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A Short History of Chinese Tea Drinking

It is believed that Chinese people have enjoyed tea drinking for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that Yan Di, one of three rulers in ancient times, tried many different types of herbs in the search of medicinal cures.


One day, as he was dying from being poisoned by an herb he had ingested; a drop of water from a tea tree dripped into his mouth and saved his life. True, this is legend, but one thing that is backed up by research, is that tea does possess powerful health benefits that prevent or relieve several serious health issues.


During the Western Zhou Dynasty, tea was regularly used as a religious offering. With the popularization of Buddhism from the Three Kingdoms to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, tea’s refreshing effect had made it a favorite among the monks during Za-Zen meditation.


During the Tang Dynasty tea prospered as a common beverage, at which point tea shops became very popular. It was during this time that a major turning point in tea culture happened, the completion of the book Tea Classics, the cornerstone of Chinese tea culture, by Lu Yu.


This book details the rules concerning various aspects of tea drinking, such as growth areas for tea trees, wares and skills for processing and tasting of tea, the history of Chinese tea and quotations from other records, comments on tea from various places and notes on what occasions tea wares should be included and when some wares can be omitted.


Reflecting the cultural style of the Song Dynasty, tea culture, during this period, was delicate and sumptuous. New skills were learned to create several different ways to enjoy tea. The Ming Dynasty laid the foundation for the tea processing, types of teas and different styles of enjoying tea that we have inherited today.


The Qing Dynasty brought the addition of folk art to tea shops, making them popular entertainment centers. This tradition is still being practiced in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.


In 1610, tea and all of the practices and traditions made their debut in Europe via a Dutch merchant ship and as they say the rest is history. As expected, tea drinking successfully caught on and became just as popular as it was in China.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


The Art of Tea Blending

Properly blending tea is truly an art form. This statement isn’t intended to be taken lightly, nor is it an exaggeration. You can’t just take a handful of different ingredients, throw them into a pot and expect to wind up with a successful blend of tea.


The goal of professional tea blending is to create a well balanced flavor and aroma using different teas, herbs, fruits, spices and other additives from different origins and with different characteristics.


The one most important rule of tea blending that must always be achieved is that every blend must taste the same as the previous one, so a customer will never be able to detect a difference in flavor from one purchase to the next. This is a very difficult goal to maintain but it is what separates the professional tea blending artists from the less skilled blenders.


Tea leaves are able to easily receive any aroma, which may cause problems in processing, transportation or storage, if not handled properly, but can also be an advantage if skillfully used to prepare scented teas.


Basic Varieties of Blended Teas


Breakfast

A Breakfast tea blend is usually a blend of different black teas that are robust and full-bodied, and go well with milk. Some of the more common types of breakfast blends include English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast.


Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea blends also, usually consist of black teas, however, they are generally lighter than breakfast blends. Both breakfast and afternoon blends are very popular in the British Isles. One of the more popular afternoon tea blends is Prince of Wales tea blend.


Russian Caravan

Another very popular tea blend is Russian Caravan. This blend has traditionally remained the same for several years, back when tea was transported to Russia from China on camelback. The blend often contains a bit of smoky Lapsang souchong, though its base is typically Keemun or Dianhong. Some also contain oolong.


Scented Tea Blends


Most premium tea blends are flavored and scented directly with natural flowers, herbs, spices and even smoke. However, some more specialized flavors and scents are produced through the addition of additives or perfumes.


Due to the number of different artificial methods of flavoring and scenting tea blends I am going to focus on premium tea blends that are created using only natural ingredients.


Flowers

A variety of flowers are used to flavor tea blends. The most popular of these flowers used include:


Jasmine flowers are usually mixed into the tea blend while it is oxidizing, and occasionally some are left in the tea as a decoration. Jasmine is usually used to flavor green teas to produce jasmine tea, although sometimes it is also used to flavor light oolong teas.


Osmanthus tea is produced in China by combining the dried flowers with black or green tea leaves in pretty much the same way jasmine tea is. The flower gives tea a mild peach flavor and is the second most popular scented tea in China.


Rose buds are also added while the leaves are oxidizing, while also being left in the blend as a garnish and to intensify the scent and flavor. In China, roses are usually used to scent black tea with the resulting tea being called rose congou.


Chrysanthemum flowers are often brewed separately as a tisane but are also commonly mixed with pu-erh tea to make chrysanthemum pu-erh.


Lotus tea is typically a Vietnamese tea that is made by stuffing green tea leaves into the blossom of Nelumbo nucifera and allowing the scent to be absorbed overnight.


Other Flavorings


Mint is usually mixed with green teas to create blends that are very popular around the world and specifically in the Middle East and North Africa.


Citrus peels are more commonly used in Earl Grey tea which is made by infusing black teas with citrus or bergamot peel.


Smoke, specifically Lapsang souchong, is produced by drying black tea over smoking pine needles, producing a striking smoky aroma and flavor.


Spice tea blends such as Indian and Middle Eastern masala chai are flavored with sweet spices including ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cassia, black pepper, clove, anise, fennel, Indian bay leaf and sometimes vanilla, nutmeg and mace.


