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Tea: A New Rise in Popularity

Tea is the second most popular drink in the world, second only to water. That is a pretty serious statement and one that can be a little hard to believe, especially in the United States where you can’t walk two feet without running into a coffee shop or a pop machine.


Tea is steeped (pun intended) in centuries of tradition in regards to ceremonies, health benefits and the abundant selection of flavors. Take that coffee, “Who’s Yo Daddy”.


Now in complete fairness coffee does have its own adhering qualities. There is the increased energy you get from the high levels of caffeine. Then there is pick-me-up you get from the caffeine in coffee. Then don’t forget what an eye opener your first cup of Joe gives you in the morning. So just about the only thing coffee has going for it is caffeine.


It’s pretty obvious that as a society we have fallen in love with caffeine, and this is the main reason people drink coffee. Americans in particular would probably run caffeine intravenously if we could. I admit we are a bit of a high strung country, and I say that lovingly.


But what other solid qualities does Java have? In comparison to tea the offerings are pretty slim. According to the medical community “moderate regular coffee drinking in healthy individuals is either essentially benign or mildly beneficial”.


Tea offers several benefits to your health, mind and soul, here are just a few of the great qualities you will find in every cup of tea:


A pick-me-up

Don’t get me wrong, I know that a lot of times we need a boost to get the gears going again, especially in the morning. This is one of the main reasons that coffee is so popular in our society, it does infact give you that shot of energy you need to start the day.


However, a new study, that was reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that, while providing several health benefits, tea can also help improve memory and cognition in men.


Researchers took 12 healthy men and divided them into two groups. One group was given a drink that contained a green tea extract and the second test group was given a placebo drink that didn't contain the extract.


After drinking the concoctions each subject was hooked up to an MRI machine and scientists studied the effects of the two drinks on the men’s brains while performing a memory test.


Yes, all of the men kept having thoughts of bacon, however, the scientists just put that down and a normal male thought. What was interesting was how the green tea drinkers experienced an increase in the activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with working memory. We use this area of the brain for problem solving and focus.


Green tea is full of polyphenols, which widen blood vessels, speeding up the supply of blood to the brain, like EGCG, a strong anti-cancer chemical. Researchers have found that these health giving chemicals may be behind tea’s benefits.


Health benefits


Tea offers several health benefits including:


  • It helps burn fat by speeding up the metabolic rate.

  • It can help lower blood pressure by tackling an enzyme which triggers hypertension.

  • Tea also helps protect against diabetes, since it contains polyphenols which inhibit starch, and helps to lower blood sugar levels.

  • Tea can also prevent food poisoning since it can kill harmful bacteria.

  • Tea can prevent bad breath by killing oral bacteria that causes cavities and bad breath.

  • Green tea guards against hepatitis by decreasing iron levels throughout the body, including those in the liver, the cause of viral hepatitis.

  • Tea can protect against cancer since it contains a compound called epigallocatechin=3-gallate (EGCG), which helps inhibit blood vessel growth.

  • It can help prevent arthritis, working in much the same way as anti-inflammatory drugs.

  • A study has also found that 96% of people who drank ten cups of green tea a day showed no signs of the cognitive impairment linked to Alzheimer’s, compared to only 12% who didn’t drink tea at all.


Good for the soul

As the legendary eighth-century tea master Lu Yu, author of The Classic of Tea, claimed:


“Tea tempers the spirit and harmonizes the mind, dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens thought and prevents drowsiness.”


Many modern-day tea aficionados agree. “In the midst of the rush of everything that can happen in a day, taking the time to drink a cup of tea is a delight for both the mind and the body,” says Aurélie Bessière, head of the US branch of the Parisian tea school Le Palais des Thés.


Tea is the perfect remedy that knows exactly what you need, when you need it. You can drink tea when you need a pick-me-up or when you need to relax and unwind.


We already mentioned how tea can rejuvenate and energize, but tea can also be relaxing and soothing, beneficial to your mind and your soul.


A calming tisane can be the perfect way to relax your mind and your body. For example, a blend of chamomile and lavender or rooibos with lemongrass will sooth you without making you sleepy.


With so many benefits, it’s no wonder tea has been a favorite for centuries to cure whatever ails you, and now it is again finding its spot in modern society.

What Is The Best Way To Steep My Tea?

Experienced loose leaf tea drinkers know that the right brewing process is critical to making the perfect cup of tea. Steeping tea for too long can make it too bitter, while not steeping it for long enough can lead to a thin and watery taste.

Just how long should you steep tea in order to make the perfect cup? What kinds of water should you use? Steeping methods vary around the world, but there are some general rules to follow.

