By Jorg Muller.
Solaris Botanicals, a Galway-based Organic Tea company specialises in blending internationally award-winning organic Speciality and Herbal Teas. The Solaris Tea range has won 6 Great Taste Awards in 2 years and was awarded Best Irish Organic Grocery Product in 2007 & 2008. Joerg Mueller, founder of the company is a Medical Herbalist and Master Tea Blender.
Tea is the second most drunk beverage after water in the world. Wars have been fought over tea, and tea was the tipping point for the American War of Independence (The Boston Tea Party). It is strongly embedded in the Irish culture. In fact, Ireland has the highest per head consumption of tea in Europe. Nowadays tea is regarded as a commodity product. Yet, what always surprises me is how little really is known about quality tea. I hope this article will shed some light on the forgotten treasures tea has to offer.
Tea Classification/Pick your tea
First of all, it is important to know the different types of tea that are available. These also have different health attributes attached to them.
All teas (except the herbal teas which are often referred to as tisanes or infusions) come from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. This plant originally only grew in China and was smuggled out by Japanese Monks in the 15th century. After many failed attempts by the English to do the same, a botanist discovered a similar plant growing in the tropics (in this case India), which he called Camellia Assamica. Shortly after, the Camellia Assamica plant could be grown in tropical climates which facilitated world-wide trade (China had closed itself to all foreign trade).
So what are the differences?
The difference of all traditional teas lies in the different degree of fermentation.
White Tea is considered the healthiest of all teas with the highest content of anti-oxidants and lowest content of caffeine. It is unfermented and air-dried straight after hand-picking. It is called White Tea because it has white, hairy leaves. The best qualities of white tea only contain the unopened bud.
Many varieties, and also methods of preparation exist, but they all have one thing in common: Green Teas are unfermented which results in high anti-oxidant, vitamin & mineral content. Higher grade green teas also only contain the undamaged whole leaf. Green Teas make a fabulous pick me up and are good for detoxing.
Oolong is a semi-fermented tea which places it between green and black tea. Recently promoted in the West by Celebrities for weight-loss, Oolong is considered a rejuvenation tea in China. The fermentation ranges from 30% (Formosa Oolongs, which are closer to green tea ) to 80% (Shui Xian, which are closer to Black Teas). Also known as the ‘Champagne of Teas’.
Fully fermented, they were originally invented by a Chinese Trader to preserve the tea on its voyage to Europe. Black Tea consumption only constitutes 1% of tea consumption in China…
We mainly consume the tropical Assam (grown in Asia & Africa), and Darjeeling (same plant but special growth conditions in the Indian District of Darjeeling make this tea special).
Pu-Erh has a category on its own, since it is a post-fermented tea. This means certain bacteria are added after the leaf is fermented. These bacteria are similar to pro-biotics and help the breakdown of fat in the digestive tract. Alongside Pu-Erh’s energising qualities, it is a valuable aid for weight-loss and lowering cholesterol levels.
Generally caffeine free, herbal teas can be made up of any plant-material on this planet. Solaris Herbal Teas are delicious hand-blended mixes targeting specific body systems and complaints. Herbal infusions are ideal for boosting your system with easily absorbed minerals and make the perfect addition to your Spring Detox regime.
To find out more, just use our tea selector on our website to find specific teas for specific conditions.
Very important for buying the right teas is the quality grading aspect of teas. Let me get this straight from the beginning: if you are drinking tea for its health benefits, whole-leaf teas are the only choice. Once the tea leaf is cut or bruised (i.e. for fermentation) it oxidises, thus looses anti-oxidants. This means anti-oxidant content is highest in this order: White Tea > Green Tea > Oolong > Black Teas
For ordinary Tea bags, low grade tea fannings (dust) is used which are almost devoid of anti-oxidants. Expressed more positively: Whole-leaf Teas contain on average 95% more anti-oxidants than Tea Bag Teas (except where these contain only whole leaf tea, such as in Silken Tea Bags).
Generally Tea is graded into 10 grades: 1st grade, 2nd grade… Fannings, which are the lowest grade.
Another important factor in the quality is the picking time. The best teas are picked in spring time, which is the first harvest (there can be up to 4 harvests a year, each one resulting in a lower quality), also called 1st flush or spring flush tea.
Health Benefits of Tea
The health benefits of tea have been well documented and to date up to 2000 clinical trials were conducted on this topic. The main findings are as follows:
The antioxidant properties of tea flavonoids play a role in: reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing lipid oxidation, reducing the instances of heart attacks and stroke, and beneficially impact blood vessel function, an important indicator of cardiovascular health.
Tea flavonoids may lower the risk of certain cancers by inhibiting the oxidative changes in DNA from free radicals and some carcinogens. Tea may also promote programmed cell death, or apoptosis, and inhibit the rate of cell division, thereby decreasing the growth of abnormal cells.
Tea-drinking has been associated with oral health and bone health.
Compounds in tea other than flavonoids have been shown to support the human immune system.
Vitamin B1 Encourages carbohydrate breakdown in the liver
Vitamin B2 Important for breakdown of protein, fats and carbohydrates; acts anabolic, supports the building and breakdown process of red blood cells
Vitamin B3 Supports building process of hormone
Vitamin B5 Anti-stress, detoxing
Vitamin C Stimulates cell-activity, supports breakdown of free radicals, important for Vit.E, builds collagen. Green tea has as much Vit. C as fresh lemons
Calcium Bone-density, stabilizes cell membranes
Potassium Facilitates nervous system impulse transmission, stabilizes blood pressure, with calcium it regulates acid-alkaline balance
Zinc Supports hormones, e.g. blood sugar levels, anti-oxidant, constituent in over 200 enzymes
Fluor In tea it is bound to calcium and potassium, protects against tooth decay
Manganese Important in connective tissue, bone, activation of enzymes
For a more in-depth read on clinical trials and health benefits go to www.solaristea.com where we have compiled a wealth of up to date research on tea.
A cup of tea represents more than the health benefit alone. Tea has been of major social importance in many cultures around the world. Offering tea to a visitor, friends, or in meetings, tea is a universal gesture of goodwill and hospitality. Tea represents communication and feeling at ease with your surroundings. This aspect was developed to a painstakingly exact ritual in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, but can be found in every household on this planet drinking tea.
Solaris Flowering Teas are a celebration of this tradition. When steeped in hot water, the flower buds slowly blossom into breathtaking displays. Requiring no tea bag or strainer, Flowering Teas are environmentally kind as well as easy to serve.
For tea connoisseurs and beginners alike, Flowering Teas make unforgettable gifts.
An extraordinary sensual experience!
Solaris Tea’s are sold in Health Food Stores & Deli’s nationwide. The teas can also be ordered online on www.solaristea.com