When it comes to tea blends the possibilities are seemingly endless for a talented blender to create true works of art. At ESP Emporium you have the ability to sample these truly amazing possibilities.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


The Health Benefits of Different Teas

Coveted for centuries in the East as the key to good health, happiness and wisdom, tea is gaining the attention of researchers in the West who are discovering the many health benefits of different types of teas.


Research studies have shown that tea can provide help with cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It can also assist in weight loss, lower cholesterol and provide mental alertness. Tea has been found to also contain antimicrobial qualities.


“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” said Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD, spokesperson for The American Dietetic Association. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea - their flavonoids - are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”


However, nutritionists agree that brewed premium, organic provides the maximum health benefits, with less calories, sweeteners and preservatives over bottled, instant or “name brand” tea.


Here are the basic tea blends and their respective health benefits:


Green, Black and White Tea

Most any beverage that is steeped is called tea, however, purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea and pu-erh tea to be actual tea. They are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India, and contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids.


The most potent of these flavonoids are known as ECGC which help fight free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries. These teas also contain caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain by heighten mental alertness.


The more processing applied to tea leaves, the more they lose their overall content of antioxidants. Oolong and black teas are oxidized, or fermented, so they have lower concentration of antioxidants than green teas. However, their antioxidizing power is still very high.


Here is what some research studies have found to be the potential health benefits of tea:


Green Tea

Several studies have shown that green tea leaves, which are steamed, are high in concentrations of EGCG. The antioxidants in green tea have been shown to interfere with the growth of cancer in the bladder, breasts, lungs, stomach, pancreas and colon.


They also prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, reduce risk of stroke and improve cholesterol levels.


Black Tea

Made with fermented leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown black tea to protect the lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also reduces the risk of stroke.


White Tea

White tea is uncured and unfermented, studies have shown that it has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.


Oolong Tea

Oolong tea has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels. There are also some claims that Wuyi, a variety of oolong tea, shows weight loss properties.


Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh is made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. Studies have shown that pu-erh provides weight loss benefits and reduces LDL cholesterol.


Herbal Tea

Made from herbs, fruits, seeds or roots, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black and oolong teas. However, their nutritional benefits are based on their own specific properties. This makes it difficult to list all of the health benefits available in herbal teas without listing each ingredient separately.


For more information on the health benefits provided by our numerous blends of premium herbal tea please refer to the Herbal Tea category on our site.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


The Benefits of Polyphenols & Flavonoids Found in Tea

There is a reason why tea is the second most popular drink in the world, next to water, because it is packed with several powerful ingredients that provide many benefits to your mind, body and soul.


Polyphenols Fight Disease


One of the major benefits to tea are its high quantities of polyphenols that literally combat and destroy the free radicals in our bodies which cause cancerous tumors to grow and allow disease to spread and reak havoc on our bodies in the form of several other debilitating health problems.


Free radicals are oxidants which are unstable molecules that damage cells, change our DNA and cause significant disease. Therefore, antioxidants, like polyphenols, are needed to fight cellular damage and repair vital cells. Because many diseases are the result of cellular damage, drinking tea for the benefits you receive from the polyphenols can be vital to a healthier lifestyle.


All tea, whether it has been oxidized or not, contains the health benefits of polyphenols. However, white and green teas contains higher amounts of polyphenols. Polyphenols have been proven to improve the oxidative stress biomarkers (the forecasters of disease risk).


Studies have shown promising evidence that polyphenols may help us fight cardiovascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus and some neurodegenerative diseases and may enhance overall bone and dental health.


Flavonoids Promote Overall Good Health


Polyphenols contain phytochemical compounds called flavonoids which provide antioxidant activity, and tannins that contribute to the flavor of the tea, mainly its astringency.


Catechins, a more powerful type of flavonoid, appears in very small amounts of oxidized tea, substantial amounts of green teas and a little less in white teas. Catechins are considered potent antioxidants and hold the most promise for fighting heart disease and cancer.


In addition to polyphenols and flavonoids, tea contains several other healthy ingredients, based on the numerous other herbs, spices and fruits which are added to the wide assortment of premium blends available.


This makes tea one of the healthiest, most nutritious beverages you can consume. Tea is just about everything you need for a healthier lifestyle, all in one cup.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


L-theanine and What it Means to Tea

L-theanine is a chemical regularly found in tea and is responsible for some of the well known effects tea has on the mind and body, as well as having an influence on the flavor itself.


The concentration of L-theanine found in any tea is high for this pretty uncommon chemical. Two of the teas with the highest known concentration, gyokuro and Anji bai cha, both contain around 2% L-theanine by dry weight. All other teas contain around 1% by dry weight.


The effects of L-theanine

Even though not completely understood and subject to ongoing research, L-theanine has a number of effects on the mind and body.


L-theanine reacts with caffeine to promote increased alertness with less amounts of caffeine required. This effect has been suggested for a long time before it was finally confirmed by controlled studies.


This is why tea is so popular for boosting concentration, even though it contains so much less caffeine than coffee. On the other hand L-theanine also plays a role in relaxation. This effect is what has led people to claim that L-theanine promotes a relaxed alertness.


L-theanine also has the ability to promote healthy sleep. In spite of the caffeine content, this is why tea is so well known to give you the “pick me up” when you need it, relax your body and mind at the end of the day and promote sweet dreams at bedtime.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.