A ways back I wrote a little post singing the praises of coffee. Now, for reasons unbeknownst to me, there exist in this fallen world of ours people who actually don’t like coffee. I know, weird, right? Still and all, it takes all kinds, I suppose. Fortunately, for those poor, benighted, coffee deprived souls there exists an alternative; tea.
So, dear readers, lend me your ears, for I come here not to bury tea, but to praise it.
First, a little house keeping. Today I will not be discussing the various concoctions of boiled flowers, berries and nuts that altogether too many people call tea. I will only be addressing the divine beverage brewed by boiling the leaves of the plant camellia sinensis, a shrub native to east Asia.
Wait, wut, “Divine beverage?”
Yes, just because I took a shot at non-coffee drinkers doesn’t mean I don’t like tea. As it happens, I love the stuff, and after my morning coffee, I move on to green tea. And on a rainy Saturday afternoon (like outside my window, right now) there’s nothing like a nice strong cup of English Breakfast tea.
As mentioned above, I will not address those odd smelling concoctions of boiled berries and flowers, this is a post reserved for actual tea; green, black, oolong and white, all of which come from the leaf of the camellia sinensis bush. The differences among them are determined by how they are processed after harvesting.
White Tea is the least processed of the teas. In fact, it is basically unprocessed, just harvested and dried and provides a very light coloured brew.
Green Tea is minimally processed. It is harvested and dried, some types are steamed, and it provides a light coloured brew.
Oolong Tea undergoes a process of sun withering before being baked or roasted. The brew is generally orange coloured.
Black Tea is the most oxidized of the teas, and produces the darkest brew with the strongest flavour.
Basically, the darker the brew, the greater the processing and oxidization of the leaf.
All true teas contain caffeine, so if the tea name doesn’t contain the word “herbal,” it’s got caffeine. As with the colour and strength of the brew, generally the darker the cup, the greater the caffeine level.
Now, why drink the stuff? It goes back to antioxidants. Tea is healthy because contains a high quantity of antioxidants (you know, the reason coffee and cocoa are healthy). The greatest source of anti-oxidants in the North American diet is coffee, but tea is the second most consumed drink in the world (after water). So, outside of N.A., that number one source of antioxidants is tea.
The different processing methods change the properties of the various teas and with them their health benefits. Depending on the particular brew you’re drinking, tea can help prevent:
– certain cancers
– heart disease
– Alzheimer’s disease
– Parkinson’s disease
– high cholesterol
and there’s even some research indicating that Oolong tea can help with weight loss. For a more full accounting of which tea does what, try WebMD.com.
Anyway, even if you’re like me, and they’ll pry your coffee cup from your cold, dead hands, there’s no reason you shouldn’t drink tea, and a great many good reasons to do so.