What You May Not Know About Tea

Tea. It’s an ever important beverage here in the UK. We as a nation drink 165 million cups of tea on a daily basis; that's 60.2 billion being sipped on every year according to the UK Tea & Infusions Association. That’s a lot of brew!

I think C. S. Lewis said it best: "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

It's true we are a tea-loving nation, but do you think you know all there is about it? You might drink it every day, you swear by the stuff, and you know your oolong from your pu-erh. So, do you think that makes you some kind of expert? Well, maybe you are, but why don’t you try and see how many of these facts you know? On one hand, you may just learn something, and if not then you can have the satisfaction of gloating. It’s win-win.

Where Tea Originated

Despite our nation being synonymous with tea, many others around the world had sampled and adored the beverage first. Long before we even began to enjoy a nice cuppa and a biscuit, tea was being drunk as a medicinal drink in Southwest China as early as the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). However, if you wish to believe in legends then the tale of tea goes back even further.

In 2737 BC, the Emporer of China and renowned herbologist, Shen Nung, had been waiting within the shade of a tree for his boiled drinking water. It was at that point leaves blew down and rested atop the water, infusing the flavour into it. It was there Shen Nung sampled it, and in a stroke of serendipity the drink we call tea was born. Turns out, that very tree was a Camellia Sinensis (the same plant we use to make tea today).

Whether or not this was true, the fact that tea was huge in China is no understatement. It even ranked up to being a recreational drink throughout the Tang dynasty (618 AD - 906 AD) and became their go-to national drink of choice. From there, Japanese Buddhist monks came over before introducing it back home in Japan (another nation where tea was a foundation of their culture).

Despite this, it wasn't until the latter half of the 16th Century when Europeans began to hear of this exotic beverage. It was something of a curiosity gifted from sailors as the British East India Company dominated the import market. This stayed that way until the mid-1600's when tea became known as a drink for the wealthy. This was due to the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza who was a huge tea fanatic and made it hip and fashionable.

How Tea Plants Grow

Tea plants, Camellia Sinensis, are evergreens that mainly grow in the wilds of tropical and subtropical climates. However, did you know you can grow your own tea here in the UK? It's true! After all, the plant originates from the damp, cool mountains of China. People all across our nation have been growing their own for quite a while.

Taken from seeds and cuttings, it takes between 4 to 12 years for a tea plant to bear seeds. After that, you add on another 3 so they can be ready for harvest. The growth is best with acidic soils and naturally require at least 127cm of rain a year with elevations of up to 1,500m above sea level. They can grow up to 16m if left undisturbed, though are trimmed to waist-height when grown to be harvested.

If you are planning to grow your own tea you needn't worry about the elevation. Whilst the height provides a better flavour to the leaves (due to the higher up it is planted means it will grow slower), it isn't a necessary factor. What is important is to keep the plant in plenty of sunlight and keep them sheltered from the harsh British weather until they become taller (anything past 1m and they can fend for themselves outside).

Which Teas Help Burn Fat?

There's growing tea, and there's drinking it; it's the latter you'd care more about, right? Well, tea has so many wonderful benefits to it. There's more to this long-time favourite than just having something warm to sip on when it's cold or a drink to accompany your afternoon biscuit(s).

For instance, take burning fat; it's something more people are becoming concerned about and are turning to tea for help. However, you need the right type first to better gain the desired effects.

Most teas are great at helping with managing your figure; be it to give your metabolism a little boost, reduce bloating, help burn calories easily, or shut down the need for snacking. It's a wonderful drink, but there are teas that work better than most. These would be the likes of pu-erh, oolong, and rooibos.

Pu-erh, a fermented Chinese tea, is great for reducing belly fat and lowering the amount of fat in the blood. The same can be said about rooibos tea, a sweet drink made from leaves from the Rooibos bush in South Africa. It's said that the polyphenols and flavonoids found in it inhibit the forming of new fat cells, and is a great way to kick-start your metabolism.

Now here's one that's quite well known; oolong tea. This drink is rich in antioxidants and is a traditional Chinese tea. It can assist in controlling cholesterol, boosts metabolism, and aids digestion. It's what you'd expect from the land where tea was originated and used as medicine, right?

