The Secret Benefits of Tea

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The Secret Benefits of Tea

Popping up all over the country, teahouses and tea bars are responding to the demand for one of the world's oldest and most famous beverages. Tea is made from the Camellia sinensis bush, commonly called the tea bush. The leaves, buds, and twigs of the plant are fermented, heated, dried (and sometimes mixed with other herbs), then brewed by steeping in very hot water. The growing popularity of tea makes perfect sense. Scientific evidence has been mounting in recent years to support centuries-old claims that drinking tea is good for your health. Besides that, tea is tasty. If you haven't yet jumped on this ancient tradition turned trend, here are some reasons you should.

Drink it because it's a tradition.

Legend has it that thousands of years ago, a Chinese Emperor was passing through a rural village when he stopped to have some water. The villagers were boiling the water to purify it, as was required by the emperor, when some leaves from a nearby tea bush fell into the pot. The emperor drank it anyway, enjoyed it, and tea was born. Since then, tea has woven itself into nearly every Eastern culture and slowly migrated to the West.

Drink it for the variety.

True tea is made from the tea bush and is not to be confused with herbal tea, which is made from dried herbs or fruits, like chamomile, ginseng, or peppermint. There are four basic types of tea: Black tea is produced by allowing tea leaves to completely ferment before heating. Oolong tea is only partially fermented. Green tea is produced by steaming freshly-picked leaves before heat-drying. And white tea is only withered and dried by steaming. There are over 3,000 varieties of tea, each with its own unique character and name--which comes from the district in which it was cultivated.

Drink it because it's good for your heart.

According to a 1999 study of tea by the American Health Foundation, both green and black teas contain antioxidants that can help to decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol.

Drink it for its antioxidants.

According to that same study, green and black teas can also lower the risk of certain types of cancers due to their powerful antioxidant content.

Drink it for your gut.

The consumption of tea also may also improve intestinal health by reducing undesirable bacteria and increasing beneficial bacteria.

Drink it for your teeth.

Scientists at the University of Illinois College of Dentistry have found that compounds in black tea are capable of killing or suppressing the growth and acid production of cavity-causing bacteria found in dental plaque. And according to the Yale-New Haven hospital, green tea also inhibits the growth of oral bacteria, and can be used as a mouth rinse to reduce plaque and the incidence of periodontal disease.

Drink it because it's economical.

One pound of loose tea leaves can stretch far enough to brew over 200 cups of tea. So if you’re on a budget, skip the teahouse and brew your own tea at home. You can buy pre-made bags, which are simple and convenient, but the quality of your brew won’t be as high, since these teas are ground more finely and may taste bitter. For a better brew, buy tea leaves from the bulk bins at your natural foods market to get the best price and quality. Pour 6-8 ounces of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of tea leaves. Brew for 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice, and then strain out the leaves with a tea strainer, which is simply a tiny tightly woven kitchen strainer.

But don't drink it with milk.

A popular way to enjoy tea is to add milk and sugar to the mix. Unfortunately, adding milk to a cup of tea can destroy its ability to protect against heart disease, according to research. Casein, the protein in milk, is thought to be responsible for this effect. (This is also why milk chocolate doesn't offer health benefits like dark chocolate.)

And don't drink it before bed.

Tea contains naturally occurring caffeine, which can cause insomnia, anxiety, irritability, upset stomach, or nausea in some people. If you are sensitive to caffeine, look for naturally decaffeinated varieties or avoid it a few hours before bedtime.

Finally, drink it because it's delicious.

Although no scientific study can predict which variety will correlate with your enjoyment, chances are good that you'll find a tea that you love!

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Member Comments on this Slideshow

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5/18/2012 1:10:17 PM

Decaf green tea with no sweetner. 5-6 cups a day.


5/18/2012 1:01:08 PM

I appreciate the information here - especially the amazing insights from our members.
I am a Tea neophyte, but like it. It has been one of my "comfort' foods.
During the summer I drink a lot of iced tea. The winter is when I drink hot tea. Always with honey or sweetening.
Thank you for expanding my knowledge.


