The Catherine Dickson Hofman branch of the Warren County Library offered a free ZOOM lecture entitled, “Tea: Drink to Your Health!”
Sherri Cirignano, MS, RDN, LDN, of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, gave the listeners an overview on the history, culture and potential health benefits of tea.
People began eating the tea leaf before they discovered the process of drinking the steeped beverage. While growing in a large range of climates, tea does well in moist warm climates. For this reason, the countries that grow and sell the most tea per ton are China, India, Kenya, Shri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey and Iran.
Tea is the most popular drink in the world.
Herbal tea is made from the leaves, seeds and the flowers of the plant. The plant is dried and steeped in hot water, the brew is aromatic and delicious.
Most tea is made from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Its leaves are processed by the drying method called oxidation. Tea varieties are named by the region the tea is produced. For example, Darjeeling tea is produced in Darjeeling, India. Assam tea is from Assam, India.
Historically, tea, cacao and coffee were commodities used in trade to purchase goods and services. Bricks of tea were made as currency, making it easy to sell or barter. This practice continues today in remote areas of Asia.
Tea tastes good and stores well. It is safe to drink many cups a day and it provides a relaxing effect. Tea was first used in Taoism and Buddhist religious ceremonies and as a meditation aid or to increase mental acuity.
Orange pekoe tea is a particular grade of black tea. Orange pekoe is noted as premium quality and signifies that the tea consists of whole, loose leaves.
The most common tea is a form of black tea. Ninety-eight percent of the world drinks black tea. Black tea is the darkest in color and full body in flavor. Tea bags contain small pieces of the leaves. This is poor quality tea that is commonly used in America.
White tea is very special and is expensive to purchase because it is made from the young tender leaves, picked by hand just before the leaves open. It is mild in flavor with no oxidation process. This is why white tea is often paired with fruit, like peach white tea.
Green tea has always been popular in Asia but its spreading worldwide. It benefits the health with antioxidants, supports brain function, reduces the development of heart disease and offers some protection against cancer.
Oolong tea is a traditional Chinese tea. Research shows that the nutrients in oolong tea have stronger antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties than green or black tea varieties and can lower the risk of diabetes and breaks down triglycerides which contributes to the thickening of the arteries. Drinking this tea along with a healthy diet and exercise routine can help prevent the risk of a stroke and heart disease.
Macha tea is a powder tea originally used in antiquated Chinese tea ceremonies, but the practice has been revived in Japanese tea ceremonies influenced by Zen Buddhism today.
Masala tea is a popular Indian drink also known as chai tea, comprised of black tea brewed in milk and water, usually sweetened with sugar or honey, aromatic herbs and spices including cinnamon and green cardamom pods. Chai tea has one-third the amount of caffeine than coffee, so several cups a day can be consumed without getting jittery.
Drinking tea that is too hot increases the risk of burns and esophageal cancer. Be sure to let the tea cool to below 140°F before drinking.
Tea contains caffeine, which has negative effects in high doses in certain populations.
Tea was used for medicinal purposes to clean sores and as a health tonic. It provides a feeling of wellbeing and in cold climates warms the body.
In Tibet, 70 to 80 cups of a concoction of tea with water, salt and fat is the main source of nutrition.
3.6 billion gallons of tea a year are consumed in America, 85% as iced tea.
Some herbal teas may relieve symptoms of anxiety, improve memory and help alleviate depression.
The colonists in early America brought their tea drinking habits with them. The colonists’ tea was taxed exorbitantly. This instigated the 1773 Boston Tea Party, promoting the drinking of coffee and chocolate instead, a catalyst for the American Revolution.
When Catherine of Braganza arrived from Portugal to marry Charles II in 1662, she brought a casket of tea in her dowry. The Portuguese had been importing tea to Europe from the beginning of the 17th century. Catherine had grown up drinking tea as the preferred everyday beverage.
Due to increasing urbanization and rise of industrialization (including the spread of gaslighting in England), teatime became a national obsession as evening meals were pushed back to later hours.
In 1840 Anna, the seventh duchess of Bedford, started serving a small snack with tea as a pick-me-up around 3 p.m. It caught on and the tradition continues today.
In concluding her very informative lecture, Cirignano encouraged all to try tea, this worldwide, wildly consumed drink, besides water.