Before steeping

First, make sure you start steeping process of your loose tea with fresh cold water. Cold water has more oxygen in it, and oxygen helps draw out the flavor of tea. To preserve as much oxygen as possible, make sure you pour the water as soon as it starts to boil. Letting the water boil for too long will allow oxygen to escape.

Contrary to what many believe, you don’t have to boil water in order to make a perfect cup of tea. In fact, only black tea should be brewed with boiling water. If you’re brewing oolong tea, try to pour the water just before it reaches its boiling point. For green tea, pour the water when it reaches approximately 180F. At cooler temperatures, green tea tends to release more flavor and less bitterness.

Many tea experts recommend using filtered water to brew tea. Those who live in big cities often have chemicals in the water that can destroy the delicate flavors within complex tea blends. If you want your tea flavor to be as pure as possible, then it’s best to use filtered water.

During steeping

After pouring the heated water into the kettle, timing becomes very important. Different types of tea are steeped for different amounts of time.

Black tea: Steep for approximately 4 to 5 minutes

Oolong tea: Steep for about 2 to 3 minutes or 4 to 5 minutes, depending on stage of oxidation.

Green tea: Steep for about 2 to 3 minutes.

If you want your tea to be stronger, let it steep for closer to the maximum range using more tea leaves. Leaving it beyond that range will cause it to be overly bitter and not as tasty.

Many people believe that steeping their tea for longer will make it have a richer flavor. This is not always true. The best way to extract more flavor from your tea is to add more tea. In general, one heaping spoonful of tea per 6oz tea cup is enough. Add more if you want more flavor.

Other methods

The method we’ve listed above is the traditional method of brewing tea. However, it’s not the only method. Some people brew tea using a special Chinese ‘Gonfu’ method, while others used a Guywan system. Some of these methods require special equipment and unique blends of tea leaves. They lead to slightly unique tea flavors that complement different blends of tea.

Ultimately, you need to choose the tea steeping method that works for you. Some people like their tea flavored using a certain method, while others can’t tell the difference. Test out a few different methods to see which one you prefer most.

Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Loose Tea, Part 2: The Brew

A visit to your tea shop will probably lead you to a very reasonable question:  what do I need to brew my loose leaf tea at home?  Tea vendors generally cater to all kinds of customers, from the novice brewer to the veteran tea enthusiast.  If you’re overwhelmed by the array of tea pots, kettles, tea service sets, and mysterious gadgets out there, know this:  you don’t need all, or even half, of that stuff.  With a few (wonderfully inexpensive) tools, you’ll be able to get the most flavor and enjoyment out of your loose leaf tea. 

One of the most important tools, a decent kettle, probably already lives in your kitchen.  Yes, decent:  not top-of-the-line, not fancy, not high-tech, just decent.  If you can fill it with water, put it on the stove, and pour hot water out of it safely, it’s sufficient.  An electric kettle works just fine, too (in fact, you might find the temperature control on an electric kettle to be very useful).  The only other really necessary tool is a tea infuser; these can be purchased for less than $10.  Popular models include a mesh spoon that rests on the rim of your cup, or a mesh ball (or fun shape like an animal) on a chain that hangs in your cup.  Any model, whether you spend a few dollars or a lot more, does the same thing – it allows the tea leaves to float in the hot water, steeping and releasing their color, flavor, and aroma into your cup. 

Yes, a kettle and an infuser are all you need to make a fantastic cup of tea.  You don’t need the kettle with the built-in infuser, or the decorative pot, or the collection of bamboo tea tools.  And unless you’re hosting High Tea, you don’t need the pretty pot with the matching cups and saucers, either.

Now that you have your kettle and infuser, you’re ready to brew.  Start with cold, filtered (if possible) water in your kettle.  For the best flavor, you don’t want to actually boil the water; ideal temperatures are somewhere between 149° F and 210° F.  Generally, the darker the tea, the hotter the water should be.  Most kettles whistle when the water in them is boiling, so listen for hissing and remove it from the heat before you hear the whistle.  While the water heats, prep your favorite cup; add about one teaspoon of tea to your infuser, and set the infuser in the cup.  When the water reaches temperature, pour it gently over the infuser and let it sit for about 1-3 minutes, depending on the tea (generally, the darker the tea, the longer the steep).  For stronger tea, start with more tea leaves, but don’t mess with the steeping time; increasing the steeping time will make your tea bitter, not stronger.  Finally, remove the infuser and enjoy your soothing cup of perfectly brewed tea.  Yes, it really is that easy!

What Are The Largest Tea Producing Countries In The World?

Unlike many crops, tea is produced in only a few specialized locations around the world. Interestingly enough, tea leaves only grow naturally in southern China and eastern India, which means that the crops had to be imported around the world before tea production could begin.

Today, tea is grown primarily in Asia, although significant tea-producing regions have sprung up in South America and Africa. Today, we’re going to provide a brief overview of the world’s largest tea producing regions.

