10 Great Health Benefits From Drinking Tea

People have been drinking tea for enjoyment for centuries. For just as long, tea drinkers have believed that tea is beneficial to one’s health. In ancient China, tea was thought to prevent liver disease and cleanse the body. Scientific studies in recent years have shown that there are true health benefits to gain from drinking tea. what can you do for yourself by drinking tea? Here are ten benefits:

1. Prevent ovarian cancer - A 15-year study of over 60,000 women in Sweden showed that drinking two cups of tea per day lowered the risk of ovarian cancer by 46%; drinking one cup of tea per day produced a 24% reduction.

2. Prevent weight gain - Every time you opt for a cup of tea instead of a sugary soft drink for your caffeine boost, you avoid up to 200 calories. Plain tea has zero calories (however, you will take in some calories if you add milk and sugar). And with a new study showing that just one to two soft drinks per day can raise your diabetes risk by 26%, choosing tea will significantly lower your risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

3. Increase metabolic rate - The caffeine and polyphenols in tea speed up your metabolism and increase efficiency of insulin uptake. There is also some evidence that drinking green tea can actually promote weight loss by increasing the rate of fat oxidation in the body. One study found that moderately obese patients who consumed a green tea extract experience a 4.6% weight loss over 3 months.

4. Strengthen bones - A study comparing tea drinkers to non-tea drinkers found that those who drank tea over 10 years or more had significantly stronger bones than the non-drinkers, even after adjusting for other risk factors.

5. Increase hydration - The rule of thumb on fluid intake used to be that caffeinated beverages didn’t count because caffeine acts as a diuretic. But recent research has found that in moderate amounts, caffeinated beverages increase your hydration too. And tea makes a tasty change from drinking nothing but water all day long.

6. Prevent stroke - A research paper presented at the 2009 Stroke Conference stated that drinking 3 or more cups of tea per day lowered the risk of stroke by 21%. This is thought to caused by the flavonoids in tea, which promote efficient dilation of blood vessels, and effective oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol.

7. Boost your immune system - Regular tea drinkers have been found to have up to five times the production of anti-bacterial proteins (T-cells) in their systems than non-tea drinkers. For this reason, tea is also thought to help boost the immune system of HIV-positive patients and other people with compromised immune systems.

8. Protect your teeth - The fluoride and tannins in tea help fight plaque in your mouth, and depresses bacteria growth, leading to sweeter breath. But beware -- adding sugar to your tea cancels this effect out.

9. Keep your mind sharp - A 2006 Japanese study showed that elderly people who drank 2 or more cups of green tea daily had a 50% lower rate of cognitive impairment than those who drank less tea, or other beverages.

10. Decrease your stress levels - The claim that a cup of tea is relaxing is not just advertising hype. Researchers at University College in London found that after doing stressful tasks, regular tea drinkers experienced a 20% faster rate of decrease in cortisol levels than those in the control group. Cortisol is a hormone produced by stress in the body, and high levels over time contribute to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. In addition, the caffeine “buzz” from tea comes on over a period of about 15 minutes, leading to a gradual increase rather than the fast jolt one gets from coffee.

Many of the studies show that adding milk, sugar, sweeteners or lemon to the tea can inhibit some of these positive effects, so opting for unsweetened tea is the best choice. And whether you consume your tea hot or iced, make sure to brew it nice and hot to get the maximum amount of tannins (and flavor!).

It is important to note that these results all apply to either black or green tea made from the plant Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas may have other health benefits but do not contain true tea leaves. Both green and black teas have been shown to have various good effects on health, and a good option may be to mix up your intake between the two. Since green tea has a lower caffeine level than black tea, switching to green in the afternoon might be an option to prevent any interference with your sleep.

What Do Tea Grades Mean?

Tea is an evergreen plant that is indigenous to China and some regions of India. The word tea refers to both the plant itself and also to the infusion resulting from steeping in hot water. Women hand harvest the tea leaves and submit for size sorting and grading. Leaves are oxidized, fired, and sorted by passing them over vibrating screens of different mesh sizes to produce grades with even sized particles. Grading of tea refers to the leaf size and location of the leaf on the tea bush. It does not refer to flavor or quality of the tea. There are approximately fifteen hundred varieties of teas and nine grades of teas. Tea grading is not standardized between countries and the terminology may vary for green, black,and oolong teas, which are the three most popular varieties in the western world.

