Popular legend has it that an apple that fell from a tree and hit a sleeping Newton on the head gave him an insight into the laws of gravity and motion. Well, the story of how tea, and its other forms like green tea, were discovered is not so different. Apparently, a Chinese farmer, boiling some water under a Camellia Sinensis tree, took a short nap. A few dried leaves drifted into the boiling water and emanated a delicious aroma. The farmer awoke, took a sip and, voila! The first cup of tea was brewed! This was about 4000 years ago and some claim that the farmer was divine. While the truth of this is somewhat doubtful, that the drink is divine is not.
The truth about tea
However, the truth is that tea drinking did originate in Southwest China and was popularised during the reign of the Tang dynasty. Tea drinking spread to other East Asian countries and visiting Portuguese priests carried the habit to Europe in the 16th century. Research shows that tea has been indigenous to North and East India for many centuries. Devoted tea drinkers date the use of this beverage to the Ramayana insisting that the Sanjivini herb mentioned therein might have actually been tea. Some even take the story further and argue that even Soma, the divine drink that inspired wise thoughts in ancient India, was, in fact, tea.
Whatever the history, all types of tea come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The terminal bud and two young leaves from tea plants are picked usually during early spring and early summer. They are then allowed to wither before being processed by oxidation. During this process, leaves lose their water content and absorb more oxygen from the air.
Variety is the cup of life
Different kinds of teas are an outcome of different growing conditions, geography and types of processing.
Black tea: The characteristic dark colour of these teas is because they have been allowed to undergo full oxidation. The flavours are pronounced and strong and the caffeine content is comparatively high. Puer is an aged black tea from China with medicinal properties and an earthy flavour.
Dark tea: this kind is from the Hunan and Sichuan provinces of China. It undergoes a secondary fermentation process and has a smooth, naturally sweet note. It contains an organism called Golden Flowers because of this microbial fermentation.
Green tea is allowed to wither and oxidise only partially and, thus, has less caffeine if brewed at lower temperatures. These teas, with their subtle flavours and bouquets and undertones, are a connoisseur’s delight.
Oolong tea is also partially oxidised and has caffeine content between the black and green varieties. It is marked by the fragrance of fresh flowers and fruit.
White tea is hand processed from the youngest shoots and there is no oxidation. When brewed correctly using low temperature and a short steeping time, it has less caffeine and a very subtle, delicate flavour.
Organic Green Tea
India is the second largest producer of tea in the world and is famous for the Darjeeling and Assam teas. The plant is cultivated in cool, hilly slopes India is the world’s largest consumer of tea and also the largest exporter. Traditional methods of tea cultivation have been improved on. The new mantra is organic green tea and other teas’ agriculture. This method is free of chemical and synthetic fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides and benefits the entire ecosystem. It combines tradition, innovation and science to great benefit. Chemical based farming threatens the health of people: cancers, allergies, respiratory disorders, kidney problems, skin and eye irritations can all be laid at this door. The harm to the environment is long lasting and devastating.
Go green -raise a cup to good health
Take a tip from the ancient Chinese culture where green tea was consumed as medicine for its multiple benefits to health.
Tea contains antioxidants which enrich heart health- green tea more so.
It is an anti- allergen: tea contains polyphenols and flavanols which help to dampen allergic responses. Organic Green tea can help suppress appetite and makes a safe slimming aid. It is a good anti-inflammatory and lowers inflammatory reactions in our bodies. Doctors link many ailments to inflammation – depression, metabolic syndrome, water retention and arthritis are just some of these.
Green tea can be brewed for shorter times to further decrease already low caffeine content. So it’s a good wake- up agent but not harmful like coffee. It’s great for the skin and hair by flushing out toxins and improving skin elasticity. The catechins, natural anti-oxidants, regulate hormonal imbalances and control acne.
For a rejuvenating face pack, empty the content of 2 used green tea bags into a bowl. Add a few drops of lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. Apply this on your face and allow it to dry for 15 minutes or so. Rinse with lukewarm water. This is great for under-eye circles and tired eyes too.
Now when you put the kettle on the boil or switch on the stove, just remember, green and organic are the best favour you can do yourself when you make that hot cuppa.