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Tea ... Here's to Your Health
by Yolanda Dvorshak

Ever since tea was discovered, it has been thought to have wide-ranging health benefits, and it is interesting that modern research is proving that many of the claims made over the centuries are in fact true. Tea's most obvious asset is that it is a completely natural product and contains no artificial coloring, preservatives, or flavoring (except, of course, additional flower, fruit, or spice favoring in scented teas). It is also virtually calorie free if taken without milk or sugar, and can play a major role in maintaining bodily fluid balance.

Since tea naturally contains fluoride, it can strengthen tooth enamel and help reduce the formation of plaque by controlling bacteria in the mouth. It thus acts as a defense against gum disease. Animal research suggests that the consumption of both green and black tea reduce the risk of cancer ­ particularly lung, colon, and skin cancer. It is thought that components in black tea may have an anti-oxidant effect, helping to prevent the formation of cancer-inducing substance in body cells.

Various research programs conducted over the last few years indicate tea's possible benefits against heart disease, stroke, and thrombosis. The reason for this is thought to be because caffeine in tea acts as a gentle stimulant to the heart and circulatory system and thus helps to keep the walls of the blood vessels soft, so reducing the likelihood of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It is also thought that the polyphenols in tea help to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream and help to prevent the formation of blood clots.

The caffeine in tea can increase concentration, alertness, and accuracy, and enhances the sense of taste and smell. It also stimulates the digestive juices and the metabolism, including the kidney and liver, thus helping to eliminate toxins and other unwanted substances from the body.

A Brief History of Tea

Chinese Origins: More tea is drunk around the world than any other beverage, and behind this everyday brew, beyond the caddies on the tea-store shelves, lies a colorful and fascinating story that weaves its way through the social and cultural history of many nations.

According to Chinese legend, this intriguing story has its origins in the discovery of tea's beneficial qualities by the Emperor Shen Nung -- a scholar and herbalist who, for the sake of hygiene, drank only boiled water. It is said that one day, in the year 2737 BC, when Shen Nung was resting under a wild tea tree, a light breeze stirred the branches and caused a few leaves to drift gently down into the simmering water that he was preparing. He found the resulting brew deliciously refreshing and revitalizing, and so tea was "discovered."

The Tea Experience

There's nothing like the calming effect of tea. Imagine coming home from a hectic 12-hour day, and the only thing on your mind is to be SOOTHED. You come home, kick off your shoes, and go straight to your kitchen to put on a pot of water for a hot, steaming cup of tea.

You go to your stereo and flip on your favorite sound or something classical to put you in a soft, lyrical mood. With your pot bubbling wildly, you pour yourself a hefty brew and trudge into your living room, or treat space, and sink down into some place of comfort. You take a long, deep breath, and let the silky fluids of the warm tea soothe the stress of the day from your body... your mind.

The strains of the music wafting in and around each flavorful sip of your tea... its sweet, hotness making you smile, hum to the music that surrounds you. You don't know whether to sigh or simply fall asleep from the sheer relaxation of your drink, and after finishing your second mug and thoroughly listening to the music overwhelm you, you choose the latter and let the sweetness of your tea, of your mellowness float you into restful slumber.

Sound good? Well reach for your pot, and enjoy some of my favorite recipes.

Brewing a Good Cup of Tea - general instructions

Use a good quality loose leaf or bagged tea
This must be stored in an airtight container at room temperature
Always use freshly drawn boiling water
In order to draw the best flavor out of the tea, the water must contain oxygen;
this is reduced if the water is boiled more than once.

Measure the tea carefully

Use 1 tea bag or 1 rounded teaspoon of loose tea for each cup to be served and allow the tea to brew for 5 minutes before pouring.

Green Tea Ginger Sparkler

  • 1-1/3 cups extra-strong brewed tea (Premium Green tea)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2-2/3 cups chilled ginger ale
  • Ice cubes

Combine ginger and tea concentrate while still hot and refrigerate for at least three hours. Strain and discard ginger. Pour concentrate and ginger ale into ice-filled glasses.

Hot Spiced Tea

  • 1 quart plus 2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbs. loose black tea
  • 1 cup milk, hot
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. sugar, or to taste

Bring water, cloves and cinnamon stick to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea. Cover and let steep 4 minutes, or longer if stronger tea is desired. Strain tea. Stir in hot milk and sugar to taste.

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