With the end of the year coming, holidays adding their stress, and the ever-daunting prospects of New Year’s resolutions, it can be difficult to get yourself centered. Stress is contagious and it spreads quickly once you become afflicted. However, there are effective ways of combating mental fatigue. One of my favorites is tea.
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Since I was young, I have preferred tea to many other beverages for both its taste and calming effects. To me, soda and energy drinks wind you up just to let you down, and coffee never sits well with my stomach. Tea, however, always seems to help me collect what’s on my mind. It offers a sense a clarity. Depending on the brew, it rarely affects my energy and instead provides a state of astute awareness.
The History of Tea
By the time of the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BCE), tea was already being used as a medicinal plant in China. Many held tea as the “elixir of immortality” and farmers widely cultivated it in southwestern china. After production, tea was used as an imperial tribute, was served to the greatest literati, and was transported by camel across the Central Asian steppes. This was the birth of the tea culture, and it is one that has largely stayed true in spirit over thousands of years.
As time went on, tea – now able to be transported in compressed bricks or powder – was introduced to the Europeans along with exotic spices and silks. During the 17th century, the culture around tea exploded amongst Westerners. China, the original exporter of tea, remained the center of the trade over the course of the 18th century.
In Europe, tea went from an exclusively upper-class drink to a public beverage in little time. Coffeehouses, a new development, were open to everyone (strictly men, however) and allowed people to discuss politics and life over a cup of tea. When tea hit the colonies, they began drinking it faster than Great Britain herself. England saw the financial opportunity, tried to control trade lines and tax foreign markets, and eventually led her tea-selling days to doom culminating in the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
Since then, tea has continued being one of America’s favorite drinks and is found is many peoples’ homes. While we may not hold it as the elixir of immorality, we nevertheless see a number of benefits in drinking tea.
The Benefits of Drinking Tea
Tea can be extremely healthy for you and some even suggest it has anti-cancer properties. Loaded with anti-oxidants that protect against free radicals, studies suggest that 4-6 cups a day may help protect against gastric, esophageal, and skin cancers. Apparently, just 2 cups will lower risk over ovarian cancer by 46 percent in women.
Other studies suggest it strengthens your immune system overall. Researchers found that those who drank tea on a regular basis had more nutrients and immune system activity in their blood stream.
One of the most attractive features of tea for me is the fact that most teas (unless mixed with coffee mate) have far less caffeine. Peach tea, for example, is a low-caffeine and very delectable brew. For me, instead of the jitters, it provides just that right amount of focus and, more importantly, in a taste that is enjoyable to drink.
While drinking anything hot can adversely affect hydration, tea is the best amongst them all. Other hot drinks, like coffee, have too much caffeine (a diuretic) which makes us urinate more often. That said, when drinking tea, you’ll retain more of that liquid and keep your body better hydrated.
Low Calorie, Better Metabolism
As long as you go easy on the sweetener or milk (I just prefer a dab of raw honey), tea is a wonderfully low-calorie drink. Furthermore, green tea has been shown to increase your metabolic rate, meaning you’ll actually burn more calories throughout the day. Without a doubt, tea is an excellent companion in any diet.
The Ten Virtues of Tea
Hopefully this article has proved useful for both understanding tea’s history and some of its benefits. To be frank, tea is an easy topic because it has such a rich history, many benefits, and now comes in many great blends from many great companies. Better than I can say it, let’s hear from Buddhist priest Myoe (1173-1232), who inscribed these words on a tea kettle:
- Tea has the blessing of all deities
- Tea promotes filial piety
- Tea drives away all evil spirits
- Tea banishes drowsiness
- Tea keeps the five internal organs in harmony
- Tea wards off disease
- Tea strengthens friendship
- Tea disciplines body and mind
- Tea destroys the passions
- Tea grants a peaceful death