1. A brief history of tea

TEA is a drink prepared by infusing the leaves, flowers and roots of the tea plant – CAMELLIA SINENSIS – usually with hot water.

Each variety acquires a specific flavor depending on the processing used, which can include oxidation, fermentation and contact with other herbs, spices and fruits.

The word “cha” is used in Portugal and Brazil as a synonym for an infusion of fruit, leaves, roots and herbs containing or not tea leaves (tisanes).

This article is about tea, not tisanes.

The use of tea as a social drink dates back to at least the Tang dynasty. The first Europeans to come into contact with tea were the Portuguese when they arrived in Japan in 1543. It was soon used throughout Europe and became a very popular drink, especially among the wealthier social classes in France and the Netherlands. The use of tea in England is attributed to Catarina de Bragança, a Portuguese princess who married Charles II of England. In 1660, Catherine sponsored “Tea Parties”, where tea was enjoyed by women and later by men. Tea was drunk in cafés and its consumption grew from the end of the 17th century, being drunk at all hours until the beginning of the 19th century, when the tradition of “five o’clock tea” was instituted by the seventh Duchess of Bedford in London.

The Chinese character for tea has two completely different ways of being pronounced:

One is “té”, which comes from the Malay word for the drink, used in the Ming dialect. The other is used in Cantonese and Mandarin, which sounds like tea and means “to pick up”. This duplicity has led to non-Chinese languages being divided into two groups:

Languages that use derivatives of the word té: German, English, French, Danish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Finnish, Indonesian, Italian, Latvian, Tamil, Dutch, Castilian.

And languages that use derivatives of the word tea: Hindi, Japanese, Portuguese, Persian, Albanian, Romanian, Czech, Russian, Tibetan, Arabic, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Greek, Korean, Suali and Croatian.

  1. Tea processing

Four types of tea are recognized, distinguished by their processing. Camellia Sinensis is a green shrub whose leaves, if not dried soon after picking, quickly begin to oxidize. The leaves become progressively darker as the chlorophyll breaks down. The next procedure is to stop the oxidation process at a predetermined state by removing the water from the leaves via heating.

Tea is traditionally classified into four main groups, based on the degree of oxidation.

– White tea: young leaves (new buds that have grown) that have not suffered the effects of oxidation: the buds may be shielded from sunlight to prevent the formation of chlorophyll.

Green tea: oxidation is stopped by applying heat, either through steam (traditional Japanese method) or on hot trays (traditional Chinese method).

– Oolong tea: whose oxidation is somewhere between green tea and black tea.

Black tea: substantial oxidation. The translation of the Chinese word is red tea, which is used among tea fans.

  1. 2.1. Black Tea Processing

Black tea is processed in two ways, in CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) or orthodox, i.e. whole leaf, which were the processes used until 1973.

The CTC method is used for medium and low quality leaves, which end up in tea bags and are processed by machines. Manual processing is used for high quality teas. This orthodox processing style results in a high quality tea, sought after by many tea connoisseurs and connoisseurs.

2. Varieties of tea

Black tea produced outside China usually takes the name of the region of origin: Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon, Nilgiri, among others. In China, the most famous black tea is probably Keemun, but there are many other varieties.

Most green teas, however, are produced in China and Japan and have therefore kept their name in Japanese or traditional Chinese: Sencha, Matcha, Genmaicha , Houjicha , Pouchong, among others.

Teas can be sold as single teas or blends.

Blending can take place at the level of a single plantation area (e.g. Assam) or teas from several areas can be blended. The aim of making blends is to obtain a stable taste over the years and a better price. In a blend, the more expensive and tastier tea can cover up the inferior flavor of a cheaper tea.

Tea can easily take on any aroma, which can cause problems when processing, transporting or storing it, but this ability can also be put to good use when preparing aromatic teas.

– Jasmine tea is poured together with jasmine flowers during oxidation and occasionally a few flowers are left. You can make it with other flowers.

– Earl Grey tea is usually a blend of black teas with the addition of Bergamot essence.

-Spiced teas, such as the Indian Massala Chai flavored with spices: ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves.

– Mint tea, prepared for the Maghreb countries.

3. Tea preparation

The best way to prepare the tea is to put the leaves in a teapot and add boiling water. You can also make it with the bags, but the result with the leaves is always better. Infuse for 30 seconds to 5 minutes. After this process, tannin is released, which has the opposite effect to the stimulation by theophylline and caffeine and makes the tea bitter. Some, especially green tea and others as delicate as Oolong or Darjeeling, need less time.

In order to preserve the tea from the taste of tannin, the whole beverage should be poured into a second glass. Preferably unglazed earthenware. The tea pot should be made of porcelain to retain more heat.

Water for black tea should be added at boiling, 100° except for delicate teas.

Water for green tea should be around 80° to 85°, the higher the quality of the leaves the lower the temperature.

Popular additions to tea include sugar or honey, lemon, milk and fruit jam. Milk is believed to be useful in order to neutralize remaining tannins.

4. Tea’s health benefits

Black tea is rich in catechins and polyphenols which help neutralize free radicals. It also contains alkaloids such as caffeine, theophylline and theobromine, which provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and energizing properties. It also helps:

4.1.- Prevent premature aging

Amounts of antioxidants preventing free radicals and helping to prevent tissue damage and keep cells healthy for longer

4.2.- Facilitating digestion and treating diarrhea

The tannins help to disinfect the intestines and are useful for intestinal pain and diarrhea. It also facilitates digestion.

4.3 – Reduce appetite and lose weight

Regularly consuming a cup of black tea for at least 3 months can help reduce appetite and speed up metabolism, promoting weight loss and shaping the waist. It is believed that this property may be due to its high antioxidant power derived from the flavones it contains and caffeine.4.

4.4.- Helping to control diabetes

Black tea has phenolic compounds that help regulate blood glucose levels, making it a good aid in case of diabetes or pre-diabetes due to the healing effect it has on pancreatic B cells.

4.5 – Helps cleanse the skin

Applying black tea to the skin is a good way to combat acne and oily skin. Simply prepare the tea and when it’s still warm, apply it with gauze or absorbent cotton directly to the area you want to treat, leave it on for a few minutes and wash your face afterwards.

4.6 – Lowering cholesterol

Black tea extract promotes an increase in cholesterol metabolism, probably due to inhibition of bile acid reabsorption, and can be used to prevent metabolic syndrome.

4.7 – Prevents atherosclerosis and heart attack

Black tea is rich in flavonoids, which are known to protect the cardiovascular system by preventing the oxidation of bad cholesterol (LDL), responsible for the formation of atheromatous plaques, which increase the risk of thrombosis.

4.8 – Keeping the brain alert

Another benefit of tea is that it keeps the brain alert because it contains caffeine and tannin, which improve cognitive performance and increase alertness, so it’s a great choice for breakfast or right after lunch.

4.9 – Helping to prevent cancer

Due to the presence of catechins, black tea also helps prevent and fight cancer and it is believed that this may be due to its protective effect on the DNA of cells, as well as its ability to induce the death of tumor cells.

5. Tea side effects

Drinking moderate amounts of tea is safe, but if you consume more than 5 cups a day, you may notice some side effects due to the caffeine it contains, such as headaches, nervousness, trouble sleeping, vomiting, tremors and dizziness.

The tea is contraindicated for babies and children under 12. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid consuming it.

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