A review by Amapola OBrien owner of
Amapola’s Tea & More
129 Water Street, Stonington, CT.
The history of tea is long and complex, spreading across multiple cultures over the span of thousands of years. The Chinese have consumed tea for thousands of years. The earliest physical evidence known to date, found in 2016 BC, comes from the mausoleum of Emperor Jing of Han in Xi’an, indicating that tea was drunk by Han Dynasty emperors as early as the 2nd century BC.
In one popular Chinese legend, Shennong, the legendary Emperor of China and inventor of agriculture and Chinese medicine was drinking a bowl of just boiled water due to a decree that his subjects must boil water before drinking it Around 2737 BC when a few leaves were blown from a nearby tree into his water, changing the color. The emperor took a sip of the brew and was pleasantly surprised by its flavor and restorative properties. Tea was born.
All tea comes from the plant “Camellia sinensis”. Differences in tea arise from differences in geography, growing conditions, cultivars, and processing. With over 3,000 varieties, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water.
Tea has 5 basic categories. They are as follows:
1. White teas, the most delicate of all teas, are appreciated for their subtlety, complexity, and natural sweetness. They are hand-processed using the youngest shoots of the tea plant, with no oxidation. White teas should be made with water around 155-170 degrees and steeped for 2-3 minutes.
2. Green teas are almost completely non-oxidized and therefore have gentler flavors, a lighter color, and, when brewed properly, less caffeine. They should be steeped with considerably less than boiling water (160-175 degrees) and for less time (1-3 min.). The same leaves can typically be brewed multiple times.
3. Oolong teas are partially oxidized and possess some of the qualities of both black and green teas. They are known for their aromatic, fruity, sometimes sweet and bracing tastes. These teas are steeped with slightly less than boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Most oolongs are meant to be brewed multiple times.
4. Black tea is allowed to wither, which precedes a process called oxidation during which water evaporates out of the leaf and the leaf absorbs more oxygen from the air. Black teas usually undergo full oxidation, and the results are the characteristic dark brown and black leaf. Typically these teas have robust and pronounced flavors.
5. Pu-erh/Puer is a sub-category of black tea that comes from Yunnan province in China. Puer teas can be the strongest teas in the world. They can also be medium-bodied, bright, and slightly sweet depending on how you prepare them. Puer teas typically are aged and are prized in China for their medicinal properties and earthy flavor. These priced teas are fermented and usually have less caffeine than black tea.
Steeping other Plants “Tisanes”
6. Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free, mildly sweet and delicious with a taste reminiscent of honey and roses. It is also low in tannins, which although they are considered beneficial, some people can’t tolerate them. The lack of tannins is also why Rooibos does not have a slightly bitter taste like some other teas do. It steeps up very full-bodied and very smooth.
7. Herbals are caffeine-free and made from fruits, flowers, herbs and sometimes with added flavors. Most of these are also delicious iced. They are called Tesanes.
8. Maté is a traditional South American beverage that is refreshing and invigorating. Maté is known a very powerful stimulant. The leaves of the rainforest mate tree naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, abundant antioxidants. In fact, The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society in 1964 concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.” Antioxidant powerhouse.
9. Guayusa (pronounced as Wayusa) is a species of tree of the holly genus, native to the Amazon Rainforest. One of three known caffeinated holly trees, the leaves of the guayusa tree are dried and brewed like a tea for their stimulative effects. Guayusa contains all of the essential amino acids for humans and has a “high antioxidant activity.
Health Benefits of Tea
1. The main health-promoting substances in tea are polyphenols, in particular catechins and epicatechins. This means that drinking tea with antioxidants protects your body from the ravages of aging and the effects of pollution. The polyphenols/antioxidants found in tea promote cancer-fighting effects.
2. Tea may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Unwanted blood clots formed from cholesterol and blood platelets can cause heart attacks and strokes. Drinking tea (tannins) may help keep your arteries smooth and clog-free, the same way a drain keeps your bathroom pipes clear. A 5.6-year study from the Netherlands found a 70 percent lower risk of fatal heart attack in people who drank at least two to three cups of black tea daily compared to non-tea drinkers.
