Half of all Americans drink tea

Half of all Americans drink tea

Black, green, Oolong and white teas all come from a warm-weather evergreen named Camellia sinensis. The differences between the four types of tea result from their processing methods and levels of oxidization.

Black, green, Oolong and white teas all come from a warm-weather evergreen named Camellia sinensis. The differences between the four types of tea result from their processing methods and levels of oxidization.

by Joanne Henning Tedesco — 

People have been drinking tea for nearly 5,000 years. According to legend, it was discovered in 2737 B.C. by Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung, known as the Divine Healer, when some tea leaves accidentally blew into his pot of boiling water. In the 1600s, tea became highly popular throughout Europe and the American colonies, and it played a dramatic part in the establishment of the United States of America.

On any given day, about half of the American population drinks tea. Approximately 85 percent of the tea consumed is iced, and more than 65 percent of the tea is brewed using tea bags. Ready-to-drink and iced-tea mixes comprise about one-fourth of all tea prepared in the U.S., with loose and instant tea accounting for the balance. In 2011, ready-to-drink sales were conservatively estimated at $3.5 billion.

Black, green, Oolong and white teas all come from a warm-weather evergreen named Camellia sinensis. The differences between the four types of tea result from their processing methods and levels of oxidization.

Oolong teas are oxidized for two to three hours, while black tea is oxidized up to four hours. During the oxidation process, the tea leaves undergo natural chemical reactions, resulting in taste and color changes, and distinguishing characteristics. Green and white teas are not oxidized after processing, and Oolong tea is midway between black and green teas in strength and color.

The tea plant is naturally resistant to most insects, its oxidation is a natural process and the leaves are an all-natural and environmentally sound product. Tea is naturally low in caffeine and, when prepared in the home, costs about three cents per serving — one of the most economical beverages available.

Tea is high in antioxidants, which help prevent or delay oxidative damage caused by reactive oxygen and/or reactive nitrogen species; phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring plant compounds; flavonoids, a class of polyphenolic phytochemicals; flavonols, a group of flavonoids; epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the principle catechin, a strong antioxidant; and theanine, an amino acid with psychoactive properties.

Be aware that even organically grown black and green teas are naturally high in fluoride because the plant readily absorbs fluoride thorough its root system, including naturally occurring fluoride in the soil. If you live in an area with fluoridated drinking water, you could be getting a double dose of fluoride when you drink tea.

Green tea plants are known to be especially effective at absorbing lead from the soil. Areas with excessive industrial pollution, such as China (where nearly 90 percent of the world’s green tea is produced), can contain substantial amounts of lead.

According to a consumerlab.com analysis, tea from brands like Lipton® and Bigelow® contained up to 2.5 micrograms of lead per serving, compared with no measurable amounts in the Teavana® brand, which gets its tea leaves from Japan.

Sources: consumervab.com, mercola.com and Tea Fact Sheet

 

Joanne Henning Tedesco is editor of AzNetNews.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 33, Number 3, June/July 2014.

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