Tea for health

The first documented infusion of Camellia Sinensis dates back some 4,700 years ago in China and around the world  tea has  been a part of our lives ever since.

There are many types of tea and,  more recently, hybrid varieties and fruit teas have been developed. For me tea is a little like chicken soup -  many have instinctively known that it's good for health. However, we now have some scientific evidence to support certain  health benefits. Without wanting to get too technical essentially the teas that are thought to provide the most benefits are black, oolong, green and white tea.

 It seems to be mainly  about the amount of anti-oxidants present in the crushed leaf. (Anti-oxidants neutralise free-radicals that can damage and destroy healthy cells.) As a rule the darker the tea leaf the more caffeine and the less anti-oxidants. Black tea has a higher caffeine content and, therefore,  tends to be the tea of choice for a breakfast brew. Recently white teas have become  fashionable and has the lowest caffeine content with  the highest anti-oxidant effects. A quick word about caffeine, new evidence  suggests that small mounts  may actually have  some health benefits. So, providing it suits and it's not taken late at night,  don't shun your favourite brew. It seems that the old adage "a little of what you fancy does you good" may actually still hold true.

Science aside, when buying tea it's worth going for that which has been ethically produced in an  environmentally friendly way. Next, when making it, a few basics are important -

  • Use spring/filtered water
  • Use freshly boiled water
  • Use a glass, ceramic or cast iron tea pot (a fine tea pot is a thing of beauty)
  • Leave to brew for 5 minutes before enjoying.

So,  to the most important part - enjoyment. Drinking tea can be relaxing and a sociable experience if taken  with friends or relatives. In Europe,  but particularly in countries like Hungary, cafe culture is vibrant. Teahouses are popular and are a focal point for meeting up and conversation.  Where I live in the north east of England  a new Teahouse has just opened it's doors in Newcastle Upon Tyne and, after only 3 weeks, it's already buzzing and lively. 

The idea all started four years ago high up on the mountains of northern India when three brothers - Tom, Sam and Patrick Quilliam - hatched up a plan to bring the perfect cup of tea to Newcastle. Armed with over 100 brews,  sourced from their travels around the world,  they  set about securing the right venue. After lots of searching they have now opened  the  Teahouse on Eldon Place and  have set about  turning  their dreams  into reality. In addition to serving some of the finest teas around, the Teahouse has a small cinema, art gallery and hosts an ad hoc musical evening. It's opened 6 days a week and serves well into the night. It's  an ideal venue for everyone - friends, shoppers, students and working professionals alike. To my mind it's a refreshing change from the corporate coffee house culture that has gripped the nation and,  more specifically to Newcastle, it's good to see a city centre meeting place that is not all about  the consumption of alcohol. 

So, where ever you are in the world and what ever it is that might divide us we can feel comforted in the knowledge that,  for a few moments at least, tea can bring us all together. What a wonderful thought......

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