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Did you know?  Tea Facts for the curiously minded

The origin of tea

Most historians have traced the history of tea to have begun in China, where its usage has been hinted as far back at 1000BC. Tea however seems to have been mainly used for medicinal purposes.  The usage of tea drunken during social occasions has a shorter history, with the practice dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618AD - 907AD). There is speculation that tea had been drunk for pleasure earlier, but the only definitive records come from this era.  The first Europeans to have contact with tea appear to be Portuguese explorers visiting Japan in 1560. Russia discovered tea in 1618 after a Ming Emperor offered tea as a gift to Tsar Alexis.  Once discovered by the Europeans, tea was quickly imported to Europe where it soon became popular amongst the wealthy in France, the Netherlands and Britain.

Types of tea

Of the hundreds of types of tea available around the world today, all of them can be grouped into the following five categories.

Black Tea -Generally referring to strong flavored teas whose leaves are heavily oxidized and fermented.  Black tea is a rich source of antioxidants, which have been linked with cancer prevention, decreased heart disease and lowered cholesterol.

Green Tea - Green tea refers to tea that has undergone minimal oxidation. This tea is very popular in China and Japan and has also gained international prominence in recent years. Green tea can be helpful in the prevention of cancer, as it contains an antioxidant called polyphenols - or tannin - which is known to prevent damage to cells. Damage to body cells is an early sign of cancer. Tannin is known for its ability to help DNA cells reproduce accurately, thus preventing abnormalities from forming.Types of Tea

Oolong Tea - An ancient Chinese tea dating back over 400 years. Oolong tea lies somewhere between green and black tea. As a result, the taste spectrum can be quite broad - anywhere from the delicate, nearly-green pouchong, the subtler, richer tiguanyin to the nearly-black varieties. Generally speaking, Oolong tea has a refreshing and aromatic taste.

Herbal Tea for Medicine and Health- Most types of tea made from herbs instead of tea leaves are renowned for their medicinal properties. Herbal tea is a generic term for tea made from herbs instead of tea leaves from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis). Herbal tea can be made from just about any herb in existence.  Herbal tea is also known as tisane. The name notes that the tea is not made from tea leaves. Herbal tea can be made from fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots.

Miscellaneous Types of Tea -Not all types of tea can be classified into the four main categories of black, green, oolong and herbal. One of the more popular is Rooibos Tea (Red Tea), a variety of caffeine-free tea with a unique red appearance.