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Fairport-E.Rochester Post
  • Whether hot or on ice, a cuppa tea can do you good

  • Ever since the day when, more than 4,000 years ago — at least, as legend has it — some leaves from a tree blew into a Chinese emperor’s pot of boiling water, yielding a refreshing beverage, tea has been a mainstay of the human diet, as well as a builder of empires and one of the factors behind the American Revolution.

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  • Ever since the day when, more than 4,000 years ago — at least, as legend has it — some leaves from a tree blew into a Chinese emperor’s pot of boiling water, yielding a refreshing beverage, tea has been a mainstay of the human diet, as well as a builder of empires and one of the factors behind the American Revolution.
    Tea, in fact, is the world’s second-most popular drink after water. And the next time you brew yourself a cup of Earl Grey black tea, that pot of Gunpowder green tea or any one of the countless other varieties of tea, you may be doing your health a favor.
    The health benefits of tea have to do with its antioxidant properties. Jennifer Clark, a clinical dietician at ProMedica Bixby Hospital in Adrian, Mich., said the biggest factor is a catechin in tea known as ECGC, which stands for epigallocatechin gallate. Antioxidants, according to Clark, help keep what are known as “free radicals” at bay in the body.
    The theory is that free radicals can damage cells, and, therefore, antioxidants may help lessen the chances of cancer and heart disease, and they may be good for the brain, too. And ECGC, which is present in very high quantities in green tea, is an especially potent antioxidant.
    “The key is to have brewed tea,” Clark said, whether it’s consumed hot or served as iced tea, rather than a high-calorie bottled and sweetened tea. And the tea needs to be steeped long enough to get the most antioxidants — at least three minutes.
    Herbal teas don’t pack the antioxidant punch of “real” tea. And, said Clark, there are other things to be aware of when it comes to herbal tea.
    “You have to be very careful there are no bad supplements,” she said. These include comfrey, ephedra, willow bark, lobelia, germander and chaparral, all of which “can have significant side effects.” And additives like senna and aloe have a laxative effect.
    To Clark, tea, especially green tea, is an important part of a balanced diet. As long as it’s not sweetened, tea is essentially calorie-free, and even the caffeinated varieties have less caffeine than regular coffee, with green tea having even less caffeine than black. Between that fact and the high level of antioxidants, “green tea is a great choice,” said Clark.
    Phyllis Wilkerson, who owns Governor Croswell Tea Room with her husband, Al, in downtown Adrian, Mich., said green tea is also considered to have positive effects, including boosting metabolism and decreasing appetite. Two other especially beneficial teas, for other reasons, are chamomile, which has a calming effect, and peppermint, which can settle an upset stomach.
    But to her, there’s yet another benefit to tea that could be considered healthful in its own way.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s all about the social aspect,” she said.
    One of the rites of childhood for little girls — and even some little boys — is the tea party. Teddy bear teas and tea parties where a girl can bring her doll are common events. And adults have their own version of the tea party.
    “They grew up with it as children, so I think that as adults it’s a very comforting thing to do,”?said Wilkerson.
    She’s also noticed that gathering around tea is something that often connects generations, with grandmothers, moms and daughters getting together to celebrate special occasions. In fact, she herself has fond memories of having afternoon tea with her mother. And at the Wilkersons’ other tea room in Plymouth, Mich., there’s a family that comes in every year to commemorate a beloved grandma’s life because she loved tea and enjoyed throwing tea parties.
    “There’s a whole social component to having tea,” she said. “And it seems like a civilized, mannerly thing to do. I think people find having tea together comforting and soothing.”
    Fun tea facts
    Some fun facts about tea:
    — Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water.
    — There are more than 1,500 types of tea. (source: Tetley Tea Co.)
    — Most of the world’s tea comes from India, China, Sri Lanka and Japan, with parts of Africa, South America, Indonesia and Turkey also contributing heavily.
    — It takes about four pounds of fresh tea leaves to make a pound of tea. (source:?Tetley Tea Co.)
    — Earl Grey, for whom a blend of tea was named, was the prime minister of Great Britain from 1830 to 1834. One legend — and that’s all it seems –– says that in 1803, one of the earl’s men rescued the son of a to-be Chinese mandarin from drowning, and the mandarin presented Grey with a gift of tea blended with bergamot oil as a thank you.
    — A tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan invented the tea bag in order to provide tea samples to customers more cheaply than in the usual container: a tin box. Apparently, one of the restaurants he supplied began serving tea by simply pouring hot water over the bags.
    — The custom of putting milk in tea originated in France with one Madame de la Sabliere, who did so simply because she liked the taste, but it is a common practice in Great Britain.
    So which goes in the cup first, the milk or the tea? Today, it may be a question of personal preference, but historically, one theory holds that it had everything to do with the quality of the cup being used; lower-quality cups would be more likely to crack when hot water was poured in first than if milk was put in the cup first.
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