Pu-erh is a town in the Yunnan province of China. In former times, it was the centre of the tea trade for the region and so gave its name to Pu-erh tea. Pu-erh tea has a distinctive flavor and produces a reddish-brown brew, a little like the conventional black tea. But that is where the similarities end. It is thought that tea production dates back almost 2000 years in the Yunnan region and some very old trees (getting on for 2000 years of age) are known and still produce tea to this day.
The tea that most people drink, black tea, is fermented and has lost a lot of the original nutrients that are reported as being beneficial. So although it is most definitely better for one's health than coffee, it is not as beneficial as teas that have been fermented less such as pu-erh, or in not at all such as green tea. In common with most teas, it contains antioxidants that can help your body combat disease, including cancers. It is an accepted herb in traditional Chinese medicine which is perhaps why it attracts so much attention now in the west as awareness of complementary medicine is increasing.
Traditionally, Pu-erh tea is compressed into a variety of blocks for easy storage. The reason for this tradition is that it improves with age. Like a good wine, it is a 'living' tea; it contains active microbes which subtly and slowly change the flavor. The trouble is, that long storage times can make it quite expensive, in fact some of the older varieties (between 30 and 50 years old) change hands for ridiculously high prices - perhaps it is worth buying some as an investment!! The more affordable less aged Pu-erh teas are still expensive by tea standards but are affordable. By the time it reaches 50, it starts to go downhill, so you seldom see any that is older than this.
Wiping the sweat from his brow whilst tending his drying tea leaves, a farmer spotted a black serpent nearby. Startled and worried, he ran off and did not return for a few days, thus ensuring the serpent was no longer around. Unfortunately, he had left his leaves in the full glare of the Southern Chinese sun and the leaves had changed colour. Out of curiosity, he brewed them and found that they gave a pleasant, sweet and floral flavour.
The tea therefore is supplied in small balls which expand in the cup to produce their delicate floral aroma and flavor. There is a wide variety of Oolong teas available so if you have tried one, do not think that you know the flavor of Oolong.
In common with all pure, organic Chinese teas, this type is believed to confer health benefits. It has been demonstrated that the polyphenols (anti-oxidant chemicals) that are present in the tea can destroy free radicals. Free radicals are implicated both in heart disease and cancer situations. The levels are less than in Green teas but are still significant, which makes Oolong a healthy drink.
This tea is very often used as the basis of slimming (or weight loss) teas. Certainly it is a low calorie alternative to other drinks as it is taken without milk or sugar, but it would need much more research under strictly controlled conditions to determine if it genuinely helps. Checking on forums about the subject, some people swear by it and claim that it has been very successful whilst others say they have noticed no difference. So maybe it just works for some? Whatever the truth, it would need to used as part of a diet and exercise program rather than as a silver bullet that solves obesity.
Getting hold of this tea can sometimes be problematical; very few tea shops will offer it, unless they are high-class and sell gourmet teas. Buying it in health shops is not always possible; they tend to stock green teas and mainly teas in tea bags, which are too highly processed to retain the flavor and goodness. However, if you are willing to buy via the internet, there are plenty of retailers. But beware, not all are equal. To have the best experience of Oolong tea, avoid tea bags, avoid the cheap ones. Choose pure, organic loose varieties - these are more expensive but will give you the best flavor and aroma.
Jasmine teas are usually made using Green tea as a base, to which the flowers are added. The floral aroma of a good quality variety is exquisite and as you drink the pale yellow, almost colorless brew, you can just lose yourself in a timeless bubble. This is quite often the most appealing Chinese tea to those of you who are traditional Indian Black tea drinkers. The taste is a subtle sweetness with a persistent floral aftertaste and the aroma is gorgeous. Loose leaf Jasmine is the best. The leaves are an art form in themselves; the makers will twist, curl, roll or even tie the leaves together in a small bunch. In China, tea drinking is done with all of the senses, not just taste, which is why the producers go to such extraordinary lengths.
Jasmine tea has been documented for over 800 years and in common with most tea types, has its origins in China. How it was invented is not known, it may have been by accident or design. Unlike most of the other tea types, I have not come across any legends that explain why and how it was created - I am sure there must be some out there!
Since it is normally based on Green tea, Jasmine tea has much the same health benefits as the latter. Green tea is claimed to be good for digestion, your heart and even halitosis! The best documented benefit however, is against cancer. It has high levels of antioxidants such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This is one of a group of chemicals called flavonoids which are known to destroy the reactive molecules called free radicals (oxidants) that are created in the body. These oxidants are implicated in the formation of cancer and with heart attacks so Jasmine tea is a pleasant way to help your body deal with these. It is not a magic cure-all as some tea sellers would have you believe but when included as part of a healthy lifestyle, it may help. Judging by the research, which really needs to be more extensive and controlled in order to be clinically reliable in my opinion, it is not going to hinder. So for those who are not keen on the sometimes 'grassy' taste of green tea, jasmine is a potentially healthy and tastier alternative.
Imagine a drink that is the very essence of nature, capturing the flavours and aromas of a spring mountain meadow, the morning dew combined with the smells of the earth and flowers. A drink that can restore you and keep you healthy. A drink that revives. What a drink that would be! But there is no need to dream, such a drink is available, and has indeed been available for centuries - Green tea!
The most prized green tea is Dragon Well (also know as Long Jin or Lung Ching). Legend has it that the well that gives the tea its name lies not far from Hangshou. Far back in the mists of time, the well ran dry and the local peasants were on the verge of disaster, their crops would fail and they would starve. So a local monk summoned up a friendly dragon that he knew could help. He offered up a prayer and the dragon made the rains come and starvation was avoided. The well became known as the Dragon Well and the local tea was named after it.
The Chinese have always known that Green tea is beneficial to health and there have been many studies that back up these claims. It seems that Green tea contains a variety of beneficial chemicals, including anti-oxidants. With just two or three cups a day you could feel a difference in your body and mind. The anti-oxidants combat the harmful chemicals called 'free radicals' that are a by-product of processes within the cells of your body. These free radicals are believed to contribute to a variety of ailments and diseases including cancer and heart disease. Out of all the types of tea, green is understood to be the most potent in terms of health giving properties. This is because it is the least processed of all teas. The leaves are barely oxidised and so the anti-oxidants remain intact. There are no hard and fast rules for how much to drink each day, some sources quote a figure in grams, others quote cups. As with all natural remedies, persistence is the key, you are unlikely to benefit from taking the occasional cup. Several cups every day seems to be an average figure.
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