3. Tea bolsters your immune defenses. Drinking tea may help your body’s immune system fight off infection. When 21 volunteers drank either five cups of tea or coffee each day for four weeks, researchers saw higher immune system activity in the blood of the tea drinkers
4. Tea drinkers have better oral health. Tea itself actually contains fluoride and tannins that may keep plaque at bay. So add unsweetened tea drinking to your daily dental routine with brushing and flossing for healthier teeth and gums.
5. Tea is calorie-free. Tea doesn’t have any calories, unless you add sweetener or milk. Consuming even 250 fewer calories per day can result in losing one pound per week. If you’re looking for a satisfying, calorie-free beverage, tea is a top choice. In addition Puer (fermented) teas contain statin compounds that can help your body metabolize fat, lowering cholesterol and cleaning the liver.
6. Tea increases your metabolism. Lots of people complain about a slow metabolic rate and their inability to lose weight. Green tea has been shown to actually increase metabolic rate so that you can burn 70 to 80 additional calories by drinking just five cups of green tea per day. Over a year’s time you could lose eight pounds just by drinking green tea. The best green tea is Matcha. This unique stone ground green tea is concentrated and can provide 10 times the benefits of steeped green tea.
7. Tea helps keep you hydrated. As you know most of us don’t drink enough to keep our bodies hydrated. Tea contributes to your body’s fluid needs. So keep drinking your body needs lots of fluid. In addition to health benefits provided by tea, there are blends that add herbs to enhance the properties of tea or add new ones. The benefits of herbal medicine are well known. Herbs have been used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years. There are many herbs with many medicinal properties, we will limit our discussion to more common well established medicinal herbs. In our shop we used these and other herbs to make our healthy blends.
1. Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus): A plant of the pea family most commonly used for immune enhancement. Most research on astragalus has focused on its immune-stimulatory activity and its seemingly remarkable ability to restore the activity of a suppressed immune system. Astragalus is used to strengthen the immune system over time, building resistance to illness and disease. Red clover may be used in conjunction with astragalus to provide an extra short term boost in immunity. Studies indicate astragalus can increase metabolism and energy, boost stamina and promote healing. It can help with insomnia, hypertension and chemotherapy side effects. If you have a serious condition you should consult your doctor, but astragalus is considered safe and free of harmful effects. Our tea E=MC2, is a green tea blend with this herb, smooth energy.
2. Bilberry Fruit (Vaccinium myrtillus): Bilberry has a long medicinal history in Europe. It has been used to treat anything from kidney stones to Typhoid fever. During World War 2 British pilots noted that Bilberry jam before a flight dramatically improved night vision. Modern research now supports these claims. Bilberry contains anthocyanosides which are potent antioxidants which strengthen blood vessels and capillary walls, improve red blood cells, stabilize collagen tissues such as tendons, ligaments and cartilage and has cholesterol lowering effects. Since the eyes have a high concentration of capillaries, bilberry may be particularly helpful in improving eyesight. The herb has been shown to improve night vision, slow macular degeneration, prevent cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
3. Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa): Black Cohosh has been used by Native Americans for more than two hundred years, after they discovered the root of the plant helped relieve menstrual cramps and symptoms of menopause. These days it is still used for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes/flushes, irritability, mood swings and sleep disturbances. It is also used for PMS, menstrual irregularities, uterine spasms and has been indicated for reducing inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and neuralgia. Some experts have concluded that black cohosh may be a safe and effective alternative to estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) for women who cannot or will not take ERT for menopause. Preliminary studies also suggest that black cohosh may help reduce inflammation associated osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
4. FeverFew (Tanacetum parthenium): The pain as well as the frequency of migraine attacks was found to decrease when the person consumed even only two or three fresh leaves of the herb, every day for prolonged periods of time. Thus the first extensive use of the herb was in dealing with the symptoms and frequency of migraine attacks. The effectiveness of this herbal remedy has been proven by the considerable evidence, received from studies carried out using fresh whole leaves of the herb, and from tests done on the freeze-dried and powdered leaves, studies done on the leaf extracts. The action of the active compound in the herb, and its anti-migraine effect within the body, may be in a manner which is similar to the compound methysergide, which is an identified serotonin antagonist in the human body. We use this herb in our headache tea called “Beautiful Mind”, a black tea blend that is smooth and delicious.
