Tea Mail – November 2004
The Big Tea Health News in October
There were yet more welcome studies on tea health in October. A team from Newcastle University, UK, found green and black tea inhibited the activity of key enzymes in the brain associated with memory , which may lead to the development of a new treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease. Tea appears to have the same effect as drugs specifically designed to combat the condition, but without the side-affects.
Scientists in Taiwan have completed the first study that shows a definitive association between regular tea consumption and a reduced risk of hypertension . They found that the daily drinking of a half-cup or more of green or oolong tea for a minimum of one year could cut a person’s risk of developing hypertension by approximately 50 percent, even after taking into account factors such as differences in lifestyle and diet.
Â Other Tea Headlines in October
We are doing our best to educate everyone about tea culture as well as health, so we have again included an in-depth article aimed at conveying the Chinese cultural aspect of tea drinking and presentation. This month, an article from ChinaDaily.com entitled “In praise of Tea” , takes a look at students studying for the ‘tea art’ certificate in Shanghai, a six-month course organized by the Shanghai Tea Institute, a government-sponsored body which is promoting traditional Chinese tea culture. It’s a very informative piece and hopefully will further immerse you into the wonderful world of Chinese tea.
We’re sure that, like us, you’d love to be able to drop everything and head for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia early in November for a festival of vintage Puer teas from China . Tea connoisseurs will get to sample some of China’s finest Puer teas from Yunnan Province; vintage teas of between 60 and 100 years will be offered for sampling. Can’t make it? Instead, you may like to sample some of our own fine puer cakes and bricks and loose leaf puer teas.
A couple of news stories that involve tea and the military caught our attention last month. The Taiwan Defense Ministry distributed a leaflet to troops with a cartoon saying that if island residents each drank one less cup of tea a week, the government could afford $18 billion worth of U.S. weaponry. The news media picked up on the cartoons, and it immediately created a sensation. Polls showed that about half the Taiwanese oppose the arms deal, and think the money could be better used in building infrastructure and boosting the economy, and it appears no one has cut back on buying tea.
On a lighter note, the much-loved British cup of tea has been deemed too costly to give out free to military staff. The UK ministry of defense sent a memo asking employees to log every cup of tea they drink so their department can be charged for the beverages. One staff member said that workers initially wondered if the plan was a joke. But the government defended its decision. â€œThe days of a tea trolley coming round giving out free tea are long over. It’s essentially ensuring tax payers’ money is used in the most efficient way,â€ a ministry of defense spokesman said.
And with that, it seems that tea has gone full circle in Britain: it was 52 years ago last month that World War II tea rationing came to an end, meaning Britons could enjoy unlimited cups of “rosy lea” for the first time in 12 years!
Drinking regular cups of tea could help improve your memory, research suggests. A team from Newcastle University found green and black tea inhibited the activity of key enzymes in the brain associated with memory. The researchers hope their findings, published in Phytotherapy Research, may lead to the development of a new treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease. They say tea appears to have the same effect as drugs specifically designed to combat the condition.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, tea could potentially be another weapon in the armoury. Alzheimer’s disease is associated with a reduced level of a chemical called acetylcholine in the brain.
In lab tests, the Newcastle team found that both green and black tea inhibited the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which breaks down this key chemical. They also found both teas inhibited the activity of a second enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), which has been discovered in protein deposits found in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s.
Green tea went one step further in that it obstructed the activity of beta-secretase, which plays a role in the production of protein deposits in the brain which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists also found that it continued to have its inhibitive effect for a week, whereas black tea’s enzyme-inhibiting properties lasted for only one day.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s but it is possible to slow the development of the disease. Drugs currently on the market hinder the activity of AChE, and others are being developed which scientists hope will inhibit the activity of BuChE and beta-secretase. However, many of the drugs currently available, such as donepezil, have unpleasant side effects and the medical profession is keen to find alternatives.
The Newcastle University researchers are now seeking funding to carry out further tests on green tea, which they hope will include clinical trials. Their aim is to work towards the development of a medicinal tea which is specifically aimed at Alzheimer’s sufferers. The next step is to find out exactly which components of green tea inhibit the activity of the enzymes AChE, BuChE and beta-secretase.
