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Tea: A special place in the heart of millions

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Tea: A special place in the heart of millions

By: Tini Thangjam
Taking a sip of hot tea in the morning or when we are under the weather, it is fresh and rejuvenating. But has it ever crossed your mind to take time and think ‘what is in my hot cup of tea?’I am sure as an avid tea drinker and humans built with a curious instinct; this question has got all of you on the edge of your seats. Without further ado let’s discuss about tea and all of its various levels of benefits that we obtain.
First of all, let us trace the origin of tea which dates back to ancient China. According to the legend, around 2737 BCE, Emperor Shen Nong was boiling water in a pot when accidently a leaf from a nearby plant fell into it. When he drank the leaf infused water, the aroma and the taste delighted him that he announced it as a beverage. As the time passed by many years, tea became an integral part of the Chinese culture associated with hospitality, medicine and refinement. It began spreading all across Asian countries such as Japan, where it became a ceremonial tradition to serve tea, known as ‘chanoyu’ which is a highly ritualistic practice involving preparation, serving and consumption of tea. At the peak of its popularity, it became an object of trade during the Tang dynasty in China. It made its way to the Middle East via the Silk Route and eventually reaching Europe. The trade was enhanced by the East India Company by providing tea to different parts of the world. In Britain and Ireland tea was considered a luxury and only consumed in special occasions. Later when the tea tax was abolished from Britain and large quantity of tea began arriving in Europe, tea became an everyday beverage for all levels of society.
Today, tea is consumed by people from all walks of life. Different people of different backgrounds consume tea in their own way. Some steep it in water while some add sugar and milk. Indians usually drink milk tea with various spices added into it. It is usually drunk for its wonderful taste and captivating aroma.
Talking about different types of tea will surely take several pages to describe, therefore I will be describing only a select few concisely. As I mentioned previously, the first one is black tea which is the most common. Its tea leaves are fully fermented before consumption. Semi-fermented teas include oolong tea and those that are not fermented or slightly fermented are green and white tea. This varying degree of fermentation has a significant impact on flavour and colour of the tea. Nowadays, there are various tea types branching out from the traditional ones. You might have come across teas such as herbal tea, lotus tea, fruit infused tea, decaffeinated tea and others. Tea is not just a soothing beverage, it is a treasure trove of health benefits. Even though, there is a huge variety of teas all of them impart similar health benefits.
As it contains natural caffeine, people also consume it for its stimulating properties to the brain and central nervous system. It helps the body stay alert and prevent tiredness. Black tea contains the highest amount of caffeine among all the other tea types. The hotter the temperature and the longer it is brewed, more caffeine is extracted. It is best to know that high caffeine consumption will lead to triggering its side effects which can range from mild to serious. It includes headache and irregular heartbeats. People suffering from diarrhoea, epilepsy and anemia should avoid taking high caffeinated drinks.
Another important feature of tea is that it contains antioxidants namely, catechins and polyphenols which combat oxidation in our body and help us fight chronic diseases that targets the heart. It is good for our skin due the antioxidants controlling the free radicals in the body. Herbals teas such as ginger or peppermint tea is known to aid in digestion, alleviate nausea and reduce bloating. For a calm and relaxing mind consumption of chamomile, lavender, lotus and peppermint teas are suggested. Moreover, tea is known to boost metabolism which may help in weight management. One of the most important yet basic profound impact that tea has is hydration. As it is composed mainly of water it hydrates our body unlike those sweetened beverages found in the market.
Some researchers also made some startling discovery that tea can aid in fighting certain types of cancer. However, as the response varies from individual to individual and it differs with the tea being used, it is not certain and wise to assume that tea can cure cancer. Scientists and doctors alike are continuing research in this field and we do expect more insight on their discoveries.
It is noteworthy that teas can impact individuals on different levels of contributing benefits. However, excessive consumption of certain types of tea specially the one loaded with sugar will negate some of the advantages. Moderation and balance is the key for reaping the benefits and downplaying the disadvantages. As tea offers benefits that go beyond refreshment, it can be considered as an elixir of our mind and body.
(The writer has finished her Bachelors in Food Technology from College of Food Technology CAU, Lamphel, Manipur.)

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