Today, all over the world people drink tea. Tea is grown in 34 countries in Asia, Africa, South America, and at one commercial tea plantation in North America. Half of the tea production in the world comes from India. The three basic teas, (green, black, and oolong) come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. It is the oxidation time and processing steps that differentiate one tea from the others. The type of soil, geographical location, and other plants growing near the tea bush are all factors that determine the taste of the tea. So, all green, black, and oolong teas do not taste the same. Tea has less caffeine than coffee; but, just like coffee, you want to drink it in moderation. Store tea in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dry, dark place away from coffee and spices that can change the original flavor of the tea. It can be served hot or iced, loose or in tea bags.

Iced tea originated in the United States. In 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair on an extremely hot day a tea merchant could not get anyone to try his hot tea. People were looking for a cool, refreshing drink on such a warm day. The vendor added ice to the tea and his sales sored! The United States is the only country where iced tea is popular today. In fact, 85 percent of the tea served in the United States is iced tea and can keep for up to one and a half days.

Tea bags were another spontaneous American contribution to the tea industry. In the early twentieth century a tea merchant put samples of tea in small gauze bags. He intended for his customers to take the loose tea out of the bags and make their tea as usual. Instead, they put the gauze bags down into their tea pots. The tea bag was invented! It was not until the 1970s that tea bags became popular in the United Kingdom.

Green tea requires no fermentation time. The leaves are picked, broken, and then fired in an oven. The finished product is greenish in color and has a delicate taste. Many people give green tea credit for improved health concerns. Some say it has lowered their blood pressure, improved their cholesterol, lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease, and lowered their risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Others feel it may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disorders. Because of the powerful antioxidants in green tea, it might prevent certain cancers. Green tea may inhibit the growth of bacteria and some viruses. This can lower the risk of infection and lower the chance of getting cavities and bad breath.

To make black tea the leaves need to be fully oxidized before they go through the heat process and the drying process. The shelf life of black tea is up to two years if it is stored correctly. Like green tea, black tea has possible health benefits. Blood sugar, cholesterol, and high blood pressure might be lowered. Gut health, immune system health and the reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke are possible benefits of drinking black tea. To improve brain-focus and alertness, black tea is recommended.

Oolong tea is a semi-fermented tea. It is a lighter color than black tea and has a fragrant, fruity flavor.  Some possible health benefits are: It can help boost metabolism, help with type 2 diabetes, help lower high cholesterol, reduce the risk of cancer, and help to improve heart, brain, bone, and dental health. Oolong tea helps with inflammatory disorders and can improve skin.

Although the word tea appears in the names of herbal teas, scientifically herbal teas are not teas. These drinks are made from a variety of different plants with different nutritional values. Some of these are chamomile, peppermint, orange, etc.

The next time a friend stops by, think about serving tea for two!

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