5/18/2012 12:59:08 PM

I love tea :)


5/18/2012 12:56:48 PM

I'm a major tea addict. I have about 20 varieties in my cabinet, and I pay a fortune for fresh, imported tea. My favorite is chamomile and jasmine (jasmine being white tea.) I also love a good oolong.


5/18/2012 12:55:27 PM

i like my green tea with lemon . love green tea i find black is to strong of flavour for me. maybe if it,s not made to strong maybe i,d like it.i,d like to try different kinds and see which is my favorite.


5/18/2012 12:41:42 PM

I absolutely LOVE tea and drink it every day!! However I am disappointed in the author only focusing on the health benefits of green and black tea. While there are many health benefits to white and oolong tea as well! (granted more studies have been done on green and black tea so i can see why the author did so) Oolong tea can promote healthy skin and teeth, aid in digestion, and even metabolism! White tea is also high in antioxidants and may even promote healthy skin! White tea is also VERY low in caffeine with only 1-2% of the caffeine found in coffee, therefore it doesn't keep most people up all night or anything like that even if consumed right before bed. Plus quality loose leaf tea can be steeped multiple times, where each cup will have the same great flavor and antioxidants, but the caffeine is almost completely gone after the first brew and and even more so with the next. So you can drink from the same leaves morning noon and night no matter the caffeine level. With bags of tea, they are only really good for one brew. Loose leaf teas are better quality, taste, and are better for you then ground up store bought teas. Also one VERY important thing that the author forgot is different teas should be brewed differently! Store bought teas it doesn't really matter because they are all processed & ground up ect. But in actuallity real tea leaves are quite delicate and can burn easily leaving a bitter unpleasant taste to the tea! White teas should be brewed at approx 175 degrees (which you aprox get if you add 2 ice cubes to 8oz boiling water) and should be brewed about 4-5mins, if it's flavored maybe as little as 1. Green is the most tender and should be brewed at 175 for only 1 min or less, if the brew has a bitter taste brew for a shorter time in the future. Oolong and black tea should be brewed at about 195 for about 3 minutes. Although all tea can vary and there are some that can be brewed hotter and longer and not burn and get bitter following this will give you the best cup of tea you've ever had!! I know that no matter the caffeine content in the tea I choose for the day I always feel better and more energized!!


5/18/2012 11:54:52 AM

ABBYBN1's SparkPage
Tea is good :) i Love Organo Gold Tea


5/18/2012 11:41:51 AM

CSMNETC's SparkPage
As a Southern gal, I was raised on tea - hot, iced & sweet! Fortunately, my mother modeled the benefits of drinking a "proper" cup of tea, made in a proper pot, and served in a proper fashion (Her favorite blend was Lady Grey). Always loved having tea with my mother, and loved hosting proper teas with lady friends -- when it was NOT a trendy thing, and wasn't nearly so "cool." :) Maryjean


5/18/2012 11:24:48 AM

I love tea, drink it most
of the day but with milk! try it without now since reading the benefits of tea.


5/18/2012 11:22:40 AM

MUMBLES40's SparkPage
I have loved tea since I was a teen- all the varieties are so fun to taste! Nice to hear about the health benefits too; usually coffee takes all the news.


5/18/2012 10:43:59 AM

My favorite tea is China Pearl decaf white tea from Celestial Seasonings. In the last few years it has become impossible to to find in Ontario, Canada. I miss it so much!


5/18/2012 10:24:59 AM

MSTAMARA31's SparkPage
Thanks for this article, I really love tea.


5/18/2012 10:24:48 AM

MSTAMARA31's SparkPage
Thanks for this article, I really love tea.


5/18/2012 10:19:31 AM

APONI_KB's SparkPage
hmm I would bet money that the people in that village were already brewing tea and the emperor took credit for it

times may change but the 1% never does


5/18/2012 9:55:41 AM

SUEZJK's SparkPage
There are soo many great teas for health and being holistic I USE them! The dieters tea is wonderful - but be carful you don,t want more than 2 cups a day , read the directions! It has a clensing effect!I Enjoy delicious flavored sun tea this time of year ! also add a bit of wildflower honey (or your favorite honey for extra zing health and flavor w/o the sugar! I purchase mine from the farmers at the farmers market! Purity and health ! TEA is fabulous!

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