Leaves of Fortune in Your Tea Cup

Green, black or white, tea offers better health and, potentially, longer life.

| October/November 2008

Until recently, most Americans and Europeans drank tea only as a tasty, mildly stimulating alternative to coffee. But that’s been changing, as the research on tea’s many health benefits becomes more widely known. The fact is, drinking a few cups of tea a day—especially green tea—reduces the risk of many serious conditions, notably heart disease and cancer.

Knowing the full extent of this herb’s healing abilities, you’ll want to make tea time more than an occasional, pleasant break from coffee … drinking tea daily could help you live a longer, healthier life.

Reading the Leaves

Tea (Camellia sinensis) is native to the area where southwest China meets northwest India. The plant is a subtropical evergreen tree, but growers prune it waist-high for easier harvest. China and India each produce about one-quarter of the world’s tea crop, with most of the rest grown in Sri Lanka, Kenya, Turkey, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The leaves of the tea plant are used to make four basic types of tea—white, green, oolong and black. In most cases, after harvest, the leaves wilt and oxidize, progressively darkening as their chlorophyll breaks down and combines with oxygen in the air. The tea industry calls this process fermentation. Fermentation is a misnomer, however, because the process does not involve microorganisms—what actually occurs is oxidation.

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