5. Garcinia (Garcinia indica): Garcinia fruit contain rich amounts of anti- oxidants that bind with free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to body cells. They also promote cell regeneration and repair. Garcinia tea is especially popular during scorching summer months as it has a cooling effect on the body and shields the body against dehydration and sunstroke. Garcinia fruit are traditionally used to relieve gastric problems like acidity, flatulence, constipation and indigestion. The ability to help with elimination makes it a great addition to a weight loss program. We use it our Thin..Thin.. tea blend.
6. Ginkgo Leaf (Ginkgo biloba): The plant can be considered a living fossil as it belongs to an ancient family of plants. This plant is particularly effective against ailments in the body connected to a decrease in the cerebral blood circulation of patients. Ginkgo has been proven to be effective against physical conditions such as short term memory loss, persistent headache and tinnitus, and in treating long term depression,and other related psychological disorders. Ginkgo has the ability to promote and enhance the rate of vasodilation as well as the speed of blood flow. Daily tea using the leaf is known to be effective.
7. Hibiscus Flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa): The hibiscus flowers are used world wide as tea. It is often used in tea blends. It is the most widely used flower in food as well as tea. The hibiscus is well known as a diuretic. So it is often added to supplements for weight control. The flowers have a reputation for having a calming effect, so it makes a great tea for relaxing or to drink just before bedtime. Studies have shown that hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure. The tea is also known for its ability to calm coughing. Hibiscus is rich in vitamin C, so a great tea in the winter during cold season. We have hibiscus in several of our blends. We also have organic hibiscus leaf for your health and enjoyment.
8. Ginger Root (Zingiber officinal): Today, the ginger is the most widely cultivated spice around the world. Since ginger stimulates circulation it is the ideal substitute for synthetic blood thinners. Ginger tea is so effective against ailments of the reproductive and digestive systems because it stimulates circulation and supports a good blood supply to these organs. Bloating can be treated with ginger tea, by adding a pinch of cinnamon. Ginger tea is often used for nausea. A ginger and peppermint combination is great for stomach issues and nausea. We have a great blend with these two herbs and lemongrass called “A Drop of Sunshine”.
9. Peppermint Leaf (Mentha piperita): The herb has been used in the treatment of indigestion, to alleviate the symptoms of flatulence – excess gas, and to treat disorders such as colic. Tea can be made directly from the dried leaf. It is also used in many tea blends, specially with green tea. The ability of the peppermint to stimulate the flow of bile is why it is commonly used to treat problems of the intestines, and to treat liver conditions. Peppermint herbal tea is often used as a household remedy for painful menstrual cramps in women, specially if it is combined with cramp bark. Our Moroccan Mint Green Tea is smooth delicious and good for you.
10. Red Clover Flower (Trifolium pratense): Herbal medicine makes use of the dried red clover flowers in the treatment of different disorders. An expectorant action is attributed to the blossoms of the red clover. Using the dried flowers helps with disorders such as bronchitis and asthma. A topical herbal remedy is also made from the red clover flower, it is believed to speed up the process of healing in wounds. Red clover is also used in the treatment of skin diseases such as psoriasis and other external conditions. The traditional use of the red clover was to relief menopausal symptoms. Now generating new interest in the plant. Our tea Beautiful Mind incorporates with healing herb. You can also buy the whole flower and make your own topical blend. It doesn’t matter whether you use herbs or just enjoy tea. They both provide nutrients to support a healthy trim body. So find your favorite and start drinking tea today for your health and enjoyment.
Where there is Tea there is Hope