Chinese legend credits Emperor Shennong, who lived about 5,000 years ago, with discovering the tea plant…by chance. So they say, that a dried branch of the tea bush fell into his cauldron of boiling water and that the rest, is tea history. Whether per chance or not, Shennong has a very important place in Chinese tradition and culture. He is not only credited with discovering the tasty drink, but also with introducing agriculture to the people of the time. He is also referred as “The Father of Chinese Medicine,” having been an avid herbalist who studied their medicinal benefits. Shennong is often referred to as “The Father of Chinese Medicine.”
The tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is original to China and India. Today, it is the most popular beverage in the world, following water. One of the most common misnomers of tea, however, is that there are different types of plants producing, for example, white tea, green tea, oolong tea or black tea. In reality, all these different types of tea can be harvested from the same plant. The difference is in the drying time and the levels of oxidation achieved. Black tea is fully oxidized, whereas white tea is barely oxidized. Green and oolong fall in between. The soil and the weather can also slightly change the flavor of the tea.
For centuries, tea has been the staple of many cultures, and considered a healthy drink, but it was not until recent years when its medicinal properties were investigated by scientists, that it was determined that tea is good for the body and the mind. A study from Harvard Women’s Health Watch (2004), states,
Tea’s health benefits are largely due to its high content of flavonoids — plant-derived compounds that are antioxidants. Green tea is the best food source of a group called catechins. In test tubes, catechins are more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other disease-fighting properties. Studies have found an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk for several cancers, including, skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder.
Additional benefits for regular consumers of green and black teas include a reduced risk for heart disease. The antioxidants in green, black, and oolong teas can help block the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and improve artery function. A Chinese study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed a 46%-65% reduction in hypertension risk in regular consumers of oolong or green tea, compared to non-consumers of tea.
At Yu’s New Beijing Chinese Restaurant, we brew oolong tea all day long…not from tea bags, but by using rolled tea leaves, the traditional way. Oolong is a semi-oxidized tea, having the complex flavors of black tea, but the brightness of green tea. Oolong is the favorite of many, with great qualities to boot. Stop over for a cup any time!