Important Dates in the History of Tea
618-906 – Tang Dynasty Powdered tea became the fashion of the time. It was often mixed with other ingredients and brewed, reducing the real tea taste. Nobility made tea a popular pastime. Caravans carried tea on the Silk Road, trading with India, Turkey, and Russia.
780 – Poet Lu Yu, wrote the first book of tea, making him a living saint, patronized by the Emperor himself. The book described methods of cultivation and preparation.
1101-1125- Emperor Hui Tsung wrote about the best ways to make whisked tea. A strong patron of the tea industry, he had tournaments in which members of the court identified different types of tea. Legend has it that he became so obsessed with tea he hardly noticed the Mongols who overthrew his empire. During his reign, teahouses built in natural settings became popular among the Chinese.
1191 – Eisai Myoan, the monk who brought Zen Buddhism to Japan, returned from a trip to China with tea seeds, which he planted on the grounds of his temple near Kyoto. Eisai experimented with different ways to brew tea, finally adopting the Chinese whisked tea.
1610 – The Dutch brought to Europe from China, trading dried sage in exchange.
1657 – Tea was first sold in England at Garway’s Coffee House in London.
1773 – The Boston Tea Party, protesting high taxes that England levied on began of the American colonies’ fight for independence. Under cover of night, colonists dressed as Native Americans board. East India Comp, ships in Boston Harbor. They opened chests of tea and dumped their contents into the water.
1835 – The East India Company established experimental tea plantations in Assam, India.
1838 – A small amount of Indian tea sent to England was eagerly consumed due to its novelty.
1856 – Tea was first planted in Darjeeling.
1908 – Mr. William Sullivan, tea merchant in New York, inadvertently invents the tea bag
1910 – Indonesia grows and exports tea. Soon thereafter, is grown in Kenya and other parts of Africa.
Tea and Health
Not only is tea soothing and delicious, but, throughout its history, it has been associated with important health benefits. New studies point to evidence that these healing properties have a scientific basis. Black tea and Green tea come from the same plant, ONLY the process of conversion from fresh tea leaf to dry Ieaf differs.
Consumption of tea is being studied for its reported benefits on:
Enhancing immune function
Lowering LDL cholesterol levels
Increasing HDL cholesterol levels
Reducing blood pressure
Thinning the blood, reducing the risk of a heart attack
Lowering the risk of stroke
Reducing the risk of cancer
Preventing dental cavities and gingivitis
Much of the focus of modem research is on the effects of three ingredients found in tea:
Many of the health benefits of drinking tea come from the fact that tea contains high levels of antioxidants called polyphenols or flavonoids. These compounds are most prevalent in green and white teas, but arc also present in varying degrees in Oolongs and black teas. In the processing of black teas another antioxidant is formed — theaflavin. This is weaker than the polyphenols in Green teas, but still performs antioxidant activities in laboratory experiments. Polyphenols scavenge cell-damaging free radicals, which are linked with cancer-causing genes and cause LDL cholesterol to form artery-clogging plaque. The polyphenols in tea possess 20 to 30 times the antioxidant potency of vitamins C and E. Antioxidants impair the ability of free radical cells to harm the molecules that make up our bodies.
Tea is a dietary source of important vitamins and minerals. Tea contains Carotene, a precursor to vitamin A; Thiamin (vitamin B I); Riboflavin (vitamin B2); Nicotinic acid, Pantothenic acid, Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin B6; Folic acid; Manganese, Potassium and Fluoride.
In moderation caffeine can be a benefit – stimulating the metabolism, increasing brain function and alertness. However, the stress of modern life, and the prevalence of coffee and caffeinated colas, has lead people to caffeine overload. The typical cup of coffee has approximately 125-185 milligrams of caffeine. With In Pursuit of Tea full leaf products you can expect a range of about 45-60 milligrams of caffeine for black teas, 35-45 milligrams for Oolong teas, and 15-20 milligrams for green and white teas. The effect of caffeine is also complemented by another compound found only in tea, theophylline. While caffeine primarily is active in the brain and muscles, theophylline is active in stimulating the respiratory system, heart and kidneys. This corresponds to research that tea is helpful in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.
Making a Good Cup of Tea
The best way to make tea is to use an electric kettle to boil the water. The advantage is the water is actually boiling when you pour it over the tea, either in a cup or in a teapot. This helps to extract the most flavor from the tea, and it reduces the length of time you need to brew the tea. The longer you brew, the more bitter tasting tannin will be dissolved. Heating water in the microwave is slower, more dangerous and produces inferior tea.
You will also get better results using loose tea in a teapot, rather than tea bags. Loose tea is not ground as fine as the tea in tea bags, as it has more room to circulate in the pot. The finer tea is ground the more bitter tannin is released. Use a tea strainer to avoid getting tea leaves in your cup. Of course you also need to use good quality tea.
“Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary.”
– Chinese Proverb
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