What is tea?
Tea is the second-most consumed drink in the world, surpassed only by water. An often-surprising fact to tea novices is that all teas (white, green, oolong, black and pu’erh) come from the same plant. The botanical name of this versatile plant is Camellia sinensis. Camellia sinensis is a sub-tropical evergreen plant native to Asia but now grown around the world. The tea plant grows best in loose, deep soil, at high altitudes, and in sub-tropical climates. So, in short, “tea” is anything derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. Anything else, while sometimes called “tea”, is more accurately referred to as an herbal tea or tisane. Tisanes include chamomile, Rooibos and fruit teas.
How is it grown?
The tea plant, which grows in the wild in some parts of Asia, is cultivated in a variety of settings from small family gardens to giant estates covering thousands of acres. The best tea is usually grown at elevation, and often, on steep slopes. The terrain requires that these premium teas be hand-plucked. Many of the teas that are grown for tea bags or iced teas, on the other hand, are grown on large, flat, lowland areas to allow for machine harvesting.
Teas that are processed in the traditional fashion are called Orthodox teas. Orthodox teas generally contain only the top two tender leaves and an unopened leaf bud, which are plucked carefully by hand. Most Orthodox tea production these days involves a unique combination of age-old methods, such as bamboo trays to allow the leaves to wither on, and modern, innovative machinery, like leaf rollers carefully calibrated to mimic motions originally done by hand. A true art form, the tea leaves are handled by artisans with years (often, generations) of training.
What is in tea?
The three primary components of brewed tea (also called the “liquor”) are:
1. Essential Oils – these provide tea’s delicious aromas and flavors.
2. Polyphenols – these provide the “briskness” or astringency in the mouth and are the components that also carry most of the health benefits of tea.
3. Caffeine – found naturally in coffee, chocolate, tea and Yerba Mate, caffeine provides tea’s natural energy boost.
How the leaves are processed will determine their final classification as white, green, oolong, etc. Although tea is one of the most enjoyed beverages worldwide, its culture can be very “local.” For example, most tea drinkers in Darjeeling, India have never had (or even heard of!) a Taiwanese Pouchong. In China, most people do not drink black tea. The centuries-old Japanese tea ceremony uses powdered, rare Matcha tea, which most folks in black tea-loving Sri Lanka have never tasted. Tea is a truly special, uniting thing when you think of how so many tea-drinking cultures developed all on their own. America’s own newly found tea culture is unique because we actually enjoy all types of tea. No one else has that distinction.
There are so many amazing benefits of tea!!
Here is what research is saying about drinking tea:
Green tea shows promise as an allergy fighter
“The wonder cup just got even more wonderful. Green tea, rich in antioxidant treasures that protect against heart disease and cancer, now shows promise as an allergy fighter. In laboratory tests, Japanese researchers have found that the antioxidants in green tea, block the biochemical process involved in producing an allergic response. Green tea may be useful against a wide range of sneeze-starting allergens, including pollen, pet dander, and dust.”
Prevention, April 2003
Women Who Drink Tea Are Less Depressed
Tea drinking seemed to lessen depression. Compared with the 1,216 women who did not drink tea, among the 183 women who did, depression risk was about 36 percent lower. The vast majority of the tea drinkers — 90 percent — drank green tea.
Reuters January 2010
Elderly Tea Drinkers Are Less Likely Depressed
Elderly people who drink several cups of green tea a day are less likely to suffer from depression, probably due to a ‘feel good’ chemical found in this type of tea, Japanese researchers said. Several studies have linked drinking green tea to lessening psychological problems and Dr. Kaijun Niu, of Tohoku University Graduate School, and colleagues found men and women aged 70 and older who drank four or more cups of green tea daily were 44 percent less likely to have symptoms of depression.
Green Tea Improves Liver Health
A study led by nutritional scientist Richard Bruno has found that green tea can help mitigate the impact of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Bruno, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences [at UConn], and his research team have found that the daily ingestion of green tea blocks the amount of fat stored in the livers of obese mice that otherwise develop severe fatty liver disease; improves liver function; and reverses declines in antioxidant defenses in the liver.
University of Connecticut Advance, February 2009
Daily Intake Of The Tea Burns Extra Calories
“In a 1999 Swiss study, six out of 10 men taking capsules of green tea extract burned, on average, about an extra 80 calories a day-the equivalent of 3 tablespoons of ice cream, 7 potato chips, or 1 Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkin. A second study, conducted by researchers from the US Department of Agriculture, saw an extra 67 calories a day burned in men who were assigned to drink about 5 cups of tea (not green) each day.”
Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, June 2003
Green Tea Helps Melt Off Pounds
Drinking just three cups a day of green tea seems to help you melt off extra pounds. A study by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that participants who drank three cups of green tea a day lost twice as much weight as non-tea drinkers. A type of antioxidant known as catechins is credited with the weight-loss benefits of green tea. (Replacing a little tea brewing water with lime or lemon juice can help your body activate even more of the teas catechins.)
Rodale.com, June 2010
Green And Black Tea Fight Diabetes
Black tea is as good as green tea in reducing sugar levels and inhibiting cataracts in diabetic mice, researchers said Tuesday. The study by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found both teas reduced glucose levels and other diabetic complications, such as cataracts, during the three-month test on rats. “Most people, scientists included, believe that green tea has more health benefits than black tea,” said lead author Joe Vinson. of the research to be published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The finding that green and black teas are beneficial suggests the drinks could be simple and inexpensive ways for humans to fight diabetes, he said. Vinson’s earlier work showed both teas equally inhibited atherosclerosis, a major risk for people suffering from heart disease as plaque builds up on arterial walls.
