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What is in Tea?

The three primary components of brewed tea (also called the "liquor") are: 1. Essential Oils - these provide tea's delicious aromas and flavors. 2. Polyphenols - these provide the "briskness" or astringency in the mouth and are the components that also carry most of the health benefits of tea. 3. Caffeine - found naturally in coffee, chocolate, tea and Yerba Mate, caffeine provides tea's natural energy boost. The strongest tea contains about 1/3 the amount of caffeine found in the same serving of coffee. Tea contains flavonoids, compounds with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals that may damage the body and contribute to chronic diseases. White and green teas (the least processed) contain the most antioxidant properties, followed by Oolong and then Black teas.  The naturally occurring chemical compounds in tea, called 'polyphenols,' are powerful antioxidants. The primary polyphenols found in tea are called 'catechins' which account for 30 to 40 percent of dry tea weight. Other polyphenols found in tea include flavanols, flavanol glycosides, flavandiols, phenolic acids, and depsides. Polyphenols act as 'bodyguards', preventing damage caused by free radicals (damaging forms of oxygen) by combining chemically with the free radicals. Polyphenols give tea its characteristic astringent flavor. In the past, these polyphenols have been mistakenly called 'tannins.' Polyphenols are chemically similar to tannins, however tannins are not present in tea. Green tea has a high content of vitamins and minerals. It contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in amounts comparable to a lemon. Green tea also contains several B vitamins which are water soluble and quickly released into a cup of tea. Five cups of green tea a day will provide 5- 10% of the daily requirement of riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and pantothenic acid. The same five cups of green tea also provide approximately 5% of the daily requirement of magnesium, 25% of potassium, and 45% of the requirement for manganese. Green tea is also high in fluoride. A cup of green tea provides approximately 0.1 mg of fluoride, which is higher than in fluorinated water.
People first became enchanted with tea in ancient China more than 5,000 years ago.  According to the legend, skilled early emperor Shen Nung, a scientist and arts patron, dictated that all drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution. One summer day while visiting a distant province, his servants began boiling the water. Dried leaves from a nearby bush fell into the pot, and a brown liquid was infused.
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