It's also full of catechins that help you burn fat quickly, even so much as a pound a week according to a six-week Chinese study. Paired with exercise and healthy eating, all it takes it sipping some tea now and then to really aid in your endeavours.

Which Tea Doesn’t Have Caffeine?

Now, certain teas might claim to be decaf, in which it doesn't have any caffeine in. However, whilst it is true that they have significantly fewer amounts compared to non-decaf, there are still traces of caffeine that remain. So, it's not caffeine-free, is it?

But don't lose hope! There does exist a tea out there that has no caffeine in it whatsoever, and it's fantastic for you health-wise. It's a tea you've bound to have heard of: herbal tea.

Be it a sweet peppermint, a calming chamomile, or a sharp ginger tea, all of these are great for being non-caffeinated. So, you can enjoy a nice refreshing hot drink, whilst not pumping your body full of caffeine. Oh, and all of these are great for digestive issues, whilst peppermint especially helps clear nasal passages, chamomile is great for anxiety, and ginger is perfect for nausea.

Which Tea Has The Most Antioxidants?

Now, we've all heard of antioxidants, right? They're found in fresh fruits and vegetables, alongside tea. They have great health benefits such as clearing out unwanted things from your bloodstream and have been known to reduce the signs of ageing by minimising wrinkles. They even can help your mind by relieving stress.

So, which teas are best when you want more antioxidants in your diet? Well, it's the coloured teas that are what you're looking for; black, green and white. They all offer the same cardiovascular benefits, with each having a slight difference.

To start with, black tea is the most oxidised of them all. Though, it still contains a similar amount of antioxidants as it did before it went through oxidisation. It's said that drinking 3 or more cups a day may actually reduce the risk of a heart attack and promotes blood vessel relaxation. However, it contains more caffeine than green tea and contains a lot of polyphenols. It all depends on what you want out of your drink and your sense of taste.

White tea is similar to the above, though due to it being dried in natural sunlight, it means that the catechin levels are much higher, but lowers tannins levels, which affects the taste and consistency.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter which one you drink. There isn't an overall 'best tea' that is superior to everything. The taste, the caffeine content, the availability, even the cost, all of these make a big difference but all the teas provide the same health benefits. They can reduce the risk of cancer, helps the skin look its best, boosts your immune system and promotes a healthy heart.

Which Tea Is Best For A Cold?

Now, despite the sun being out (for the most part) the risk of colds are of course still around. Being a hot drink you'd assume that tea would be great to drink to help chase away nasty infections; but which one do you go for?

Well, like before there are many that help boosts your immune system (remember the above?). However, so I'm not repeating myself you can find lemongrass, ginger, and peppermint(that delightful menthol helps break up congestion) teas are fantastic at clearing out your nasal passages. The above also serve as calming and refreshing throat soothers. There's nothing like that wonderful warm feeling that comforts your body after a nice cup of ginger tea.

Tea with honey is also a great defence when you have a cold. Pair that up with some white or green tea to destroy pathogenic bacteria, and you'll be feeling better in no time.

Which Tea Is Good For Sleep?

Sleep is an important part of your health. We don't get enough of it. There are many ways to assist you in getting you to sleep peacefully. Those delightful rain/thunderstorm soundtracks on YouTube are one way, but tea can also be the saviour in helping you get some shut-eye!

Good amounts of sleep (but also sleep that is great quality) impacts positively on your body. It helps give your body rest and a chance to repair itself. There are many teas that you could use, such as chamomile or herbal teas. With their soothing fragrance and taste it can work wonders. In fact, anything that has that calming effect is great to have when you're in bed with a good book.

However, valerian tea is a herb that can be paired with tea for fantastic results. It can help those with insomnia, anxiety, and psychological stress and acts as a natural sedative.

So there we have it, a small array of tea facts and advice to help you make the most out of Britain's favourite drink. Did you know all of the above? Was there anything in there new that you could apply to your tea-drinking life? How about one more little tidbit? There are an estimated 1,500 varieties of Camellia sinensis out there. Now, whilst we at Poundstretcher don't carry every single known one, we do sell all the top products such as Tetley, Yorkshire Tea, and PG Tips!

Has all this tea talk made you thirsty? If so then why not see where your nearest local Poundstretcher is? Get out your tea cosy, and mosey on over by using our handy dandy Store Finder to grab some bargains in no time! It'll really hit the spot.