Lead researcher Dr Ed Okello said: “Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, tea could potentially be another weapon in the armoury which is used to treat this disease and slow down its development. “It would be wonderful if our work could help improve the quality of life for millions of sufferers and their carers.
“Our findings are particularly exciting as tea is already a very popular drink, it is inexpensive, and there do not seem to be any adverse side effects when it is consumed. Still, we expect it will be several years until we are able to produce anything marketable.”
Professor Clive Ballard, director of research, Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This interesting research builds on previous evidence that suggests that green tea may be beneficial due to anti-oxidant properties. “Certainly the effect on the cholinesterase enzyme (the target of current anti-dementia drugs such as Aricept) and beta-secretase (an enzyme which is important in the build up of plaques) is very exciting and requires further investigation.”
Black tea – traditional English breakfast tea – is derived from the same plant as green tea, Camellia sinensis, but has a different taste and appearance because it is fermented.
Scientists at the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan have completed what they consider to be the first study that shows a definitive association between regular tea consumption and a reduced risk of hypertension. In their study, published in a recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, the scientists found that drinking a half-cup or more of green or oolong tea for a minimum of one year could cut a personâ€™s risk of developing hypertension by approximately 50 percent, even after taking into account factors such as differences in lifestyle and diet.
After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. A staple of Chinese culture and cuisine for centuries, more than 350 varieties of tea are known to exist, with approximately 300 grown in China alone. Researchers estimate that certain varieties of tea can contain more than 4,000 chemical compounds. While some of them have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and may even protect the body against certain types of cancer, the vast majority of the ingredients in tea may affect the body in ways that have yet to be determined.
One area of research that has intrigued scientists for years is the apparent ability of tea to treat hypertension. In China, regular tea consumption has long been associated with reduced blood pressure, while animal studies conducted in Japan in elsewhere have shown that long-term use of green tea can lower blood pressure substantially. To date, however, comparatively few studies have examined the role of green tea in reducing blood pressure levels in humans.
To determine the effects regular tea consumption could have on reducing the incidence of hypertension, a group of scientists led by Dr. Yi-Ching Yang recruited 1,507 men and women living in Tainan, a large city in southern Taiwan. All of the participants were at least 20 years old, and had no previous history of high blood pressure. Blood pressure readings and body mass index measurements were taken by physicians and trained nurses at the start of the study as part of a screening health examination.
The subjects were divided into two groups based on reported tea consumption. Those who drank less than 120 milliliters (approximately 4 ounces) per day were labeled â€œnon-habitualâ€ tea drinkers. The remaining subjects, â€œhabitualâ€ tea drinkers, drank at least 120 milliliters of tea per day for one or more years, and were further divided based on tea intake: 120-599 milliliters per day and 600 or more milliliters per day.
Because the size of the cup used in drinking tea varies widely in Chinese culture, participants were asked to provide details about what kind of cup was used, how the tea was prepared, the amount drank, and the frequency of drinking to calculate average daily tea consumption as accurately as possible. Participants were also asked to record what kind of tea they used (black, green or oolong), and whether milk and/or sugar were added.
In addition to tea consumption, the study participants were asked about a variety of lifestyle and dietary factors, including cigarette smoking, amount and duration of physical activity, sodium intake and types of food eaten.
Habitual tea drinkers tended to be male, were about two years younger than non-habitual drinkers, and had higher educational levels. Interestingly, habitual tea drinkers were also considered â€œmore generally and centrally obese,â€ than non-drinkers, and â€œsmoked more, consumed more alcohol, ate fewer vegetables, and had more frequent high sodium intakeâ€ than those who did not drink tea regularly.
