“Tea is the Elixir of Life.”

As we move towards a more sustainable way of living, there is a growing trend toward seeking a fair trade, plant-based, gluten-free, lactose and sugar-free beverage that also contains antioxidants. What better drink is there that covers all these criteria than TEA?

A simple cup of tea is far from a simple matter.”

Mary Lou Heiss

In recent times our tastes and opinions have altered, and generally, we are taking a more proactive approach to health than in previous decades. Our daily choices are more often based on ingredients that will act to prevent health problems. Tea is one drink that does just that in spades.

Tea contains flavonoids or polyphenols (antioxidants) that help to neutralize free radicals in the body. Scientists believe free radicals damage elements in the body, such as genetic material and lipids, that may contribute to chronic disease. It is thought that the flavonoids in tea may provide an important role in maintaining good health. The flavour and colour of a cup of tea are from two phenolic substances; theaflavins and thearubigins, which are formed from the flavanols during tea processing.

Tea has no sodium, fat, sugar nor is it carbonated. Tea helps increase fluid intake, has virtually no calories and may improve health and well-being.

Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide, and global consumption ranks second only to water, well ahead of coffee, beer, wine and carbonated soft drinks.

In recent studies drinking tea regularly is said to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and make improvements in cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

These results were based on as little as one cup a day up to 6 cups a day. The phytochemicals in tea are thought to play a role in decreasing the risk of cancer and may also boost the immune system.

Tea comes in five key types white, green, oolong, pu’erh, and black. All come from the same Camellia sinensis plant. Chinese tea is from a different varietal of the Sinensis plant, a more bush-like variety that prefers cooler temperatures at higher altitudes.

There are studies on the consumption of tea for benefits to neurological and cognitive decline, reduction in anxiety, memory, attention and brain function. This is due to the amino acid L-theanine in Black and Oolong tea, a strong antioxidant. It has been shown to reduce cognitive stress and used in conjunction with the presence of caffeine, improving memory and learning tasks. The outcome for us after a cup of Tea is a reduction of mental and physical stress. It gives us a feeling of relaxation by increasing our dopamine and serotonin levels. No wonder we love our morning and afternoon Tea.

Like coffee, tea is a stimulant due to caffeine but the caffeine is slowly released over about ten hours. The caffeine content in a cup of the tea ranges from 20 to 70 mg per 170ml from around 2.5g of tea leaves. This will depend on how the tea is made and what variety. A cup of coffee, in comparison, has 40–155 mg of caffeine per 170ml. Tea also contains another psychoactive compound, the amino acid theanine. According to Nigel Melican managing director of Teacraft says caffeine and theanine together create a

“synergistic and balancing effect of stimulating and relaxing’. Where caffeine stimulates and wards off drowsiness, theanine induces a relaxed alertness that reduces mental anxiety and creates a sense of wellbeing by increasing the brain’s production of gamma-amino butyric acid and promoting alpha brainwave activity. The amino acid also improves the taste of tea by offsetting the astringency of some brews.”

The flavonoids present in Tea are at the centre of research into cancer prevention. The major ones in tea are catechin (C), epicatechin (EC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), gallocatechin (GC), epigallocatechin (EGC), and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), EGCG is the most active of these catechins and is the main one studied in cancer research. It is said to reduce the formation of lung, oesophagal and skin tumours in patients and may also protect against diabetes.

Global research findings have been instrumental in the development of supplements and foods based on tea extracts for improved health and preventative medicine using Teas therapeutic properties but I think I’ll stick to just drinking my Tea.

Fun Facts about TEA

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water.

In 2018 globally we drank 273 billion litres of tea.

Turkey, Ireland, and the United Kingdom are the world’s biggest tea drinkers.

87% of Millennials most likely drink tea, often tisanes and herbal teas.

Tea is grown in mountainous areas 3,000 – 7,000 feet above sea level, between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn in acidic soil rich in minerals. Tea producing countries are Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Taiwan, Australia and Vietnam. The top tea producing countries are China and India.

Tea is a natural and environmentally sound product derived from a renewable source. The Tea industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers in the growing, production and manufacturing of tea. The tea plant is naturally resistant to most insects and the oxidation of the tea leaf is a natural process.

Many thanks to the authors of the Article
The Association between Green and Black Tea
Consumption on Successful Aging: A Combined
Analysis of the ATTICA and Mediterranean ISlands
(MEDIS) Epidemiological Studies. https://researchsystem.canberra.edu.au/ws/files/27249571/molecules_24_01862.pdf and The Tea Association Of the USA Inc Fact Sheet.

https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/the-chemistry-in-your-cuppa/2500010.article

Di Baker 2020

Images courtesy of Unsplash, The Dailly Painters and Di Baker