Tea Mail – July 2004
The Big Health News in June
June was apparently a quite month in the ‘tea labs’, and the only news stories of interest were largely going over old ground. Last month’s favorable reports on white tea were still making the headlines , and included an interesting quote from Milton Schiffenbauer, professor of biology at Pace University and leader of the latest white tea study. The professor backed up what’s been known in China for centuries: “Study after study with tea extract proves that it has many healing properties. This is not an old wives’ tale. It’s a fact.â€
In interesting study in India came to the unsurprising conclusions that it was far better to drink tea than soda . Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to look at dietary changes over the past 50 years, researchers found that per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in the U.S. rose by more than 450 per cent. During roughly the same time period, the incidence of esophageal cancer shot up more than 570 per cent. In contrast, countries with a low consumption of soft drinks — such as Japan, China and India — have had little increase in the incidence of esophageal cancer.
And it’s happy birthday to iced tea, 100 years old this month . Iced tea is an American invention, and remains by far the most popular way of consuming the beverage on the continent. Elsewhere in the world, it’s the other way round, with hot tea being much more the dominant drink.
It’s 100 years for iced tea, too
June is National Iced Tea Month, and this year, it’s turning 100. Back in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, a plantation owner – steaming hot himself – poured the brewed beverage over some ice, creating a refreshing potable that would soon become a phenomenon.
Usually when we’re talking tea, China or England immediately come to mind. But in Europe’s early days, around 1635, Holland’s people were the first lips pursed before a steaming cup of tea. England was actually the last place on Earth to adopt the drink.
Whodathunk that the refreshing thirst quencher would rise to such ranks. More than 37 billion glasses of iced tea are consumed every year in the United States. Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world. (Water is the first.)
Besides being good, it’s good for you. Yes, that sounds cliched, but:
â€¢ Research has proved drinking tea has cardiovascular benefits.
â€¢ It’s said that tea can reduce certain cancer risks.
â€¢ Scientists believe tea helps build strong bones – just like milk – plus, it is an oral-health benefit. Studies show that certain compounds in tea may inhibit bacteria that cause bad breath, and its fluoride content supports healthy tooth enamel.
â€¢ L-theanine, an element in black tea, may aid in the resistance to infections or tumors.
â€¢ Green and black tea both have flavonoids – a certain type of antioxidant also found in grapes, onions, citrus and soy.
Plus, tea is calorie-free, fat-free, and sodium free – and has more antioxidants in an 8-ounce serving than some fruits and vegetables. Tea flavors extend beyond the traditional orange pekoe. Consumers can select from black tea, green tea, red, white and herbal teas, with fruit and spice blends. Their antioxidant qualities vary depending on the “color” of tea, but all, except herbal teas, have polyphenols – antioxidants.
Pass the tea; hold the cola
Soft drinks may increase cancer risk, while green tea is protective
Dr. Mohandas Mallath, head of the digestive diseases department at Tata Memorial Hospital in India, says the incidence of esophageal cancer has been rising in Western countries along with an increase in soft drink consumption.
He and his colleagues used data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to look at dietary changes over the past 50 years and found that per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in the U.S. rose by more than 450 per cent. During roughly the same time period, the incidence of esophageal cancer shot up more than 570 per cent among white males and continues to increase. In contrast, countries with a low consumption of soft drinks — such as Japan, China and India — have had little increase in the incidence of esophageal cancer.
Mallath says soft drinks trigger acid “reflux” from the stomach that damages the esophagus over time. The damage can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a change in the lining of the esophagus that can increase the risk of cancer.
Meanwhile, researchers at Harvard University in Boston say a chemical in green tea can block the growth of cancers associated with Barrett’s esophagus. “Our results suggest that extracts in green tea may help to lower the prevalence of esophageal (cancer). I think the results are pretty exciting,” says Dr. Howard Chang, the lead investigator. “Esophageal cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in Western countries, and unfortunately our treatment options are pretty limited and long-term outcomes are very poor.”
The researchers studied the green tea chemical in cancer cells in the laboratory, but Chang says two cups per day of green tea may achieve similar effects, depending on the concentration of the tea.
White Tea Has It
A healthy infusion is good for what ails you inside and out
It’s gaining traction in the tearoom as a result. â€œIt’s pretty rare, but it’s becoming more available because it’s getting more awareness,â€ said Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Council of the U.S.A., a New York-based organization that speaks for the industry.
A couple of weeks ago, a microbiologist from Pace University in New York shared results of a study that demonstrated that white tea was more effective than green tea in killing bacteria and viruses grown in a lab dish.
â€œPast studies have shown that green tea stimulates the immune system to fight disease,â€ said Milton Schiffenbauer, a professor of biology at Pace University and the study’s lead investigator.
â€œOur research shows that white tea extract can destroy in vitro the organisms that cause disease. Study after study with tea extract proves that it has many healing properties. This is not an old wives’ tale. It’s a fact.â€
This isn’t the first time white tea has performed under scrutiny. Last year, researchers from the University Hospitals of Cleveland tested a cream containing white tea extract on the skin of a group of subjects to see how it might affect the immune functioning of skin cells. That would have important ramifications for cancer and other damage from sun exposure.
They found that skin cells, normally easily damaged by sunshine, were not affected by the sun, provided they were covered by the white tea extract. When applied to skin after it had been exposed to the sun, the tea-containing cream restored the cells’ immunity.
Although white tea now is harvested in Sri Lanka, India and China, its roots run deep in a single Chinese province, according to Simrany of the tea council. White tea is harvested from the Camellia sinensis plant, the same source of black and green and oolong teas.