Despite these findings, the investigators were surprised to find that after adjusting for all of the lifestyle factors, regular tea drinkers still had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels (SBP and DBP) compared to non-tea drinkers. Those who drank larger amounts of tea for longer periods of time had the lowest blood pressure readings of any group. â€œThe adjusted mean SBP and DBP values were lowest among the subjects who drank 600 milliliters/day or more, or those who drank for 10 years or more, compared with the other two subgroups,â€ the authors noted. â€œAlthough the differences in SBP and DBP were small, these could be significant on a population-wide basis.â€
Perhaps most importantly, the number of people who developed hypertension over the courts of the study was significantly lower among those who drank tea on a regular basis. According to the researchers:
â€œCompared with non-habitual tea drinkers, the risk of developing hypertension decreased by 46% for those who drank 120 to 599 milliliters/day, and was further reduced by 65% for those who drank 600 milliliters/day or more, when we adjusted using five covariates for lifestyle (total physical activity, high sodium intake, cigarette smoking, alcohol drinking and coffee consumption) and seven selected dietary factors (vegetable, fruit, unrefined grain, fish, milk, food with visible fat, and deep fried foot intake) in addition to the traditional major risk factors for hypertension.â€
The study authors were unable to pinpoint the element in tea that reduces blood pressure, but offered several possibilities, including:
Caffeine, which is known to reduce blood pressure, but only for short intervals;
While failing to confirm which ingredient is responsible for lowering blood pressure in humans, they were able to establish a link between tea consumption and reduced risk of hypertension, using a large patient base and adjusting for a variety of dietary and lifestyle factors that could otherwise skew the results of the study. They also recommended that future long-term studies be conducted using a randomized sample of patients to validate their findings. As the scientists noted in their conclusion:
â€œIn this study, we noted a comprehensive link between lifestyle factors and tea consumption and improved control for potential confounders and measurement of the many characteristics of tea, including duration and amount of consumption in detail â€¦ The possible protective effects of tea consumption on hypertension risk have been suggested by our epidemiological study, and the possible blood pressure-lowering effect and mechanism of tea extracts were supported by some animal laboratory studies. However, more evidence is needed to fortify our preliminary inference about the link between tea consumption and hypertension risk.
Chinese tea connoisseurs, like antique collectors, will enjoy the vintage Puer tea.
Fancy 100-year-old Chinese tea? A festival of vintage Puer teas from China will be held at the Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Association in Kuala Lumpurâ€™s Chinatown from Nov 5-7. Tea connoisseurs will get to sample some of Chinaâ€™s finest Puer (pronounced â€œpoo-errâ€) teas from Yunnan Province. On Nov 7, vintage teas of between 60 and 100 years will be offered for sampling.
Puer is an aged black tea. Some 60-year-old teas fetch thousands of ringgit for a mere 100g. The production of Puer teas is a fiercely-guarded secret in China. The leaves are compressed and shaped like pancakes, bricks, square blocks or bowls.
Like European wine, the tea is aged for anything between a couple of years and decades before being sold. Connoisseurs prize this tea for its dark colour, earthy, robust flavours and medicinal properties.
According to festival organiser Chiu Mei Lin, visitors will be shown the proper way to make the perfect cup of Puer tea. â€œWe will hold tea-making demonstrations with tea masters. They will also teach budding tea fanciers how to appreciate the flavours of different Puer teas. This festival was inspired by the 1st International Puer Tea Fair held in Guangzhou recently,â€ said Chiu.
Clad in a cream-colored Chinese robe, Xu Xiongting elegantly rinses his teapot with hot water before putting in some fragrant Pu-erh tea leaves from Yunnan Province. The background folk music, also from Yunnan, the traditional blue-printed table cloth and an exquisite censer complete the setting of his tea table which is laid out on the theme,â€œGo into Pu-erh.â€
After three cups of tea have been presented to the examiners, Xu seems much relieved. As one of only three male candidates for a senior â€œtea artâ€ certificate in Shanghai this year, Xu has just finished a six-month course organized by the Shanghai Tea Institute, a government-sponsored body which is promoting traditional Chinese tea culture. The tea table design examination was the last test for Xu and some 30 other students on the course. Tea leaf appraisal, tea brewing and an oral English test were other sections of the examination.
â€œThis (tea table design) is the most difficult,â€ says Xu, a young man in his 20s. â€œI have spent half a month preparing for the test. You know, Pu-erh tea is not easy to brew but my previous work experience as a Pu-erh tea salesman did help me a lot.â€ According to one of Xuâ€™s teachers, Qiao Musen, tea table design is a test of studentsâ€™ all-round abilities which must include creativity, tea brewing skills and graceful posture.
