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Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lanka’

White Tea: History

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 7, 2009

Unlike most other varieties, white tea is an uncured and unoxidized tea leaf. Historically, white tea is a specialty of the Chinese province Fujian – in fact, white tea dates back as far as the T’ang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and quickly became the tea of choice for the Chinese Royal Courts.

Until 1885, white tea did not undergo many changes – however, specific varietals of tea bushes were selected afterwards to make Silver Needle and other specialty white teas. Globally, Chinese exportation of these fine teas began in 1891 – however, the leaves now come from a number of varieties of tea cultivars, including those in Sri Lanka.

Like green, oolong and black tea, white tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, oolong and black teas are oxidized before curing – again, white tea leaves are completely unoxidized. Some actually regard white tea as a slightly modified version of green tea since they both undergo very little processing – however, the main difference between these two types of tea is that the white tea leaves are harvested at a younger age than the green tea leaves. During the processing stage, white tea is not fermented at all while green tea is partly fermented – on the other hand, black tea is fully fermented.

Because they are so gently treated, white tea and green tea both retain a large proportion of their beneficial antioxidants. Essentially, as we’ll see in the next section, the health benefits of white tea are simply staggering – leaving tea leaves so close to their natural state means that white tea contains more polyphenols, the powerful anti-oxidant that fights and kills cancer-causing cells, than any other type of tea!

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Oolong Tea: Origin of the Name and History

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 7, 2009

Oolong Tea is a traditional Chinese tea that’s also known as ‘Wulong’ Tea. The name Oolong (or Wulong) means black dragon in Chinese, where Wu means black, and Long means dragon. Oolong tea is also known as Qing Cha, is a semi fermented tea, and it is named after the person who discovered this tea.  The Chinese province most noted for its oolong tea production is Fujian.

According to Fujian tea folklore, Oolong tea was discovered by a tea farmer who lived in Fujian Province during the Qing Dynasty – his name was “Su Long”. However, because he had a dark complexion, the local farmers all called him “Wu Long” – of course, this is how the name ‘Wulong’ Tea was derived.

All tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis – actually, if it doesn’t come from that plant it is not considered proper ‘tea’. Over time, Camellia Sinensis has protected itself from photosynthetic stressors by forming chemical compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols, which include flavonoids, have the same beneficial class of compounds – known as antioxidants – that make fruits and vegetables good for you.

Green Tea is treated or boiled following picking to prevent the leaves from oxidizing and retaining their natural colour. Black Tea is left to oxidize following picking, that’s how it gets their distinctive colour. For Oolong Tea, the raw leaves are sun-wilted and then bruised, which exposes their juices to the air, so the leaves oxidise and start to turn brown like a cut fruit. They are allowed to oxidise only partially, giving them a rich, floral flavour. The tea is then dried fully – this locks in the rich flavours that oolong tea is known to offer.

Unbeknownst to many, oolong tea can range from bright green and slightly fermented to dark-leafed and hearty – a rule of thumb is that the greener varieties are less fermented. Oolong tea therefore comes in a wide range of tastes and aromas – these include teas very close in taste to green tea to those very close to black tea.

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History of Matcha

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Broadly speaking, all Japanese teas are green – matcha is green tea leaves that have been ground to a fine powder, hence the translation ma (ground) cha (tea). However, since matcha drinkers consume the entire leaf, rather than steeping the tea and throwing out the leaves, they truly secure its energy and health benefits – actually, drinking the entire ground leaf makes it possible for one cup of matcha tea to equal 10 cups of regular green tea!

Historically, matcha tea was first introduced in the Song Dynasty of Southern China – in 1191, matcha was brought to Japan by a Zen Buddhist monk named Eisai. Intriguingly, due to the Mongol invasions of the Song, the powdered style of drinking green tea was lost in China – however, Japan, whose forces were successful at repelling the Mongol invasions of the time, managed to hold onto the matcha tradition. Indeed, matcha tea and its consumption has changed very little since the days of Eisai, which reflects a nearly thousand-year-old tradition that is now making its way into North America.

Although matcha is popular in all of Japan, it is primarily grown in three major areas: Aichi, Kyoto and Shizuoka – however, Aichi is Japan’s principal production region for premium matcha. Interestingly, the city of Nishio in the Aichi region is located far from the major urban centers – many matcha enthusiasts in Japan argue that this allows for the clean air and mountain waters to create the highest quality tea plants.

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Black Tea and Cancer Prevention

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently conducted a study which adds to the growing body of evidence that compounds found in both green and black tea have strong anticancer properties on tumours. In fact, the results, which are published in the Journal of the Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggest that consumers may benefit more by drinking both green and black tea together!

During the study, nine green tea catechins, three black tea theaflavins, and theanine – extracted using either water or a water/ethanol mix – were used on human cancer cells and normal cells.

The majority of the compounds, and all general tea extracts, reduced human breast, colon, liver and prostate cancer cells.

The water/ethanol extracts were found to contain higher levels of flavonoids and kill more cancer cells – because all of the compounds were most effective when used together (a phenomenon known as ‘synergism’), the researchers recommended that consumers drink both green and black teas mixed together!

Moreover, studies done at Rutgers University reveal that black tea may help prevent stomach, prostate, and breast cancer – again, the scientists confirmed that it is the compounds known as thearubigins and theaflavins which may slow down cancer growth. Dr. Kuang Yu Chen and his team at Rutgers argued that some of the cancer cells were undergoing programmed cell death (apoptosis), which seemed to be induced by the thearubigins and theaflavins found in black tea.

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Black Tea and Aging Diseases

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Recently, a 2008 study conducted at the National Neuroscience Institute in Singapore reported that drinking at least 23 cups of black tea a month may slash the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 71%!

In the study, a staggering number of 63,257 men and women in Singapore were surveyed about their black tea drinking habits when entering the study – over the course of the study, diet and caffeine were ruled out as having no impact on the results. Overall, researchers reported that compounds in black tea other than caffeine appear to be responsible for the beverage’s inverse association with Parkinson’s disease.

A recent study at the University of Newcastle found that green and black tea both inhibit the activity of certain enzymes in the brain which are associated with memory – actually, their findings may lead to the development of a new treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Overall, the scientific researchers investigated the properties of coffee, green tea, and black tea in a series of chemical experiments. After numerous trials, they found that both green and black tea inhibited the activity of enzymes associated with the development of Alzheimer’s Disease – however, coffee had no significant effect.

Intriguingly, both green and black tea inhibited the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which breaks down the neurotransmitter (or chemical messenger) acetylcholine – interestingly, Alzheimer’s is characterised by a drop in acetylcholine. Therefore, by inhibiting AChE, compounds in green and black tea may in turn increase acetylcholine levels; this could be extremely helpful for Alzheimer’s patients.

Furthermore, green tea and black tea also hinder the activity of the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), which has been discovered in protein deposits (known as ‘senile plaques’) found inside the neurons of patients with Alzheimer’s.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, it is possible to slow the development of the disease – in fact, there are drugs currently on the market which hinder the activity of AChE, and others are being developed to inhibit the activity of BuChE.

However, many of the drugs currently available, such as donepezil, have unpleasant side effects and the medical community is keen to find alternatives – in fact, researchers at the University of Newcastle hope to formulate a specialized medicinal blend of green and black tea for Alzheimer’s patients!

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