A Good Cup of Tea: History and Health Benefits 

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The legendary first cup of tea was had by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong while sitting in his Camellia Garden when a leaf from the Camellia tree accidentally dropped into his hot water to flavour what we now call tea. This is probably far more myth than reality however it started, tea has become part of many cultures and traditional practices, as well as many people’s first cup of caffeine in the morning. All tea, excluding those with rooibos or fruit infusions, comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The difference between black, green, oolong, and white tea is how they are processed. Black is allowed to oxidize before being dried. Oolong is allowed to oxidize slightly before being steamed to stop the oxidization, this means it lies between black and green tea in both flavour and tea preparation. Green tea is either roasted or steamed to prevent any oxidation from happening. Finally, white tea is a very new-growth tea that still has fine hairs on the leaves when they’re picked and is dried similarly to green tea to preserve the delicate hairs on the leaves; this gives the leaves a white appearance once dried.

Green tea, being one of my favourite teas especially when it comes to the health benefits of drinking it, has a pretty interesting history. Green tea was first grown and produced in China and was then brought over to Japan by Buddhist monks. These monks were the first to start growing green tea while also developing the tea ceremony that included matcha. The tea ceremony was used by Japanese monks to give them a stable energy to help them meditate for the long hours that they were required as Buddhist monks. Nowadays, we know that this stable energy comes from the combination of caffeine and a non-protein amino acid called L-theanine. While caffeine gives you a high-energy burst, the L-theanine allows for a more stable, less spiky kind of energy that lasts longer than your typical caffeine hit.

L- theanine, which is responsible for the umami taste in teas, has more health benefits than just the levelling of energy from caffeine. In recent studies, it has been seen to help with anxiety, and focus, both of which people like me with ADHD struggle with. While L-theanine is a rare non-protein amino acid it can be found in all teas from the Camellia Sinensis plant and one mushroom, the Bay Bolete mushroom. Black tea contains the most L-theanine out of all the teas, but it still takes about 8 cups (each 200ml cups) a day to reach recommended levels but research in this area is lacking. While 8 cups of tea seems like a lot, there are still benefits from enjoying even a single cup of tea. 

So whether you were looking to drink a cup of tea for the history, the culture, or the health benefits, make sure to savour and enjoy a cup of green tea. 


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