â€œTea is the soul of tea art. A tea art expert can let people know about the flavor of the tea through his body language and the design and setting of the delicate drinking utensils in use,â€ Qiao says. â€œItâ€™s not just the mere tea-making processâ€”itâ€™s a unique art form with a long history.â€
To gain a better understanding of Chinese tea culture, Xu quit his job to attend the full-time training course. â€œThereâ€™s no gender barrier in taking up this traditional art form,â€ Xu says with a grin. â€œIâ€™m optimistic that I will become one of the best professional exponents of tea art.â€
Unlike Xu, Gu Wei, a young woman on the course who graduated from university last summer, had to learn tea art from scratch. â€œBefore I came to the class, I had no idea about tea culture but I had a strong interest in it,â€ she says. â€œCovering tea culture, ikebana and posture, the course enabled me to gain a better understanding of traditional Chinese culture.â€ Gu is wearing a qipao embroidered with pink plum blossoms to match the theme of her tea tableâ€”â€œA Taste of Plum Blossomâ€â€”in the test. The tea leaves sheâ€™s brewing are a well-known black tea from Hangzhou, capital of neighboring Zhejiang Province. â€œDrinking tea is an ideal way to relax,â€ Gu says. â€œIt helps to keep me calm in the fast pace of life today. The feeling is great.â€
Of the three main beverages in the world â€”tea, coffee and cocoaâ€”tea is preferred by most people. China is the homeland of tea. Legend has it that tea was discovered in the country about 5,000 years ago. The art of making tea, or chadao in Chinese, originated in the Jin Dynasty (265-420AD), but it didnâ€™t start to flourish as an art form until the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD). In the 8th century, Lu Yu, a â€œsage of tea,â€ wrote the first recognized study of tea cultureâ€”â€œTea Sutra.â€ The book is the oundation of Chinese tea etiquette and considerably influenced the development of tea culture.
â€œLu stressed that the tea artist must understand the tea culture and the tea himself before presenting the tea to his guests. Itâ€™s not only a skill, but an art form,â€ says Guan Jianping, another teacher in the training course. â€œThatâ€™s also what we ask our students to learn.â€
According to a survey conducted by the Shanghai Tea Institute, there are more than 6,000 tea stores in town and some 50,000 people are employed in the tea industry. â€œBut sadly, not many have a clear idea about the profound nature of our tea culture,â€ says Liu Qigui, an official with the institute. Before the institute introduced the training programs in 2002, there were fewer than 10 professional tea artists in Shanghai. The training course now has about 90 students, most of whom are university graduates. Others are tea industry employees or people who are interested in tea culture.
So far, about 70 have passed the examination and have been awarded certificates. People under 35 years old, with a college degree and basic English skills may apply for the program, which is free of charge for Chinese people. As tea artists are also presenters of traditional Chinese tea culture, there is also a minimum height requirementâ€”men must be at least 1.72 meters tall and women 1.62 meters.
Liu says they are working to ensure there will be enough tea art professionals by the time the 2010 World Expo opens in Shanghai. â€œThe city government sponsored the whole training program with the aim of attracting more young people to traditional tea art,â€ Liu says. â€œThe World Expo will be a perfect opportunity to present Chinese culture to the world so we need to make sure the younger generation understands it and has the ability to present it to guests.â€
The institute is also planning to initiate a â€œTea Image Ambassadorsâ€ project, selecting the best tea art professionals to present the traditional tea culture. Asked if they would compete to become a â€œTea Image Ambassador,â€ both Xu and Gu nodded. â€œWhy not?â€ they asked, beaming. â€œIt will be a glorious task to showcase this splendid aspect of Chinese culture.â€
Steeped in tradition and brimming with health benefits, tea’s popularity is growing.
Coffee got you jumpy? Daily living making you stressed? Wish you could find an easy way to add something healthful to your diet? Consider tea â€“ be it black, green, white, oolong, or pu-erh.
Evidence keeps mounting that tea has health benefits. Teas are natually high in antioxidants, generally thought to be helpful in preventing cancer. Other suggested health benefits include contributing to good vascular health, lowering cholesterol or even blood pressure, and helping with digestion. Studies are under way to see whether some teas have antiviral or antibacterial properties.
