Tea: Social Drink, Caffeine Fix, or Natural Medicine?

Tea has a rich history which, according to Legend, begins in 2737 BC China. The story goes that Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while a servant boiled drinking water. Leaves from the tree blew into the water, and Shen Nung – a renowned herbalist who was familiar with the Camellia Sinensis tree – decided to try the accidental concoction. As a result, the concept of brewed “tea” was born. And Camellia Sinensis is what we now know as “real tea” – it comes in four varieties: green, black, white, and oolong.

Tea as a social custom

From Japanese Buddhist monks who studied in China and introduced tea to their native Japan, tea drinking has become a Japanese custom, as seen by the elaborate Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Tea eventually made its way to countries such as Portugal and Holland, and before long spread to other parts of Western Europe. Due to the high price of tea at that time, It was seen as only a drink for the “upper class” – something that made it even more desirable.

When Britain’s King Charles II married a Portuguese princess, his new bride brought the tradition of tea to England. Her love of the beverage, and the status associated with it, established tea as the fashionable drink of the time, and tea became an integral part of British culture. It became a popular drink in the already-established coffee houses, and in public houses, where people would gather and socialize. And as the price of tea dropped over the years, the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike could all enjoy tea time.

Tea as a caffeine fix

Of course, all throughout tea’s history people have been studying the effects of tea, and the “caffeine buzz” didn’t escape their attention. While tea has only 1/3 to 1/2 of the caffeine of a cup of regular coffee, many have preferred to get their caffeine fix from tea, due to its many available variations and flavors. Many are also drawn to the inherent health benefits of tea, which outweigh the health benefits of coffee. Other caffeine sources, such as soda, offer no health benefits and are instead seen as unhealthy options.

Tea as “natural medicine”

Throughout the ages, people have used plants, herbs, and teas for their healing properties. Tea is rich in antioxidants, which help fight against free radicals – helping to protect against cancers, heart and cardiovascular disease, and neurological degeneration.

“Herbal” teas – which are not truly teas by definition – can also provide health benefits. Herbal teas are usually made up of leaves, plants, spices, etc. that both taste good and provide health benefits. For example, fennel is popular in teas because it contains vitamin C, potassium, manganese, iron, folate, and fiber, and is rich in phytonutrients. Fennel has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties, making it a healthy choice to help relieve a number of ailments. (https://www.secretsoftea.com/spotlight-on-fennel/)

There are so many tea options available that there is something for almost everyone. You can enjoy a cup of tea with friends, drink some black tea to “caff up” in the morning, or sip some antioxidant-rich green tea to give yourself a boost. Start sipping!

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