Following is a summary of each of the nine tea grades. Grades D and F refer to small particles and small broken leaves, remants from the sorting and crushing process, that are primarily used for tea bags. Dust and fannings make a particularly strong brew when placed in tea bags. Souchong tea is the largest leaf, closest to the bottom of the branch. It is a coarse leaf and that is why Souchong leaves are ideal for use for smoked teas, which are tea leaves processed with chemical compounds and smoke dryed that give it it's smoky aroma and flavor.

The remainder of the tea grades have to do with pekoe which is a small fine leaf found in black tea. Pekoe(P) is a small and less coarse leaf. Orange Pekoe (OP) leaves are found near the end of the branch, are the youngest, and smallest leaves on the bush. BOP, or broken orange pekoe grade refers to leaves that are purposely broken by machines to increase the infusion speed. Flowery orange pekoe (FOP) is a black tea that contains leaves and leaf buds or tips. Adding on to that is FBOP which refers to broken leaves with tips.

Some flowers on black tea plants are golden in color and tea is graded for that also. Golden flowery orange pekoe tea (GFOP) contains golden colored flowers and tips. The dark leaves have golden ends, or tips that are highly prized. An increased amount of golden tips are included in a grade called tippy golden flowery orange pekoe (TGFOP). The term tippy means an abundance of tips. The finest grade is FTGFOP, or finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe. This grade is comprised of the very best golden flowers, leaf buds, and the youngest leaves.

Tea grading, as summarized here, represents the grading system for black teas. There are grading systems for other varieties of teas as well as for crushed teas, et al. While FTGFOP is the finest grade of black tea, that same content may be found in the dust and fannings of the common tea bag.

All About Tea Bags

The very first tea bags did not exist until tea had been around for about four thousand years. Several tea and coffee merchants in 1903 New York City sold both tea samples and bulk tea wrapped up in hand-sewn silk bags for shipment around the globe. The intention was that people who bought the tea would tear the bag open and pour the contents into a teapot into which they would then pour the hot water. Or, they might use a tea infuser, a perforated globe used by the Victorians to brew tea. No one thought that people would actually dip the silk bags in hot water to make tea. But, as more and more tea was shipped in this way, the more normal it became to brew tea in that way.

In the 1930s, to reduce cost, paper replaced silk, but the shape remained that of a small bag. In the 1940s, Salada Tea came out with a patent for the rectangular tea bag made of paper fibers, heat-sealed with adhesive. Variations of this style are still being used, some with a string attached to the bag, the other end of which has a paper tag, mostly used for advertising or identification of the tea, but also sometimes used for slogans, decorative patterns, or witticisms. In those countries in the world that still use loose tea leaves to brew tea, small tearable bags of paper or foil contain the loose tea, and are also called tea bags.

Basically, a tea bag is a sealed small bag of paper, cloth, or plastic that contains loose tea leaves. Besides allowing the brewing of tea, the bag makes it easy to dispose of the soggy tea leaves when done. Many types of tea are packaged in tea bags, including herbal teas. The tea used for tea bags is usually the fannings, the small pieces of tea leaves left over after the larger tea leaves have been picked out of the mix for sale as loose tea, or, sometimes, as whole-leaf tea.

The paper used in tea bags is the same type found in coffee filters, and is made of a blend of some vegetable and wood fibers, but mostly of the bleached pulp of the abaca hemp, a small tree that grows in both Columbia and in the Philippines. Tea bags are sealed with a heat-sealing thermoplastic, such as polypropylene or PVC (polyvinyl-chloride), set along the edges of the inner surface of the tea bag. Rather than being hand-made, tea bags today are made by machines of German or Argentinian manufacture that can make, fill, and seal as many as 120 rectangular bags per minute. There are machines, though, that can make up to 250 bags per minute, but these are the more unusual pyramidal type of tea bag.

Besides the traditional rectangular tea bag (and that slight variation, the square tea bag), there are also circular and pyramidal tea bags. Manufacturers of those types of tea bags claim that the non-rectangular shapes improve the quality of tea brewed, and this may well be true, because of the greater exposure of the tea leaves within to the hot water. Also, because these shapes use less paper, less adhesive is used, which might improve the taste somewhat. But, such improvement in quality will occur only if the tea is prepared properly. Tea made haphazardly will taste poorly no matter what the shape of the bag. It must be admitted, though, that the non-rectangular bags, because they use less paper and less adhesive, are more economical to make. Consumers can also buy empty tea bags of various shapes that are more of an open-ended pouch that can be filled with the blend of tea leaves of their choice, and then sealed by a flap.

Incidentally, a cold soggy tea bag can be used as a sunburn treatment -- we'll bet you didn't know that!