The critical difference is that black and green teas are processed from the two or three top leaves on each branch, while white tea is made from a tiny unfurled bud at the tip of the leaf. They can be gathered for only about three weeks a year, he said. Because they are so tiny, and because it takes so much longer to gather a pound of them, white tea costs a bit more.
All teas from the Camellia sinensis plant are proving to have health benefits because of their high concentrations of flavonoids, a family of powerful antioxidants. It’s thought that the baby buds that make white tea have an even higher concentration of the compounds.
Green Tea Component Keeps Arteries Unclogged
Powerful antioxidants make up a third of the weight of dried tea leaves. The main one of these good-for-you compounds is called EGCG (or, if you’re good at tongue twisters, epigallocatechin-3-gallate). New mouse studies show that EGCG can slow the build-up of artery-clogging plaque. Yes, you’ve heard something like this before. Animal studies often show that antioxidants keep arteries from clogging. Human trials, however, are often disappointing.
That may soon change. What’s different about this study is that it indicates the timing of green-tea-extract treatment makes a world of difference. Cardiologist Kuang-Yuh Chyu, MD, PhD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and colleagues report the findings in the May 25 issue of Circulation.
“Most animal experiments evaluating the effects of antioxidants are started when the animals are young. Randomized clinical trials typically enroll adult patients with varying stages of plaques,” Chyu says in a news release. “This discrepancy supports speculation that antioxidant treatment affects early but not later stages of plaque development.”
Chyu’s team studied mice fed a high-cholesterol diet and then given a plaque-inducing injury to their main heart artery. After the plaque-induced injury, some of the animals started getting injections of the green tea extract EGCG. It worked. On day 21, the animals had 55% less plaque than those animals not given green tea extracts. By day 42, they had 73% less plaque. But the treatment had no effect when given to animals with fully mature plaque.
White Tea Beats Green Tea at Killing Germs
When it comes to tea, white may be the new “in” color. A new study shows white tea beats green at fighting germs and may help prevent common infections. Researchers found an extract derived from white tea inactivated and slowed the growth of bacteria that cause streptococcous (strep) infections, pneumonia, and cavities in teeth.
“Past studies have shown that green tea stimulates the immune system to fight disease,” says researcher Milton Schiffenbauer, PhD, a microbiologist and professor Pace University, in a news release. “Our research shows white tea extract can actually destroy in vitro the organisms that cause disease.” Schiffenbauer presented the study this week at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans.
White Tea Kills Germs
Researchers say the findings show that white tea extract may have antiviral and antifungal effects and may be used in the future to develop treatments to help prevent disease.
Green tea could prevent cancer of the oesophagus
The team from the Harvard Medical School reported that EGCG inhibits the growth and reproduction of cancer cells (SEG-1 and BIC-1) associated with Barrettâ€™s oesophagus, a condition caused by stomach acid creeping back up from the stomach. The acid causes the cells lining the oesophagus to change and raises the risk of oesophageal cancer by 30 to 40 times.
â€œResearch suggests that drinking green tea may be both a valuable chemopreventive therapy as well as a treatment for oesophageal adenocarcinoma,â€ said Howard Chang, an investigator of the study.
In the UK 7,200 people a year are diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus, up 65 per cent in the last 30 years. A recent study, also presented at Digestive Disease Week, has linked this increase to growing consumption of fizzy drinks.
Busy times for the Seven Cups website
Last month we changed the format of the website. Now, we’re working hard on writing new content. We’re rewriting all of the descriptions of the teas, and adding new information in all areas of the website. We are enhancing the website with information from the Chinese tea encyclopedias, and Zhu Ping and Austin are busy translating the writings. Over the coming months we will be adding new information about tea all the time. Make sure you come back regularly to read the new info as it’s added…
Finally, our exclusive Meng Ding teas have arrived!
Our very special Meng Ding teas have just arrived, and as soon as we can get photos taken they will be added to the website for you to buy. Why are these new teas so special? Meng Ding, in Szechwan Province, was the first place that tea was ever cultivated 2000 years ago – the original tea farm! Sweet Dew and Green Bamboo are two of the finest green teas we’ve ever seen, and the amazing, rare, Yellow Buds variety is the first genuine ‘yellow tea’ (between green and white) that even the most ardent tea connoisseur will have ever encountered. Very few people in the western world have ever tried these magical teas from this legendary tea farm, and supplies are very limited, so get your order in quickly!
Also, our new crop of WuYi Mountain Rock Oolongs, Silver Needle White Tea and Preferred Puer are in, as well as some really great new puers. They, too, willbe on the site and ready to try very soon…
Cultural classes and Japanese pastries added to tea house line-up
Our tea house in Tucson, Arizona is getting really busy, both with customers and behind the scenes. We now offer Chinese cultural and tea classes, hosted by our resident Tea Master, Zhu Ping. There are six classes in all, and each will deal with the history and health benefits of a different type of tea (green tea, black tea, etc), plus how it is traditionally presented in China, from the ceremony to the style of tea wares used. Of course, there will be plenty of opportunity to taste the teas and try your hand at steeping and presenting. Spaces are limited. For more details, contact Austin at (520) 881-4072.
We have also introduced a brand new line of delicate pastries at the tea house. The Mikawaya Bakery in Los Angeles is the American cousin of the famous bakeries of the same name in Asia – legendary in Japan for over 300 years for their fine pastries. We now offer a full range of these delightful sweets, the perfect accompaniment to your tea tasting experience and a further extension of the Asian flavor of our tea house.