International Tea Day 2019: 10 healthful infusions that are taking over hearts and kitchen cabinets
Started in 2005, International Tea Day is observed in tea-growing nations. The purpose: to ensure fair trade practices, and improve conditions for workers.
India is a country of tea-drinkers: data show that we go through about a billion kilograms of tea in a year. Stands to reason that we have a National Chai Day (21 September) and we also observe International Tea Day every year on 15 December.
Started in 2005, International Tea Day is observed in tea-growing nations like India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Tanzania. The purpose: to ensure fair trade practices, and improve conditions for workers.
Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world after water. However, when it was discovered 6,000 years ago, tea was apparently used as a salad leaf!
For centuries afterwards, tea was synonymous with the leaf of the Camellia sinensis plant. Today, infusion of leaves, flowers or fruit extracts like lemon verbena, hibiscus and peach, respectively, qualify as teas. Think about chamomile tea or jasmine tea: these don’t contain any tea leaves, but they’ve come to occupy space in our kitchen cabinets across urban India.
On International Tea Day 2019, today, we look at the health benefits of tea from the Camellia sinensis plant (yes, there are more than two varieties) and fruit, leaf and flower infusions that are inching into our homes and hearts from all over the world:
1. Rooibos tea: Clearer skin, stronger hair and a more robust immune system - these are just some of the benefits associated with Rooibos tea traditionally. Both green and red varieties of the beverage contain polyphenols, specifically flavonoids, that are strong antioxidants. Rooibos tea or red bush tea is also thought to relax tense muscles.
2. Rosehip tea: Made from the tightly closed bud at the centre of the rose, this tea has become quite popular in India of late. Studies have found that tea made with the “fruit” of the rose flower contains polyphenols (with antioxidant properties) as well as vitamins E and C (which promote good heart health and boost the immunity). Additionally, researchers have argued that the carotenoids in rosehip tea may have immense anti-ageing benefits for the skin.
3. Hibiscus tea: Another red brew that is as easy to make as it is delicious. Just pluck a few flowers from the garden (they should be in bloom now) or order dried hibiscus flowers online for a daily cup of yummy good health. Studies have shown that hibiscus flower tea can help bring high blood pressure under control.
4. Yerba mate tea: With about 78 milligrams of caffeine per cup, this tea from South America has all the benefits of black coffee and then some. Example: it’s supposed to be great for weight loss. Researchers have argued that Yerba mate has actinobacterium that has bioactive compounds that help fight infections and with weight loss.
5. Lemon verbena tea: This citrusy infusion is thought to improve digestion. However, people with kidney diseases are advised to avoid large quantities of this tea.
6. Turmeric tea: Especially beneficial for people living with hypothyroidism and/or polycystic ovarian syndrome, turmeric tea has all the benefits of curcumin. Our body can only absorb a small amount of curcumin from the haldi we add to our food. The tea, then, is a bonus chance for the body to get more of this pigment that has antioxidant, analgesic (painkiller) and anti-inflammatory properties.
7. Elderberry tea: There is no known cure for the common cold, a viral infection that can leave you with a stuffy nose, runny eyes and muddled brains. While there’s still scope for (a lot) more research, some studies have shown that elderberry tea, made from a purple flower native to Europe, may help reduce the symptoms.
All the teas from this point forth are made with leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. But because they are processed differently, they look and taste different.
8. Oolong tea: Made from the same leaves that go into black and green tea, oolong tea is processed just a little differently. The result: a cupful has more than one-fourth of your daily requirement of manganese. Our body needs manganese for proper brain function and to make superoxide dismutase: an enzyme that has a strong antioxidant action and protects the body from diseases like some cancers and heart disease.
9. White tea: Made from the unopened leaves and flower buds of the Camellia sinensis, white tea gets its name from the soft white hairs on its surface. This delicately flavoured tea is supposed to have superpowers against free radicals that can damage the cells in our body. Added bonus: it’s a rich source of fluorides, which is great for fighting mouth bacteria.
10. Matcha tea: Arguably the oldest type of tea as a beverage, matcha tea is made from grinding young leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. It is said to have more catechins (a type of polyphenols, which as we know, have antioxidant properties that protect us against cell damage), and therefore have even greater benefits for health than regular green tea. However, researchers have recently pointed out that claims that matcha tea can speed up weight loss are unfounded in science. Turns out, there simply hasn’t been enough research into the subject.
That said, there’s something calming about the process of brewing matcha tea. And isn’t that what tea is about: creating a sense of calm and stealing a few minutes in the day - just for yourself?
For more information, please read our article on Green Tea: Benefits, Uses and Side Effects.
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