Tea

Tea

• History
There are a lot of legends about the discovery of tea. The Chinese tradition says that tea was discovered by the mythical emperor, which introduced Chinese people to various medicinal herbs. Once upon a time the emperor went searching for some herbs and several tea leaves fell into his pot full of boiling water. The water became tasty and refreshing. Since then the emperor did not drink anything else. Tea was brought to Western Europe in the middle of XVI century. By the XVIII century tea became so popular that the attempts of the British government to seize the control over the tea trade in North American colonies resulted into mass disturbances. These disturbances were crowned with the Boston Tea Party in 1773.• Varieties
There are several varieties of tea which differ in processing techniques. White tea is the rarest variety of tea. Until recently it was extremely difficult to find it outside of China, where it is grown. White tea consists of the whitish buds of the tea plant. These buds are usually dried in the sun and it is not processed further. When brewed, white tea is almost colourless and has a very subtle, slightly sweet flavour.
The difference between white and green tea is in content of the proportion of leaves to buds. Green tea contains more leaves than the white tea. The production process consists of withering and pan-frying or steaming of the leaves. When brewed, green tea has a greenish-yellow colour and a slightly grassy, astringent quality about it.
Another variety of tea is oolong tea which is often called “the champagne of teas”. Oolong tea is among the finest and most expensive varieties of tea there is. While the processing of white and green tea prevents their fermentation, oolong tea is semi-fermented. It goes through a short period of oxidation which results into the change of colour from green to red-brown. When brewed, oolong tea has a pale yellow colour and a floral, fruity flavour with a hint of smoke. Due to the delicacy of the flavour, oolong tea is best drunk without milk, sugar or lemon.
The all-time favourite black tea is the most common type of tea in the world. In China it is called “red tea” due to its characteristic reddish-brown colour. The processing of the black tea includes full fermentation. The oxidation results into darkening on the leaves and tripling of the amount of caffeine.
Pu-erh tea is differentiated from the regular black tea only by the fact that it is fermented twice and not once. After the double fermentation the leaves are left to mature which results into the development of the small layer of mould on the leaves. This mould gives pu-erh tea a very distinctive soil-like flavour which pushes away many people. That is why this variety of tea is often consumed exclusively for medicinal purposes.

• Brewing
The traditional method of making a cup of tea is placing of the loose tea leaves into the tea pot or directly into the mug and pouring hot water over them. After a couple of minutes the leaves can be removed and the tea is ready to be served. However, not everything is quite this easy. Some varieties of tea require as much as 10 minutes of brewing, while the others need as little as 30 seconds. The strength of the tea depends on the amount of leaves used, not on the steeping time.
The best temperature for brewing largely depends on the type of tea. White and green teas that have little or no oxidation are best brewed at temperature between 65 and 85°C (149 and 185 °F). The processing of the black tea involves fermentation and it should be brewed at higher temperatures around 100 °C (212 °F).

• Teabags
Teabags can probably be compared to Coke in the way they conquered the world. Some people prefer teabags because they save time, while the others believe that it is not real tea. There a lot of views when it comes to teabags. Indeed, teabags are convenient. In addition, they have as many flavours as anyone can imagine: mint, camomile, berries, fruits and many others. But what exactly are teabags? Imagine a regular teapot with the tea brew inside. In order to make teabags, this concentrated drink has to be dried and powdered. There are a lot of ways to do this. Basically when one uses a teabag it means that the tea is brewed for the second time. It is done for the first time when tea powdered is produced and for the second time – then you use the teabag. There is nothing terribly wrong about that, but somewhere along the way tea might has lost some of its best qualities.

• Nutritional value
One of the best things about tea is that on its own it has no calories. When taken with milk, four cups of tea can provide one with the following nutrients: approximately 17% of the recommended intake for calcium, 5% for zinc, 22% for Vitamin B2, 5% for folic acid, 5% for Vitamins B1 and B6. Semi-skimmed milk adds 13 calories per cup, but it also adds valuable vitamins and minerals. In addition tea is good natural source of Fluoride which is needed to support bone mineralisation and protect teeth against dental caries.

• Health Effects
There are studies which suggest that green tea can protect against several types of cancer such as lung, prostate and breast cancer. Green tea is also believed to increase metabolic rates and speed up fat oxidation. There is some evidence that both black and green tea may prevent diabetes. Tea has also been discovered to lover the level of stress hormones if consumed after the stressful event. Overall there is a very long list the positive effects of tea on the human health, which proves that tea is not only a refreshing drink but it also beneficial for you.

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