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Tea is hospitable and healthy
Tea is hospitable and healthy

 Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 8/1/2004

CED TEA IS CELEBRATED in Southern hospitality, offered among neighbors, poured at church picnics, guzzled at baseball games.

It's not that people farther north dislike iced tea, it's just that it isn't as important there. The first few months after I moved to Virginia, it took the Midwestern-born girl in me a while to realize that when I ordered "tea" at restaurants, it would inevitably be served in a tall glass with ice, not a squat, steamy teacup.

Whether it's served hot or cold, brewed tea has incredible health benefits: lowering cholesterol and blood pressure; reducing risks of cancer of the stomach, lungs and rectum; and fighting certain bacteria, viruses and even tooth decay.

I've developed a real taste for iced tea, thanks to the kind, generous people I've met here. in Virginia.

All teas are not created equal. Real tea comes from the leaves of one plant only, Camellia sinenis. The five types of tea depend on how the leaves are processed: Black and green are best known, but oolong, white and puerh teas are gaining popularity. Herbal "teas" such as chamomile, mint and others aren't actually tea at all, but infusions of the different species of herbs.

The National Cancer Institute is investigating tea for cancer prevention. All tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins. The lighter the tea, the more health-promoting antioxidants it has. White tea is the lightest, most delicate tea, exposed to air only a short time after it is picked before being dried and packaged. Green tea spends more time being "oxidized," oolong even more, and black tea the most. Puerh tea is a type of black tea that is specially aged.

Common teas in the country, such as Lipton hot and iced teas, are made from black tea leaves. When brewed fresh, iced tea is just as healthy as black tea. When mixed from "instant" tea powder, however, it contains negligible amounts of catechins, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Tea is good for the heart

Drinking tea may increase blood flow to the heart, according to a small study published last month in the American Journal of Cardiology.

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