Camellia sinensis, the plant from which the leaves, buds, and internodes are dried and cured to create the agricultural product known as tea. Tea is the second most commonly consumed beverage throughout the world, second only to water. Tea comes in at least 6 major varieties of tea, they are;
Pu-erh(post fermentation process homeopathic medicinal tea)
There are numerous combinations, variations, and differences in processing and curing methods. Then for variation or variety many manufacturers use additions of infusions of fruit or fruit flavorings and other types of herbs, flowers, and medicinal plants. Different methods of drying, curing, and preserving both virgin tea and blends of different leaves are used to make different varieties or types of teas. Some blends of processes are proprietary and they are produced only by one company or the particular blend is sold under a proprietary trade name like “Earl Grey” or “English Breakfast Tea”
A lot has been made of green tea in recent years because of the fact that green tea can help people to lose weight. Tea has several essential vitamins and is a rich source for minerals that are body soluble or easily absorbed and used by the body. Tea is also rich in antioxidants (polyphenols)
B1 (Thiamin) Manganese
B2 (Riboflavin) Potassium
Carotene(precursor of vitaminA)
Once it is picked tea leaves are fragile and extremely perishable as soon as they are picked, they immediately begin to wilt and oxidize simultaneously if it is not cured and processed immediately after it is picked. Freshly picked tea leaves will undergo a process of enzymatic oxidation (fermentation), as the chlorophyll breaks down and tannins are released the leaves will get darker in stages. Allowing the process to continue is what gives us the different varieties of tea. After the tea is dried , the next step in the curing process is to stop the oxidation of the leaves at a preset stage. This is done by heating the leaves. Heat stops the enzymatic process that ferments the leaves.
When processing tea, careful control of temperature and humidity is an absolute necessity throughout all stages of the manufacture from the drying process to the packaging process. If the temperature or humidity are not carefully controlled tea can promote and incubate fungus which is toxic and in some cases the fungi can even be carcinogenic, in addition to that wilted ad oxidized leaves cause off-flavoring , which makes the tea unfit for consumption. The way that they classify tea traditionally is based on the process by which it is produced and processed. White tea at one end of the scale is wilted but unoxidized while black tea at the other end of the spectrum is wilted, sometimes it is crushed, and it is allowed to fully oxidize.
Tea contains a type of antioxidant called catechins. In freshly picked tea leaved catechins can be up to 30% of the dry weight of the leaf. In white tea you will find the highest concentration of these beneficial antioxidants while in black there is a significantly lower number of them due to the oxidative preperation that makes it black tea.
There is some disagreement amongst the medical and scientific communities over whether or not there are health benefits derived from drinking tea regularly. Consumption of the vitamins (C,E, and K) flavanoids, amino acids, and polysaccharides, found in tea leaves in high levels has been shown to fight cancer and cardiovascular diseases in animal testing but scientists argue that there is not enough of the vitamins and minerals to be beneficial to humans. A 14 year study for cognitive decline over time between drinkers and non drinkers of tea conducted by UCLA PhD Lenore Arab found that; “tea drinking has recently proven to be associated with cell-mediated immune function of the human body” the study also found that tea can play an important role in nurturing intestinal microflora, and also provides immunity against intestinal illnesses. Tea is also said to be beneficial to humans in that it protects the body’s cell membranes from damage from oxidative processes. It is also said to help prevent dental cavities because tea contains fluorine.
Not at issue for debate is that tea normalizes blood pressure, it has lipid depressing properties, has been said to prevent both diabetes and coronary heart disorders because tea reduces the Blood-glucose activity in the body. Tea is also found to have germicidal and germistatic properties that fight both gram positive and gram negative pathogenic bacterium. Green and black tea have the largest number of catechins which are anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, and anti-tumoric antioxidants, though all teas made with real Camellia sinensis leaves, buds, and intermodes, has the vitamins and minerals discussed above.(Herbal teas often contain no “tea” leaves at all.)
Though the PhD’s and MD’s may debate the issue until the end of time and none of them exist anymore, I believe that in the end there will be incontrovertible proof that the health and prevention properties that are present in tea are not a myth or some old wives tale, that tea really can help to prevent cancer, heart disease, loss of cognition as you age, and many other health benefits. Adding a cup of tea to your day or a cup of tea every other day is not such a strenuous nor unpleasant addition to your regular health and wellness regimen as to actually be a chore instead of simply being a nice cup of relaxing tea. Tea is versatile and can be drunk either hot or cold, there are numerous blends and plants that can enhance and change the flavor of tea, there is a blend or a flavoring to please any palate. Tea is also a sugar free, low calorie, and all-natural, not to mention hydrating beverage that can be enjoyed anytime.