This post was inspired by a non-skid-faux-leopard-slipper-wearing British friend of mine. Don’t even ask, I’m not sure I could explain. She’s quite charming though.
Tea contains plant compounds called polyphenols, which have major antioxidant properties that may help lower cholesterol levels, promote bone strength, and boost the immune system. The polyphenols in tea include EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), one of the super antioxidants being studied for its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory abilities. A recent study from Egypt even suggests green tea may enhance the effects of antibiotics.
The 4 basic types of true tea are black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea. All true teas come from the buds or twigs of the Camellia sinensis bush. Herbal tea refers to an infusion of herbs (like chamomile or rosehips) and fruit and doesn’t normally contain any of the traditional tea bush.
Legend has it that one of the key spiritual leaders of Zen Buddhism, Guatama Buddha, discovered tea when some leaves from the Camellia sinensis bush fell into a pot of water he was heating. He drank the potion and decided it had medicinal and restorative powers. And here we are thousands of years later paying $7 for a can of dried bush leaves. Are we enlightened?
Whatever the case, tea does have some “enlightening” physiological powers. It can be spiritually and emotionally healing as well. Nourishment also includes slowing down, taking a break, and enjoying some quiet time. Having a cup of warm tea with a little honey might be a perfect way to do that.
Potent antioxidants are something we can all use, especially with our hectic lifestyle and the environmental toxins we’re sucking in on a daily basis. Antioxidants prevent or delay the oxidation process. They minimize the effects of free radicals on normal physiological functions. Blah, blah, blah — trust me, that’s a good thing.
I’ll touch on the basics of the most recognized types of tea. All have varying degrees of health benefits, but the least processed forms (exposing them to heat and drying methods) are the best.
White tea – grown in China, more expensive, and produced with the least amount of processing. It is almost colorless and has a delicate flavor.
Green tea – this is the one we’re most familiar with and comes in many varieties from all over Asia. It is stronger in color and flavor, but lower in antioxidant properties than white tea (but still on the high end with overall antioxidant ability).
Oolong tea – the word oolong means “black dragon” in Chinese. This version is more fragrant and flowery and according to some sources can vary between inexpensive Chinese restaurant tea to high-end versions that sell for $10,000 a pound. Huh? And I thought $7 a can was bad.
Black tea – is produced in large quantities in India and Ceylon. (Quick, where is Ceylon?) This is the mainstream stuff, the generic version, the most inexpensive and what we North Americans drink as iced tea. Ugh . . .
Bottom line? Add some green tea to your diet (along with dark chocolate and red wine). Buy organic versions and steep them properly. You can even eliminate most of the caffeine by steeping the leaves in hot water for about thirty seconds and then drain off the water. Now steep the leaves again as you normally would. This doesn’t impact the antioxidant abilities or the flavor for that matter, just the caffeine content
*Ceylon became Sri Lanka in 1972. So, where’s Sri Lanka?
P.S. Okay, I realize this isn’t exactly eating local (100 mile radius), which I’ve been accused of ranting about on occasion, but there are limits to my locavore attempts. Wait, on second thought, I have no idea where Sri Lanka is. Don’t tell me — maybe it’s closer than I think.
In good health,