As the weather turns cold and damp, the hot beverage of choice for many folks is Camellia Sinensis, more commonly known as tea! True, you can enjoy iced-tea in the summer, but there are a plethora of cold drinks to choose from, whereas in the winter, we are pretty much limited to coffee, hot chocolate and, of course, tea. Contrary to what most Americans would assume, the world’s most popular drink is not coffee, nor even Coca-Cola, but tea.

You may have heard that tea was first discovered when a tea leaf blew into a bowl of hot water set before the Emperor of China way back when. Upon tasting it, he was delighted and discovered its stimulating yet soothing effects, as well as its health benefits. There are many legends and "myths" about the history of tea, and this is one of them.

Today there are many types and hybrids of tea, but scientists have been able to trace the original tea trees to a single plant that grew in Myanmar (formerly Burma), and the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China. The earliest known cultivation of tea trees was about 3,200 years ago when people in China began drinking it first for medicinal purposes and then for pleasure and as a mild stimulant. During the 6th century CE, tea spread to Japan and Korea, where tea ceremonies were developed and are still practiced to this day, due to the high esteem in which tea was and is still held.

After spreading throughout Asia, tea finally made its way westward into Europe and eventually the Americas and the rest of the globe. Tea was first brought to Europe by the Dutch East Indian Company when it arrived in Amsterdam in the 1600s. From there it made its way to France, Britain and the rest of the continent. The British were the first to break China’s monopoly on tea. Tea was introduced to India after colonization and it was there where some of the world’s favorite teas were cultivated, namely Assam and Darjeeling.

You can learn much more about the history of tea at these websites:

Tea - A Brief History of the Nation's Favourite Beverage


History of Tea (Wikipedia)

Most people think of black tea, which is still the most commonly drunk tea, but green tea and matcha tea are becoming increasingly popular. The simple difference between black and green tea is that green tea is steamed and dried shortly after harvest and black tea is dried and crushed which allows the action of enzymes (which occur naturally in the tea leaves) to convert some of the simple catechins of green tea to more complex forms known as theaflavins and thearubigens. These powerful anti-oxidants are what help to give tea its many health supporting qualities. Although green tea is generally "better" for health than black tea, recent research has shown that both types are great for your health. More information on the health benefits of tea can be found here.

And finally I, and many other Americans, are discovering the pleasures and mega benefits of green matcha tea. Matcha is tea grown in Japan, in the shade, which increases its chlorophyll content. After some processing, it is ground into a fine powder which, after brewing, has a distinctive fragrance and flavor. This is the type of tea used in Japanese and Korean tea ceremonies. It is properly made in a bowl and stirred with a whisk until it has a slight foam on the surface. Here are sites about green matcha tea and its health benefits:

10 Amazing Benefits Of Matcha Green

Matcha (Wikipedia)

Below is a list of some books and DVDs that you can find at the Mercer County Library on the subject of tea.

Tea Books

Tea DVDs

-Gary Calderone


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