United Press Int’l, April 19 2005
Regular Green Tea Consumption Linked to Good Teeth
Routine consumption of green tea may help promote healthy teeth and gingivae, researchers report in the March issue of Journal of Periodontology. Investigators from Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, analyzed the periodontal health of 940 men and found that those who drank green tea regularly had periodontal health superior to that of subjects who consumed less green tea.
Journal of the American Dental Assoc., March 2009
Green Tea Helps Bolster The Body’s Defenses.
“Drinking two or three American-size cups a day of green tea helps bolster the body’s defenses, especially as you age, suggests Lester A. Mitscher, PhD, professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and author of The Green Tea Book: China’s Fountain of Youth”
Prevention, April 2003
THE BIG QUESTION- Organic and Fair Trade Teas ??????
In recent years we’ve seen an explosion of claims and certifications on the foods we consume. Here, we will discuss the complexity of two of the largest movements in certification: organic and Fair Trade.
It is not the desire of Adagio to judge or sway your decisions concerning what you put in your body. Therefore, we’ll stick to the plain facts on the issues, and give you a deeper understanding so you can determine the proper choice for you.
To begin, one must understand what makes a product organic.
The USDA tells us that organic foods are those that are “produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”
In other words, Organic foods must use very little chemicals during the growing process. In addition, the soil that the products are grown in must be free and clear of the same chemicals. To ensure this, farmers must let their fields lay fallow (unused) until they reach an acceptable level. As most farmers in tea growing regions are too poor to be able to afford the privilege of not making money off of their fields for years at a time, most of the tea that is produced worldwide is not certified “organic”.
While “organic” does have real meaning and environmental value, it is not focused primarily on the quality of the tea and does not come with guarantees. Organic Certification controls the inputs and the process and strives to protect the environment but does not involve any testing or verification after the tea is produced to determine whether the rules were followed. Because there are no quality standards for the final product, organic certification also does not guarantee that there are no environmental pollutants or contaminants during processing or packaging. It’s important to buy from growers, distributors and retailers that you trust, regardless of the certification!
Being “certified” organic is also a rather complicated process. There are hundreds of different agencies internationally that certify products as organic. Each agency has different standards, and some certifications are accepted in one country, but not others. For example, some products considered organic by the European organic association will not be considered organic by the USDA. Undoubtedly, these complications are due to political reasons as well as health concerns. It is natural to be suspect of a tea company that boasts a foreign “organic” sticker. But, on the other hand, there is no significant scientific proof showing that it is dangerous to drink a tea that is not organic. More importantly, because of the bureaucratic complexity of certifications and the small size of most premium tea producers, many teas that would qualify as organic are never formally certified.
Often accompanying the “Organic” title for many teas is the socially responsible label, “Fair Trade”. This is a separate certification process, independent of how the product is grown. Fair Trade is based on the assumption that the market price paid to tea growers/laborers is not fair and does not promote sustainable living environments. In this way, Fair Trade is to the local economy and the worker what Organic is to the environment and the plants.
A Fair Trade premium of between $0.50 and $1.50 per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of tea is charged by the grower. In addition, the growers pay a certification fee in order to gain Fair Trade status. These premiums and fees go directly into the pockets of the laborers, towards developing programs at the local level, and towards funding the certification process, the Fair Trade operational structure, and marketing the Fair Trade brand internationally. For comparison purposes, the Fair Trade price for coffee is $1.35 per pound.
Producers must apply for certification through one of several Fair Trade Organizations (FLO, IFAT, NEWS, EFTA, etc.) that require adherence to the following criteria: 1. Fair Labor Conditions: wages, working conditions and living conditions 2. Direct Trade: no middlemen adding unnecessary costs 3. Community Development: investment in services and/or infrastructure to aid the community 4. Environmental Sustainability: agricultural methods that are “healthy” 5. Transparency: free association of workers and farmers and democratic decision-making.
Because many tea gardens are small, family affairs without the means to participate in community investment or adhere to extensive bureaucratic documentation and auditing rules, an overwhelming majority of specialty tea producers are not “Fair Trade” certified. In some countries, like Japan, no Fair Trade teas can be found because the tea workers are already paid above the poverty level. This would be akin to demanding a Fair Trade wine from France.
Because the “Fair Trade” sourcing options are very limited, Adagio prefers to get involved directly at the source. While we support the IDEAS behind Fair Trade, we believe that, currently, the best way for us to raise the living and working standards of the growers is to introduce Americans to premium loose leaf teas. Premium teas fetch premium prices and require significant additional human involvement. The result is higher wages, more employment, and better tea for all of us. In addition, we buy all of our teas directly and choose our producing partners based, in part, on their business practices. Finally, we contribute directly to the well-being of the farmers through programs like our Roots Campaign. As Adagio grows, our purchases result in meaningful changes in the lives of our producing partners and their employees.
Hope you enjoyed you teaducation!
For more information visit: http://www.adagio.com/info/health_benefits.html?SID=49cd6f8d9f9811c94e84bbbef196c831