Tea, A Pathway to Wellness and Enlightenment
My life has been so enriched by teas and herbs that I am compelled to share my passion with you. Use teas and herbs in recipes, bath water and facial preparations to name a few. However, nothing compares to the simplicity of sipping tea for nourishment and the pure enjoyment of it.
For several thousand years, in many cultures, tea is second only to water as the beverage of choice. Growing up in an Asian household where tea was always offered to visitors; to mah zong players; and along with dim sum (yum cha), the family tradition of gathering at a restaurant.
Tea is the go -to beverage for both health maintenance and illness prevention. We relax with a nice cuppa tea. We make important decisions over a cup of tea. We create community and bond over tea, gathering to chat, catch up with each other's lives, commiserate, and share joys and sorrows. My mother believed that tea is the ultimate antidote to any crisis, real or imagined.
What is tea?
Tea is a beverage made by steeping the leaves from a tea plant in boiling water. There are different types of tea, including black, green, oolong, and white, all derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinenis tree. The leaves are harvested by hand-and a trained eye-by plucking the shoot holding the two youngest leaves and a small bud. The various distinctions (green, black, oolong and white) result from the fermentation process, causing enzymatic changes within the leaves. Green tea is lightly fermented; oolong, partially fermented and black tea, fully fermented. Although today the plucking of the tealeaves is still accomplished by hand, the remainder of the processing from fermenting, to air-drying, to withering, to rolling, to final roasting is mechanized.
Green Teas are still the favorite in China, Taiwan, and Japan. Green tea steeps into a mild, slightly bitter-tasting, pale greenish-yellow-colored beverage. Green tea is rich in antioxidant polyphenols.
Oolong Teas commonly offered in Chinese restaurants is slightly bitter, and brown or amber in color. When you have dim sum, request this tea to be served combined with chrysanthemum flower and rock candy.
Black Teas are an amber-colored, full body, non-bitter beverage. Orange pekoe is a black tea. Earl Grey is a black tea infused with the oil of bergamot. English breakfast, the most requested black tea, is a blend of small-leaved Ceylon and Indian Assam tea. If you want a heartier brew, order Irish breakfast tea.
Scented Teas are made by mixing flavoring(s) with tealeaves. Jasmine blossoms are added to green or oolong to make jasmine tea. Fruit scented tea are generally made with essential oil with black tea. An example is Earl Grey, a black tea made with oil of orange bergamot.
White Teas are teas that have remained in their natural state. It goes thru minimum processing compared to the other teas. They are left to wither (air dry) for two to three days and then dried in large pans over fire. The taste is very delicate. These teas are never served with milk.
Tisanes commonly called herbal teas, They are not consider teas, since they do not come from the tea bush.Tisanes are infusions made with herbal leaves, flowers, seeds and roots. See Herbal teas
Tea is a low calorie, containing vitamin A, C and E as well as health promoting compounds called flavonoids. Polyphenols, or tea flavonoids, act as antioxidants, countering the effects of free radicals in the bloodstream. Back in the 1970's, medical researchers sought to determine the reason certain Japanese inhabitants in a tea-growing region had a much lower rate of cancer than those in other in other regions, despite their history of heavy smoking. They discovered that the tea contained a powerful subgroup of polyphenols called catechins. Green tea contains 30% catechins; black tea, three to 10%. One catechin in particular, EGCg, is found only in tea. EGCg, one of the most potent antioxidants yet discovered, is up to 20 times more effective than vitamin E in preventing and inhibiting cancer growth.
Research has shown that all teas are effective in inhibiting bacteria that cause dental plaque. Green and black tea are known for their ability to aid digestion. The catechins found only in tea aid in strengthening the immune system by promoting the growth of disease fighting t-cells. It has been shown that green tea activates an enzyme in saliva that speeds up the digestion of carbohydrates. Therefore, tea is served with and after meals to promote digestion and sooth the digestive tract.
Herbal teas are brewed from plants for their flavors and their ability to cause subtle changes in our body chemistry. Herbs were brewed into healing teas long before they were sipped merely for enjoyment. When brewing herbs, I prefer the use of distilled water. Distilled water is "hungry", that is, it extracts maximum health benefits from herbs. When brewing the soft parts of the plant, steep covered for five to 15 minutes, depending upon preferred tea strength. This is referred to as an infusion. When using herbs like burdock root, or the bark of a plant, simmer for 15 to 30 minutes in order to extract the plant's medicinal properties. This method is called a decoction. You can also place herbs in cold water and let it steep in the sun.
Ancient medicine promotes prevention by keeping the body systems in balance. Modern medicine owes a lot to the plant world. Approximately 70 percent of drugs are derived from natural substances; usually only one part of the plant is extracted to make a drug. To enhance synergistic balance in the body, I feel that it is better to make use of the whole herb.
Herbs shoud be included in a healthful diet and lifestyle. Know your herb before ingesting it and research possible reactions with your medications. A friend of mine who was on cholesterol -lowering medication, decided to take red yeast rice capsules. A few weeks later, she was feeling not quite right, so she visited her doctor who discovered that her cholesterol was too low.
Another simple, healthy tea is hawthorn. The leaves and berries are used in some of my tea blends. The hawthorn berry has the same antioxidants found in grapes and tea. Medicinally, it is considered a safe cardiovascular tonic. It has been recorded in European formulas since the late 1800's
Red Rooibos, found in Africa, is naturally sweet. Red tea contains healthy amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium, fluoride, manganese, zinc, calcium, Vitamin C and a fair amount of alpha-hydroxyl. Because it is caffeine free, I like to blend this tea with rosehips, hibiscus, lemongrass, bilberry, hawthorn berries. This is a great immune booster. This tea is wonderful iced as well as hot.
Driving after dark became difficult for me, vision-wise. Coincidently, last year I had a crazy urge for bilberries. I ate them in pudding mixed with raw honey and chia seeds. Drank it in iced tea and made a jam for my toast. While out driving 35 miles an hour on a winding road one night soon after, I realized that I had no night vision problem. I found out a few days later that the Royal Air Force Pilots ate bilberry jelly to promote night vision during WWll
A few years ago, I had a detached retina while I was at an anti-aging conference in Brazil. My doctor was able to reattach it and warned me that I would surely develop a cataract. A cataract was also developing in my right eye also. I made a tea of eyebright, goldenseal, raspberry leaves, and cayenne in distilled water. After the solution cooled down, I filled two eyecup with the tea and used as an eyewash. The cayenne stings only slightly, lasting for a few seconds. I did this twice daily for about 2 months with great results. I am so grateful for this tea, as it was the savior of my right eye.
Drinking tea is not only enjoyable and healthy; it is a way to connect with others and with our inner selves. Teatime is an opportunity to suspend thought, ease your mind and body, and rest your soul. I developed a tea ritual to help me connect with my inner self, which I would like to share with you: Concentrate on remaining present/in a tea state of mind as you prepare your tea, from the boiling the water, to brewing, to steeping, to sipping. Breathe it in, taste it, feel it warm your insides, body and soul. Express gratitude to the tea for enhancing your sense of being one with the I AM. Slow down and feel the love...sip by sip.