The gift of a Gaiwan cup over a decade ago brought me the opportunity to taste loose leaf tea for the first time in my life. I’ve been enamored with drinking tea ever since. For me, the experience of sipping tea in this way adds a bit of poetry and presence to my daily life. When I can’t make my tea with a gaiwan cup, I still enjoy drinking tea brewed from a tea bag, as drinking tea is not only delicious, refreshing and energizing, but it’s a great way to improve your health!
Just to be clear, the tea that I’m talking about is made with the leaves from a plant called Camellia sinensis. If you are wondering if it is a relative of the lovely camellia bushes that bloom in many established landscapes each spring, the answer is yes!
Camellia sinensis is the plant from which all true teas– white, green, oolong, pu-erh and black, originate. All other teas are actually called infusions and made from a variety of herbs. Herbal infusions are usually caffeine-free and made from the leaves, roots, stems, or flowers of other plants. These herbal infusions also have varied health benefits and medicinal properties that are good for your health too.
Drinking tea brings a natural “pick-me-up” to your day much like coffee does. Tea contains caffeine and theanine which stimulate mental alertness. Like coffee, tea is full of antioxidants and thought to have cancer preventive properties. Green and white teas are less processed than black, oolong and pu-erh teas which are oxidized. The less processed teas like green tea and white tea have the highest polyphenol levels but all tea helps to protect the body from cell-damaging free radicals.
While green tea has over a decade’s worth of scientific studies to back up it’s powerful health benefits, white tea is believed to have the highest antioxidant levels. With high polyphenol levels, white tea may actually reduce wrinkles. White teas and green tea has been found to interfere with the growth of various forms of cancer, reduce stroke-risk, lower cholesterol levels and lessen the risk of neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Black tea may lower stress hormone levels and reduce the risk of stroke. Studies have shown oolong and pu-erh teas to be effective in reducing cholesterol and helpful with weight reduction.
Aside from the many scientific studies conducted, tea has been treasured and consumed for thousands of years by emperors of ancient China, to the kings and queens of England, to the everyday aficionado. Tea is an “ancient drink with a rich history” and it has bound people together for centuries with its palette of flavors.
Just imagine the next time you sip from your tea cup that the steeped leaves may have been picked from a tea plant over a hundred years old, along a steep hillside of a misty mountain, in a far away land. Sip slowly and let you mind, body and spirit enjoy.