(Edits for Page 11-12 of The Everything Healthy Tea Book)
There are many herbs, in addition to Camellia sinensis, the true tea, which brew healthy and flavorful hot beverages. There are also many fruits and vegetables with high antioxidants values that contribute to a healthy diet. But no other food product casts as wide an umbrella over your potential for good health as does tea. Distinguishing it even more are the cultural and spiritual values it contributes to people’s lives. The potential for wellness is not limited to our physical bodies. Tea also nurtures the spirit with beauty through tradition and ceremony.
When I wrote this for the original book, I was more focused on the science of health, fascinated by how much history was guiding contemporary study and being proven in modern laboratories across the world. The rich history of medicine actually precedes the history of tea. Tea was just one of the ancient herbs treasured for its healing properties. In fact, when it was imported to the West in the 1600’s, a serving of tea was sometimes called “..a dose” and was also sold in pharmacies.
But I’ve become even more fascinated about the cultural healing properties I experience with tea. The way that people are united. The ways tea is used to communicate a warm welcome and a generous spirit. A mindful lifestyle and a commitment to health and beauty.
The photo of the scroll on the right is one that I purchased at The White Cloud Temple in Beijing. It is a rubbing of one of the stones in a wall of a lovely garden and is said to describe the origins of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Now, when I think of the health benefits of tea, I feel that the “proof” we’re looking for can be found in this ancient history and in the beauty of images like this one. To my way of thinking, the health benefits of tea are in close association with this.
1881 Young Persons’ Cyclopedia of Persons and Places
Two thousand years after Shen Nong’s discovery, the Greek physician, Hippocrates, The Father of Western Medicine, said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Our modern diets are a long way from following Hippocrates’ advice. Food is often our entertainment, and cooking is sometimes a hobby with less concern for the number of calories or the nutritional value. The desire for convenience can inspire unhealthy habits and aggressive marketing plays into that vulnerability to the point that some eating habits can become dangerous.
I’ve come to think of Hippocrates’ famous quote abut food being our medicine as a recommendation to embrace a healthy lifestyle. And tea is certainly one of the options to deal with stress, to add new social connections and new family traditions to our lives. It is another healthy way to engage with friends — an alternative to socializing with alcohol. A beverage that can be shared by all generations, from young children to elders. And it can be shared in hundreds of different ways and thousands of different flavors.
It is, of course, the second most consumed beverage in the world. Second only to water.
In this book, I’ve tried to infuse the science with the lore and offer suggestions for ways in which to include tea into our everyday lives as well as ceremonial and special occasions. The fact that I’ve dedicated more words to loose-leaf tea vs teabags was for three reasons:
- Teabags are familiar and there’s not as much to say about them. But loose-leaf tea is more complex and can be intimidating to anyone new to tea drinking.
- There are several reasons to believe that it is a healthier choice — that the health benefits being explored in medical research are more available in higher quality, artisan tea leaves.
- Loose-leaf, artisan, specialty teas inspire a healthier lifestyle. They inspire curiosity about the ways in which tea grows and a connection to the people who produce it.
Hopefully, understanding how tea plants are grown and processed will help make selection and brewing feel like an exciting adventure; more enjoyable and more meaningful. But, it is ironic that tea lovers who are already consumers of finer teas, seem to be less motivated by the health benefits. It’s the flavors, the aromas, the beauty and the experience that are so captivating. But, art and culture aside, Camellia sinensis, the true tea plant, is continues to be one of the researched most botanicals in the health sciences, and the results are promising. There are those who believe that, with more research, the antioxidant EGCG in green tea will one day provide a cure for some cancers.
And so, I will end this section as I did in the original version with the quote by Kenneth Graeme, author of the children’s book, Wind In The Willows. “Come along inside… We’ll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.”
Thank you for joining me in revising the original, The Everything Healthy Tea Book, to this new format, the blog, as we explore,”What’s Healthy About Tea?”.