The culture of making and drinking tea has been observed by most of Southeast Asia. Finding its roots in China, this plant has come a long way, making a place for itself in traditions and customs spanning continents. It is a very giving beverage - apart from its aesthetic value, tea has its own healing benefits.
Right from the Tang, Sung and Ming dynasties of China, green tea became an integral part of the Japanese way of life, as it travelled through the monks into the heart of the Land Of The Rising Sun. Tea culture gave birth to tea ceremonies, tearooms, teahouses and a new breed of customs, traditions and social order. The ways of drinking tea also differed - while large cups were used in the Tang dynasty, the Sung dynasty preferred smaller cups to enjoy the fragrance as well as the taste. So did tea-making - the tea-cake roasting method of Tang dynasty gave way to steeping (the method used in practice nowadays) method of the Ming dynasty.
Its health benefits are best reflected by the Japanese. Longevity is the most prominent gift tea has given to the world - an average Japanese person enjoys a longer life expectancy and is less prone to memory loss as they age. The Chinese, too, are known for leading a more active life than most of the world. All this can probably be traced to the medicinal benefits of tea - it acts as a detoxifying agent thereby mitigating the effect of pollution and tobacco-based/ alcoholic substances on your health, it acts as a deterrent to cardiovascular and rheumatic diseases.
A greater presence of antioxidants (free radicals) has been observed in black, oolong and green tea - it works against the building of negative cells in a body which cause cancers and harmful diseases. For example, herbal tea has known to have reduced blood pressure in human body as well as reduced blood clotting to a great extent. While oolong tea helps in reducing LDL cholesterol levels - drinking black tea helps prevent tooth decay and arthritis.
When it comes to the traditional Indian way of preparing tea, its medicinal benefits go for a toss - milk is said to work against the negative-cell-destroying properties of the antioxidants present in black tea.
Instead, we should imbibe the culture of preparing tea in its natural form - by steeping. Steeping time can vary by the kind of tea you your are using - this method works for most
1. Put loose tea leaves in a pot.
2. Boil filtered cold water in a small vessel and wait till big bubbles appear in it.
3. Pour the water over the leaves. Give it a small stir and cover.
4. Let it steep.
Black tea - 3 mins
Green Tea - 3-4 minutes.
Oolong tea - 3-6 minutes.
White tea - 7- 9 minutes
Herbal tea - 8 - 10 minutes
5. Strain it to a cup. Try to substitute honey or lemon for sugar. Or try with nothing at all.
6. Enjoy a nice tea session with your near and dear ones.
It has also has a relaxing effect on your mind. Especially when you enjoy a cup seated around your friends and family. This is why people enjoy tea-breaks at work or a snacks-and-tea session in the evening at home. The Japanese monks were known to sip green tea in the olden times to meditate for hours together. It soothes the nerves and rejuvenates your mind for the day ahead. Taoist and Zen philosophers seemed to be more in touch with the truths of life while savouring the ethereal taste of tea, solely devoting their time towards this activity.
So the next time you pour a cup, there's something for you to think about.