The best known of the myriad Chinese herbal teas is green leaf tea from the Camelia sinensis plant. From that one plant come the four basic (and best loved) Asian teas:
Black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea. The different methods of preparation bring a varied flavor experience, and because they all originate from one species, they have similar health benefits.
According to tradition, Chinese tea was invented/discovered around 2737 BC.
When Emperor Shen Nong was boiling water, some leaves happened to blow through an open window and into his pot. Because he liked the brew (and maybe because he was Emperor), the popularity of tea quickly spread.
Gradually, China black tea made its way to England, where the Brits eventually began calling it English black tea.
Evidently, the poorer quality leaves were fermented to improve the flavor, and sold to the Europeans, then to Americans. Black tea got so popular in the USA that the green variety was relatively unheard-of until recent years.
More often taken as iced tea, these little fermented leaves have become a big part of our social life, vying with coffee for the number one non-soda-beverage spot.
Black tea is fermented immediately after picking, so it loses some of its health benefits in exchange for that mellow flavor.
Oolong tea is fermented for a short time, and may have lipid (fat)-reduction capabilities, making it an effective green tea for weight loss and cholesterol issues.
Regular or decaf, green tea isn’t fermented at all. It retains the catechins and other polyphenols that serve as antioxidants and cancer fighters.
White tea is simply the young, tender, topmost buds of green leaf tea, and is also unfermented. It may be the most beneficial of these four Chinese teas, containing less caffeine and more antioxidants than the others.
The Humble…or Gourmet..Coffee Bean
Coffee is technically tea made from the ground seeds of the coffee bush.
Even though it’s not generally considered to be a healthful beverage, coffee does contain important antioxidants. And until the second half of the 20th century, it was valued as a digestive because of its high acid content.
Coffee was commonly consumed after dinner, before bedtime (now, of course, many people drink only decaffeinated coffee in the evening).
Up and Coming Attactions
Two teas that have gained a lot of popularity in recent years are Chai (rhymes with “shy”) tea from Asia, and from Argentina, Yerba Mate (pronounced “mah-teh”).
Chai Tea consists of black tea and spices which traditionally were boiled in milk over a fire. These days, you can buy chai tea in bags, bulk, and in already-brewed concentrates.
And it’s just as likely to appear with soymilk as with its dairy counterpart.
Yerba Mate is sometimes called a green tea, but it is actually an herbal tea– with a buzz and an ability to suppress hunger.
Mate-sipping cowboys were able to work all day without stopping to eat. They’d just add more water to their mate gourd.
Herbal Tea: a Remedy for What Ails You
Herbal teas have been around for most of recorded history (I’m sure the Chinese Emperor wasn’t the only person to have leaves fall into hot water). Besides Biblical and Chinese medical texts, there is even archeological evidence pointing to the use of herbal tea remedies.
Some herbs are pretty rough on the taste buds, but many are quite pleasant. And if I remember my childhood stories correctly, even Mrs. Rabbit comforted Peter with chamomile tea.
Peppermint tea is another tummy soother, as are fennel and anise. Ginger tea stimulates digestion and quells travel sickness, while licorice tea increases endurance.
I wouldn’t doubt that there is an herbal tea remedy for any occasion.
Brewing herbal tea is similar to making Asian green tea/ black tea: It’s available in loose leaf or tea bags, can be sweetened or not, and is sometimes served with lemon, milk, or cream.
Whatever your need, don’t forget that you can use Chinese or herbal tea as a remedy for a stress filled day, a sleepless night, the flu season, or a simple afternoon pick-me-up.
You can buy herbs and herbal tea blends, and you can grow herbs and custom blend your own.
It’s always there for the sippin’.
Chinese Herbs and Teas
Hundreds of Chinese herbs, traditional Chinese remedies, herbal formulas and teas.
Benefits of White Tea
If you’re looking for an alternative to your regular beverage, and you want to see a health benefit, white tea can be a great choice.
Health Benefits of Coffee
Studies show that the health benefits of coffee, especially when it’s grown organically, can be greater than the risks we were always warned about.
Just Say No to Synthetic Vitamins
Unlike synthetic pills, daily herbal infusions provide essential nutrients in a highly assimilable form.