Today, 15 December, is International Tea Day, observed mainly in the world’s tea producing countries in the East (Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India) and Africa (Kenya, Malaysia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi) . This is the day when even the coffee lovers among us should acknowledge that other beverage that many, many people enjoy so much.
In fact, after water, tea is said to be the most widely consumed beverage in the world. While its exact origins are unknown, tea drinking was first recorded in China, as early as the 10th century BC. It remained an oriental delicacy until it was first imported to Europe by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century. The habit of tea drinking hit Great Britain around 1660, but only gained widespread popularity with the Brits around the 19th century, from which point they pretty much claimed it as part of their national culture.
One of the great things about tea is the wide range available. ‘Standard’ tea, made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is available as green tea (made with the unfermented tea leaves) or black tea (made by post-fermented leaves). The tea plant is also used to produce white tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea. Then there are all the so-called herbal teas – chamomile, mint, rooibos, rosehip and more. All teas have distinctive flavours; different types of tea can be blended together, and all the teas can be blended with various other additives – herbs, citrus skin, and much, much more.
Chemically, tea is filled with bioactive chemicals – amino acids, vitamins, caffeine, flavinoids, polysaccharides – which have been associated with a range of health benefits, including protection against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Green tea, in particular, appear to have significant protective effects against a range of cancers.
Tea may also boost your immune system and increase your metabolism.
Pretty impressive – maybe I should swop more of my daily coffee shots for some health-boosting tea beverages!