Chinese Tea Basics
The roots of western tea-drinking go back thousands of years to China, where over the centuries different qualities of tea and brewing methods grew up, tea-drinking customs developed and new objects associated with tea were created. Gradually the Chinese tea drinking habit spread throughout the world and to all classes. A tea culture was born on which different eras and dynasties have each left their mark. In today’s world the various types of tea and tea-drinking customs developed over the centuries can still be found somewhere in some form or another.
Chinese tea is made from a variety of plants for a variety of reasons. Chrysanthemum flower tea is one very common type. Drunk with meals it helps to aid digestion, especially of greasy foods. It is also commonly taken to help strengthen the lungs, relieve head congestion (tension headaches) and balance the "yangness" or "heatiness" in our body. When made from fresh flowers, the flowers can be applied to the eyes to relieve dryness and itching.
The growing season, geographic region and processing of the leaves create the many varieties and contribute to each tea’s uniqueness.
The special care given during processing brings out the natural subtleties of flavor and creates a visual aesthetic that is unique to each tea.
This is part of the mystique of Chinese tea. No two teas are exactly alike. Each growing season creates a unique leaf and taste. So if you like a particular tea, remember that each harvest offers a new experience.
Chinese tea culture is the crystallization of Chinese people’s tradition and custom of drinking tea combined with the development of their technique of processing tea leaves to produce the final product. Chinese tea is a shrub ( Thea sinensis ) which has fragrant white flowers and evergreen leaves.
Poets and writers appeared who extolled the virtues of Chinese tea and described the delightful effects of drinking tea one cup after another. Ahead of them, ancient linguists had taken great pains to create five hieroglyphs all meaning the same thing, which was tea, each with a different pronunciation and some slight difference in connotation.
There are 18 regions in which Chinese tea is grown. The most important regions are Zhejiang, Hunan, Sichuan, Fujian, and Anhui. China's "first crop" teas are plucked from mid-April to mid-May. This harvest is thought to give the fines quality tea and produce over 50 percent of annual production. The second crop is picked in early summer and a third autumn crop is harvested in some areas.
If one drinks Chinese tea beverage just for its aroma and its taste, it might not be important. However, it is very important if one wants to drink tea for health protection because green tea has the highest level of tea antioxidants, and the black tea almost none, with the oolong tea level in-between.
In the past five years, most laboratory and experimental animal studies that supported the conclusion of a health benefit of Chinese tea drinking, especially in chemoprevention against cancer and obesity, have used fresh high-antioxidant green tea or the green tea antioxidant, (-)- epigallocatechin gallate, EGCG in short, as the bioactive testing material to conduct the research. Black tea is not that effective. While the epidemiological evidence is supportive of the benefits of drinking high-antioxidant green tea for cancer prevention, the data on black tea and oolong tea drinkers are not supportive of the benefits of tea drinking for this purpose.
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