In his 1906 essay The Book of Tea, Kakuzo Okakura laid bare to Westerners the social, cultural, and spiritual essence of tea drinking. He dubbed the experience Teaism, and his work has become a minor classic. During an age when coffee consumption has become the cultural mainstay of society, Okakura’s writing is a vibrant reminder of the deeply ingrained history humans have with the other popular beverage – tea.
The health benefits of green tea have been repeated in many articles across the internet, but there is much more to this ancient drink than a significant health boost. The benefits of green tea have been exploited by humans for thousands of years, with a lengthy history in China and Japan standing testament to its incredible attributes. It remains a social and cultural exercise which can unite people, boost morale, promote inner harmony, and introduce fans to a new world of tastes and sensations. Read on to find out the wonderful world of green tea.
The Book of Tea
“Teasim is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”
The now rather legendary The Book of Tea details the extensive role of tea in Japanese culture, which can be considered as Teaism. Kakuzo Okakura essentially wrote it as an emphatic love letter to Western audiences, explaining the joys and intricacies of tea drinking. It was originally written in English to promote the values Okakura saw in tea consumption, but has since been translated into many languages.
Along with tea, Okakura promoted Buddhist ideals which, when merged with Teaism, the author believed could teach practitioners the joy of simplicity. This is the predominant benefit of tea – it removes the complexities of life and replaces them with a moment of untroubled perfection. Reading The Book of Tea would offer an introduction to this frame of mind, along with purchasing a brand of your choice to join this ancient and intriguing tradition. Green tea is easily accessible, readily available, and provides a multitude of benefits which can be enjoyed by everyone. Below are 9 examples of its far reaching influence, and how you can take advantage of it.
1. It provides a positive social experience
Tea drinking isn’t a solitary practice, it can be the basis of social events and a reason to get together. It can be even taken to a grander scale, such as in Japan where tea ceremonies are social exercises. “Ritual, grace, and protocol infuse many actions in Japanese culture, and none are more poetic in in chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony,” explains TeaClass. They add, “Patience, a difficult virtue in the western world, is essential for the conducting of chanoyu and even for an appreciation, yet the reward is tranquillity achieved through shared community between host and guests.”
Googling your local town or city will no doubt unearth some tea ceremonies, or you can hold one at your home. Invite friends around and catch up, making an unique change to the more popular western option of heading to a bar.
2. It can boost your health
Green tea has been used as a health boost for thousands of years, and in the modern era its benefits have now been backed up by scientific research. As noted by New York Times Best Selling author Dr. Mercola, tea can be a valuable part of a healthy diet. “If you enjoy green tea, by all means add a few cups to your day. Just be sure to drink your green tea ‘straight’. Adding sugar, milk, or other ‘embellishments’ (one exception being some citrus juice), will counter many of the benefits of tea.” Keeping to these requirements can help tea boost your memory, lower your blood pressure, and alleviate stress.
It’s worth noting it would be wise to choose organic varieties of tea from reputable brands, reducing the amount of preservatives and pollutants on your tea. Organic food and drink gets a bad reputation as expensive, but a box of organic tea will only set you back a few dollars.
3. It provides inner harmony
The consumption of tea makes for a relaxing experience. It contains amino acids which are part of an amine group and a carboxylic acid group. When the tea is brewed the water soluble amino acids, of which L-theanine is 60%, release the “umami” flavour (which attributes to the distinctive taste). L-theanine, other than adding green tea’s palatability, “increases alpha brain wave activity, which induces relaxation. By relaxing you are effectively able to reduce stress!” Added to this, “it combines caffeine in a matter that produces relaxed alertness. L-theanine lets you enjoy the increased-concentration effect from caffeine (also found in green tea) without the associated anxiety and restlessness.”
Additionally, as described by Natural News, you can try other herbs such as valerian, chamomile, kava, lemon balm, oat flower, and lavender as natural alleviators of anxiety and stress.
4. Tea brands often promote green practices
Many organic tea brands, such as Pukka (a particular favourite of mine), are environmentally conscious. As stated on Pukka’s official packaging, their designs are “printed with vegetable ink on card from renewable sources and is recyclable”. As for the tea bags, “the string on each bag is organic; and because we don’t staple our bags, they’re wildlife friendly to compost. Add to that 100% non-BM ingredients, and you have an incredibly tasting tea that’s good for you, as well as the planet”.
Other brands, such as Clipper, use unbleached tea bags alongside their organic ingredient commitment. This does highlight the importance of choosing organic tea; this will limit pesticide intake and help protect the environment. Once the tea bag has been used you can also add it to your compost heap (if you have one!), or bin it in the knowledge it will biodegrade.
5. It helps promote Fair Trade practices
Many organic tea brands, such as Yogi Tea and Clipper, promote Fair Trade practices. As Clipper confirm, “We use only the highest-quality sources, add nothing artificial, and strive to improve the welfare of the workers.” There you have it, drinking tea is good for you and the economy.
6. It has unusual household benefits
Aylin Erman, in his article from Eco Salon, records many of the unusual benefits of tea. Once you’re finished with a bag, it would be wise not to bin it. You can use the tea bags to feed plants (adding the tea under the soil “infuses the roots with nutrients”), prevent odors (“tea bags are highly absorbent and will take in both liquids and odors”), clean pots and pans (adding green tea bags to messy pots/pans filled with water allows the tannins in the tea t remove grease), and flavor meat as a marinade.
7. It can be used for cosmetic beauty purposes
Thanks to Eco Salon, it’s also apparent green tea can be used for cosmetic purposes. Due to its antioxidant properties, green tea can be used to treat acne and help alleviate eye puffiness. “The tannins found in green tea constrict blood vessels and tame under eye bags,” the site claims. Just be sure to use tea bags which have cooled, rather than one straight from boiling water.
8. It can help you buy unique gifts
Catering for tea fans is straight forward as there are a myriad of unique tea based gifts. The variety available is impressive and takes in the likes of unusual teapots, wine inspired tea, monkey picked tea, tea kits, and eco cups. You can find a full list for inspiration here and surprise your friends and family in the near future.
9. It will introduce you to the fantastical world of tea
The world of tea is far more varied than you can imagine. There are the familiar names you may have heard of already, such as green, white, black, Earl Grey, and assam. Herbal teas aren’t to be forgotten, however, as they provide a remarkable variety of flavours which can assist with overall health. The likes of mint, ginger, nettle, and jasmine are often even merged with green tea to provide new flavours. You can find a detailed selectionhere.
BY ALEX MORRIS