Published: 08/31/2005 - Updated: 08/13/2019
Author: Dra. Loredana Lunadei
Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water. There are more than 3,000 types. People have drunk it for thousands of years and its consumption has spread to almost every country in the world.
The term "tea" derives from the Chinese Amoy dialect, which is pronounced "tai". It came from the first contacts between Dutch and Chinese traders port Amoy, Fujian province.
According to Chinese legend, the Emperor Shen Nung scholar was who discovered the beneficial properties of tea. One of his wise norms was the provision that, during his reign, all water intended for human consumption was boiled.
They say that one day, when Shen Nung was resting beside a wild tea tree, a light breeze stirred the branches, with such good fortune that some leaves were to fall into the water that was boiling. The resulting infusion seemed delightfully refreshing and restorative and that's how he discovered tea.
At that time, the infusion was prepared as a medicine or tonic, with tender leaves of wild trees. To adjust supply to a growing demand and ensuring regular harvest, farmers began cultivating tea bushes in their small holdings and developed a system for drying and manufacturing.
Tea's popularity grew rapidly in China. Even pressed pellets were used as barter in trade relations with the Turks.
The tea merchants became rich, silversmiths and blacksmiths began making elegant items to take it, which constituted an indicator of wealth and social status of the owners.
The "golden age" of tea corresponds to the Tang Dynasty era. The tea was not just a medicinal tonic, but was drunk much for its restorative properties, and leisure.
During this period, the tea acquired such importance that a group of merchants commissioned the writer Lu Yu to compile the first book on tea, "Su Cha Ching", known as the "Holy Book of Tea", which shows clear influences of Zen and Taoist philosophy. The way to make tea, as poetic and beautifully displayed by Lu Yu, who saw in it a model of order and harmony that reigns in all things, was later to be introduced in Japan, precisely by practitioners of Buddhism Zen monks.
At the time of the Tang Dynasty, the young leaves were boiled steamed, were crushed and mixed with prune juice until a compact paste introduced into molds, where it was pressed to form a kind of pills that were baked to be dry. The most common flavor is obtained by adding water of sweet onion, ginger, orange peel, nails or mint.
Later, during the Song Dynasty, they preferred the subtle aromas of the essential oils of jasmine, lotus and chrysanthemum.
Properties of Tea
Caffeine is one of the most important components of tea as acts as a mild stimulant. All teas contain it, but green tea has less than this unless oolong and black. Tea contains half the caffeine than coffee. The body quickly absorbs the caffeine in coffee, which causes an immediate increase in cardiovascular activity. In contrast, the effects of caffeine in tea are given more slowly, but are more durable.
Tea makers say it can stimulate or calm, depending on the occasion. Others consider it a refreshing drink. These effects apparently contradictory are known as the "3 R" of Tea: It revives, relaxes and refreshes, summarized as "restoration".
Conventional wisdom attributed to tea health benefits. Recent research has found that consumption contributes to a lower risk of heart disease because it contains beneficial antioxidants called flavonoids, which help maintain healthy cells and tissues.
The tea contains no calories, but several vitamins and minerals, including fluoride, which helps protect tooth enamel from decay and strengthens bones.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in tea and has increased the demand for quality pure teas, which has led to increased variety in the market. Tea Individual choice should be based solely on personal tastes and preferences.
Those who prefer a light tea with a mild flavor, opt for oolong teas. For those who appreciate the refreshing and aromatic qualities of green tea, teas from China and Japan are ideal. Fans of stronger infusions choose black tea.
How to keep it and take it?
The tea should be stored in a cool dry place, away from strong odors as it absorbs flavors easily.
The tea bags quality has improved in recent years as some companies concoct with high quality pure teas, aware of the demand because of its convenience.
Tea bags provide a faster and stronger infusion, but without the subtlety and quality of loose leaf tea. They lose their flavor and quality faster than loose leaf tea, the latter is kept up to two years and teabags only 4-6 months.
The tea should be prepared with boiling water, not hot, as it requires a high temperature to extract the essence of the leaves.
Although adding milk to a cup of tea is a simple matter of personal taste, it must be remembered that milk spoils the taste of lighter teas.
As for the question of what should be served first, tradition insists that it must be milk, to reduce the risk of breakage from porcelain to pour hot tea. Furthermore, better mix well. In any case, there are no strict rules.
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