Dr. Andrew Weil writes in his Healthy Kitchen book that a number of recent studies on tea show that both green and black teas offer significant protection against heart disease and cancer because of their concentration of polyphenols, one of which is EGCG, a powerful antioxidant.
The polyphenols in tea seem to operate in a variety of ways including deactivating cancer promoters, according to Wellness Foods: A to Z . The book was published by the University of California at Berkeley drawing on the expertise of the University’s School of Public Health. What tea does offer is far less caffeine than coffee, and no calories, fat or carbs.
Tea is grown across the globe and, after water, is considered the world’s most popular drink. But in America, it’s been the poor sister in a coffee-loving culture. But change is in the wind.
Green tea contains L-theanine. It’s an amino acid that produces a state of relaxed alertness that stimulates the system in a very different way from the caffeine in coffee.
All tea comes from a plant, camellia sinensis. How the fresh plant leaves are processed, and their level of contact with oxygen, determines which type of tea results.
Green tea is made without any oxidation at all. Leaves are steamed, rolled and dried. Black tea, the kind most Americans are most familiar with, is heavily oxidized or fermented. Oolong is partially fermented. White teas are harvested before leaves open fully and then minimally processed resulting in a white, light drink. It has the least amount of caffeine and may have even more antioxidant activity than green tea.
Pu-erh are earthy teas that are fully fermented, even aged. Some are sold loose leaf and others pressed. Some are aged two to five years.
Some teas are mixed with flowers (jasmine for example) or oils (Earl Grey) to flavor them. Herbal teas made from plants other than camellia sinensis aren’t teas at all but drinks called tisanes.
Featured teas for November – and special deals on all three!
We now have over 60 varieties of fine Chinese tea, and even the most ardent Seven Cups fan probably hasn’t had the chance to try, or even read about, every one. So each month we feature three of our teas, giving you all a chance to learn more about these varieties. Up until now we have offered special discounts on one of our features teas, but from now on we’ll be giving special discounts on all three – each and every month! For November, we have chosen one loose leaf puer tea, one scented tea and one very special black tea…
Seven Cups are proud to offer the ORIGINAL Lapsang Souchong smoky black tea. Direct from probably the world’s most famous tea farm, Lapsang in the legendary WuYi Mountains, Lapsang Souchong has become most famed as the favorite tea of the British royal family. Unlike any other teas it is smoked, giving the amazingly smoky aroma and taste. We have EXCLUSIVE rights to this tea – you may find smoky ‘Lapsang-style’ teas elsewhere, but only Seven Cups Lapsang Souchong is the genuine article!
Organic Certification: IMO (Swiss), USDA (USA), OTRDC (China)
50g (1Â¾oz) – was $6.49, this month only $5.49
Seven Cups Misty Cloud Jasmine Scented Tea is the type of tea most commonly consumed in the North of China. A large percentage of green tea in China is made into Jasmine tea. This popularity is due to both the distinctive nature, and the very reasonable price for a tea of this quality. The delicate combination of green tea and Jasmine flowers creates a wonderful aroma and a sweet, fragrant taste. Jasmine tea is easier to store for longer periods than most green teas.
Organic Certification: OTRDC (China). Province: Zhejiang
50g (1Â¾oz) – was $5.99, this month only $4.99
This excellent Menghai puer is made from young tea leaves and tea buds. The color is lighter than lower grade puers, and it has a sweet, smooth taste. This puer is made in Menghai County in Yunnan Province, by producers with a long history and a reputation for superior puer.
50g (1Â¾oz) – was $9.99, this month only $8.99
The new Oolong and Jasmine teas have arrived
Five brand new, fresh varieties of tea have just arrived at the Seven Cups HQ in Tucson, Arizona, and as soon as our new shopping cart facility (above) is online, they will be available to buy here at www.sevencups.com. Probably the biggest coup is our new TieGuanYin Oolong – as it is the first TieGuanYin to ever gain full organic certification. The intensive hand processing of this delicious variety have always hindered organic certification in the past, although all of our TieGuanYins are grown and manufactured using organic techniques. We have another new oolong arriving soon, this one a very interesting WuYi Cassia. We are expanding our Jasmine range, with the eagerly-anticipated Jasmine Balls with Lily and Osmanthus flowers, and an even higher grade of Jasmine Pearls.