China

China is the world’s most prolific tea producing country by far. In 2010, it produced nearly 1.5 million tonnes of tea, beating its nearest competitor (India) by approximately 500,000. China has a wide variety of popular teas derived from the camellia sinensis plant.

India

India contains some of the world’s most famous tea-producing regions. The country’s most popular exports include Assam, Nilgiri, and Darjeeling tea, all of which are available in black, white, or oolong blends. Assam, located in the western part of India, is one of only two places in the world where tea grows naturally.

Kenya

Coming in at 3rd on this list is Kenya. Tea and coffee are the most popular agricultural exports in Kenya, and the industry has continued to grow at a rapid pace in recent years. Kenya produces a number of different varieties of black, green, white, and oolong tea. 

Sri Lanka

Tea has become popular in almost all regions colonized by the British. The British took over Sri Lanka in the 19th century, rapidly turning it into one of the largest tea producers on the planet. Today, the region’s blends of Ceylon teas are known throughout the world.

Turkey

Moving away from East Asia and Africa, Turkey is also one of the world’s most well-known tea-producing countries. Turkish tea often refers to ‘çay’ – a special blend of black tea. However, a special blend of white tea called ‘Rize tea’ is also popular. Both Rize tea and çay tea are produced around the Black Sea, which is a particularly good spot to grow tea due to its mild climate and high precipitation. Turkey also has an advantage in that its inhabitants don’t usually drink coffee or alcohol, making tea the country’s most popular beverage across virtually all demographics.

Vietnam

Vietnam is a close 5th behind Turkey in terms of tea production. Tea is one of the most popular drinks in Vietnam. Being located right next to southern China, tea has a rich and storied history in Vietnam, and it has been produced for thousands of years in one form or another. Vietnamese tea is produced in both the highland and lowland regions of the country. The most popular blends are jasmine tea, artichoke tea, and lotus tea.

Conclusion

Rounding out the list of the world’s top 5 tea producing countries are Iran, Indonesia, Argentina, and Japan at number 6, 7, 8, and 9 respectively. However, tea production can be found in varying amounts all over the world, from the United States to Brazil to Nepal, making it one of the world’s most popular beverages

Why Loose Leaf Tea?

Tea is the second-most popular beverage in the world, so the chances are good that you’ve enjoyed a hot cup of this soothing brew.  Maybe it’s even one of your favorite drinks.  Given the global popularity that tea has enjoyed for the past few hundred years, it’s not surprising that it has evolved into a quick, convenient option.  For many people around the world (including most Americans), brewing tea is as easy as steeping a store-bought tea bag in a cup of boiling water.  In fact, since its inception in the early 1900s, the tea bag has become extremely popular for its convenience.  A trip to nearly any grocery store will reveal the immense success of the tea bag; in an aisle full of various flavors, styles, and types of tea available in bags, you’ll scarcely find a serving of the tea bag’s predecessor:  loose tea leaves.

But with tea bags so convenient, so easy, so readily available, why make the switch to loose-leaf tea?  You might be surprised to learn that loose leaf tea actually offers lots of benefits over its pre-bagged cousin.  Perhaps the most important difference is the quality of flavor.  Bagged teas contain broken (or even ground) tea leaves, which are usually the waste left over from sorting out the far superior whole leaves to be used in loose leaf tea.  Much of the leaves’ essential oils are lost in the breaking or grinding process used in producing bagged tea.  Whole tea leaves retain their essential oils far longer, resulting in a more true and robust flavor.  The bag itself can compromise the flavor of your tea, as well.  For the tea leaves to properly steep and fully develop their flavor, they must have enough room for water to circulate through them.  The small, flat design of most tea bags restricts water flow, thus limiting the steeping process (and your enjoyment of your tea!).  As an added bonus, buying your tea loose allows you to experiment with different blends and discover the flavor combinations that perfectly suit your taste.

If better flavor isn’t enough to inspire you to switch to loose leaf tea, maybe the nutritional benefits will.  Ounce for ounce, it’s hard to find another natural beverage that packs a more powerful nutritional punch than a cup of brewed, loose leaf tea.  The essential oils are the key here, too; it’s these oils that contain the natural chemical compounds which are so beneficial.  Loose leaf tea isn’t just good for your body, either.  It’s also healthier for your wallet.  When you buy your tea pre-bagged, you’re buying a lot of packaging.  There’s the tin or cardboard container, some kind of inner lining to keep the tea fresh during shipping (which is funny, considering the tea inside isn’t really that fresh to begin with), and of course, the tea bags themselves.  Loose leaf tea is much more economical.  Less cost, less waste, better flavor, and greater health benefits:  loose leaf is the clear choice for a great cup of tea.