide found here), although the Koreans don’t really drink tea the way the Japanese and the Chinese do. Eventually, tea was brought to India from China by the British. They were tired of having to trade with the Chinese for their tea and was looking to create a source of their own.
China Japan and India (head here for a guide) are probably the top three tea drinking countries in the world today. They are also three of the top suppliers. Japan produces almost only green tea, while India produces mostly black, although their Darjeeling tea, while considered a black, is actually an oolong tea. China produces every kind of tea. It is the biggest tea producer on earth.
Other countries that produce large amounts of tea are Sri Lanka (try here for a travel guide) which produces mostly black and some green and Kenya (Kenyan guide here). Even the US produces tea, with Hawaii beginning to grow more and more oolong tea. On top of these countries, there are hundreds of others that produce their own teas, but most of them are not well known yet. And they will probably never be all that well known.
The most famous and highest-quality teas come from four countries: China (travel guide for China found here), Japan, India, and Sri Lanka. Japan produces the highest quality overall, with China coming in second. China loses a lot of points because, although they produce some of the best teas on earth, they also produce a lot of really low quality crap. India is the same but to an even higher degree. Darjeeling is famous as one of the best teas on earth and it is a good tea, but there is just too much horrible tea being passed off as Darjeeling.
If you want to try the highest-quality teas on earth, try a gyokuro from Japan for the best green tea.. For the best white tea, you want a white hair silver needle from China. For the best oolong, you’ll want a big red rope from China. For the best black tea you what a Golden Monkey tea from China or perhaps a Darjeeling from India.
January 14, 2014
I’m sure by now you’ve heard that tea is considered healthy. Drinking this ancient drink from Asia supposedly has all kinds of health benefits, but the truth is, none of tea’s health benefits have ever really been proven. That said, tea does make you healthier and I am living proof. How so you ask?
Well, what makes tea so healthy is not what is in it, though I have no doubt it is filled with healthy components despite the fact that none of the health benefits have been proven, but in what it replaces. When you start drinking a lot of tea every day, it’s only natural that you start drinking less of whatever you were drinking before. And unless you were drinking water or lemon juice with no sugar added, there’s a good chance tea is healthier than your previous drink of choice.
In my case, I had a liter a day coke habit. That’s the disgustingly sweet drink, not the white powder. When I started drinking tea, I stopped drinking Coke. I just wasn’t thirsty enough to drink more. And the most amazing thing happened: I started to hate Coke. Where before, I could drink it by the can or bottle to quench my thirst, now it does nothing for me. Drinking Coke doesn’t make me less thirsty; quite the opposite. It actually makes me thirstier.
Just thinking about the sugary sweet liquid in my mouth makes my spit dry up and makes me crave water or tea or something that actually does quench your thirst. And this is a great thing. It means that my body and my taste buds have adjusted to not having so much sugar. As a result, sugar kind of revolts me. This has had much further reaching effects than just my drink choices. I no longer crave sweet foods either and in fact, I don’t even really enjoy them anymore.
If you’re thinking this could never happen to you, that’s exactly what I would’ve thought. You just need to start drinking tea and it’ll take a month or two, but eventually you’ll be in my position and you’ll want nothing but tea. If you don’t know where to get started, I’d check with some online shops. Here is a good tea website to help you buy online, with a page that reviews and compares some of the more popular tea retailers. That should be a good place for you to start. As for which teas to drink, I cover that in my post titled: Which Tea is the Healthiest?
So get yourself some delicious tea, preferably a loose leaf tea, and start drinking it every day. Trust me, despite how hard this seems at first, it will quickly get much easier. Soon, tea will be easily your favorite drink and you’ll find yourself wanting a cup anytime you get thirsty. Bottoms up!
For more on the health benefits of tea:
(1) 13 Reasons Tea is Good for You on Time.com
(2) Top 10 Health Benefits of Drinking Tea on ivillage
(3) Types of Teas and Their Health Benefits on WebMD