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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
TEA PLANT (CAMELLIA SINENSIS): IS IT GOOD FOR YOU? HOW TO MAKE SPICY GREEN TEA
Tea has its origins in South-East Asia, and has been drunk for around 3,000 years or so. Drinking tea is alleged to have started with a Chinese Emperor who first accidentally made a brew. (Personally, I like the coffee story involving Ethiopian goats best.) Whatever the case, tea is the world’s most widely ingested beverage, second only to water. There are many varieties of Camellia sinensis and tea grown in different places has distinctive flavours. Basically there are four types of tea, black, green, white and oolong.
China and India are the top world producers of tea along with the island of Sri Lanka, where Ceylon tea comes from, although it is also grown in Japan where there is an elaborate tea ceremony, and in Taiwan. However the tea we drink tends to come from either India or China (hence the saying “…not for all the tea in China”). Darjeeling tea is considered one of the finest black teas, and this is grown at altitudes of 7,000 feet in the Himalayas.
The young leaves of tea are picked for processing by hand, and the first harvest or “flush” produces the finest tea. Oil can be extracted from the seed, which is clear and golden yellow and isn’t affected when exposed to oxygen. It can be substituted for olive oil or rapeseed oil but not for sesame oil or corn oil. This is not the essential oil sold in outlets such as “The Body Shop” as Tea Tree oil, as this comes from an Australian tea tree, Melaleuca alternifolia.
The tea trees of Camellia sinensis are pruned so that the leaves can be easily harvested, but in its natural state a tree could grow to 30 feet. In plantations they are the size of bushes. They have small white flowers with yellow stamens which look a little like camellias, to which the tea plant is related.
In China tea has been used to cure almost everything including cancer and heart diseases, and it does have some therapeutic properties. It contains the alkaloids caffeine, theophylline and theobromine (also found in the cacao bean). Theobromine can help lower blood pressure as it can dilate blood vessels, and also relaxes the bronchii in the lungs, so is often found in cough medicines. Catechins are also found in tea and these polyphenols have potent antioxidant properties, so they can protect cells from damage which can be caused by free radicals. This means that they can help prevent cancer and heart disease.
A lot of research has been done on green tea, but this has not convinced the USFDA (they refused to allow green tea manufacturers to claim on packaging that green tea can prevent heart diseases and cancer) or other Institutions that drinking green tea can help prevent mortalities. It might but the evidence is not conclusive.
Drinking green tea is probably better than drinking black tea in terms of a weight loss diet as it doesn’t require milk, use lemon instead, and try not to use sweeteners, unless you add a few stevia leaves. Tea contains tannins, and although tea has been used as a digestive aid and to cure stomach problems, I know to my cost that it can cause vomiting and other side effects.
Tea also contains caffeine which is a known stimulant and for years it was drunk for this reason. However, coffee has the same effect and for me at least, it doesn’t have the same side effects.
You can use used tea bags in the same way as slices of cucumber, to get rid of puffiness around the eyes and to help tired eyes. They can also help if applied to sunburn, as can cucumber or natural yoghurt.
Green tea and black tea can act as antiseptic agents in the mouth, getting rid of herpes or mouth ulcers. Green tea can help protect teeth from a build-up of plaque. A compress of green tea can staunch bleeding from a wound and a poultice can relieve headaches, as can one made from black tea. Green tea has anti inflammatory properties and is antiseptic. It is possible that a skin wash made from green tea can help the elasticity of the skin as it may protect collagen.
Tea contains amino acids, and it is said vitamin C, although ascorbic acid in fresh leaves is destroyed in the process of producing black tea.
With all the hype surrounding green tea, it doesn’t seem to make much difference if you drink it or not, although studies have been designed which prove that it does make a difference. It probably won’t harm you but stick to 2 or 3 cups a day of any tea.
This is in contrast to the studies into coffee which seem to show that the more you drink, the better it is for your health.
SPICY GREEN TEA
1 tbsp green tea leaves for 2 cups
1 green cardamom pod
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 cups water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Put all the ingredients except the lemon in the pot and bring to the boil.
Lift liquid up from the pot and allow it to drizzle back in to it, from a height so that the air passes through the liquid. Do this a few times.
Turn off the heat and cover and leave to steep for 3 minutes.
Strain and pour into cups.
Add lemon juice and sugar as required.
This tea is good if you have a cold or flu and is a winter warmer. It is also an aid to digestion.
This has Taste and is a Treat.