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By Wayne Campbell
“The very act of preparing and serving tea encourages conversation. The little spaces in time created by teatime rituals call out to be filled with conversation.”- Emilie Barnes.
Tea is one of the world’s most popular beverages, consumed by people all across the globe.
It is rich in polyphenols which are natural compounds that have health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and helping to fight cancer. Tea is the world’s most consumed drink, after water. Did you know that tea is available in many varieties? They differ according to the applied oxidation and fermentation technique. It is believed that tea originated in northeast India, north Myanmar and southwest China, but the exact place where the plant first grew is not known. It has been with us for a long time. Tea production and processing constitutes a main source of livelihoods for millions of families in developing countries and is the main means of subsistence for millions of poor families, who live in a number of least developed countries.
Tea can play a significant role in rural development, poverty reduction and food security in developing countries, being one of the most important cash crops. International Tea Day is observed annually on May 21 to recognize the long history and cultural and economic significance of tea around the world. This year’s theme of “Sip, Share, and Celebrate: Uniting through the Essence of Tea” encouraged tea lovers to embrace the shared experience of tea as well as to celebrate the diversity and harmony tea brings to our lives. The consumption of tea especially in Jamaica has deep-rooted cultural context. In many rural households in Jamaica cocoa or chocolate “tea” was only served on Sundays. As a result, during the week other forms of tea had to be sourced.
Tea is more than a beverage; it has become a conduit for socialization in many families. Undoubtedly, many families and friends have bonded over a cup a tea. Many of us do not leave our homes in the mornings until and unless we have consumed a cup of our favourite tea. The origins of tea stretch back more than 5 000 years, but its contributions to health, culture and socioeconomic development are still as relevant today. Globally, tea production is currently done across various geographical areas. Interestingly, tea production supports over 13 million people, including smallholder farmers and their households, who depend on the tea sector for their livelihoods.
Tea has many health benefits thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Consumption can bring health benefits and wellness due to these properties and may contribute to weight loss. During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2023 many of us became professional tea makers or tea “sommeliers”.
It was widely believed that specific teas are useful in boosting our immune systems in order to stave off this dreadful disease. It became commonplace for us to consume ginger and turmeric tea; ginger, garlic, turmeric and fever grass some went even further to add scallion to this brew in making their special COVID-19 resistance tea. What tea do you like best? As children we are first introduced to tea by our mothers. In popular cultural folklore, the mythical cerasee tea is the panacea for bellyaches. It is widely believed that Dandelion tea helps to lower blood pressure and ginger tea is highly recommended for flatulence or ‘gas’. In many parts of Jamaica the leaves of the Leaf/Tree of Life were used to make tea and was considered beneficial in fighting off influenza or the common cold. Have you ever had Jack in the Bush tea? What about tea made from the peel of the orange which must be dried. It would be almost a sin not to mention Green Tea. Green tea is more than just a hydrating beverage. The green tea plant contains a range of healthy compounds. Green tea contains a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Catechins are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other benefits. These substances can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells and molecules from damage. These free radicals play a role in aging and many types of diseases. EGCG is one of the most powerful compounds in green tea. Research has tested its ability to help treat various diseases. It appears to be one of the main compounds that give green tea its medicinal properties.
Chamomile tea is a natural remedy for a wide range of health issues. The nutrients it contains may help manage diabetes, menstrual pain, and sleep problems, among others. Chamomile contains chemicals called flavonoids, a type of nutrient present in many plants, and which play a significant role in chamomile’s medicinal effects.
Tea and Climate Change
Tea production is highly sensitive to changes in growing conditions. It can only be produced in narrowly-defined agro-ecological conditions and, hence, in a very limited number of countries, many of which will be heavily-impacted by climate change. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, with more floods and droughts, are already affecting yields, tea product quality and prices, lowering incomes and threatening rural livelihoods. These climate changes are expected to intensify, calling for urgent adaptation measures. In parallel, there is a growing recognition of the need to contribute to climate change mitigation, by reducing carbon emissions from tea production and processing. Therefore, tea-producing countries should integrate climate change challenges, both on the adaptation and mitigation front, into their national tea development strategies.
Sustainable Development Goals and Tea
There is a strong link between the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the production of tea. Tea production and processing contributes to the reduction of extreme poverty (Goal 1), the fight against hunger (Goal 2), the empowerment of women (Goal 5) and the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (Goal 15). Additionally, there is an urgent need to raise public awareness of the importance of tea for rural development and sustainable livelihoods and to improve the tea value chain to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
United Through The Essence of Tea
The first official U.N. International Tea Day was celebrated on May 21, 2020. The chosen date holds historical significance as it coincides with the traditional starting day of tea season in many tea-producing countries. As we celebrate International Tea Day, let all lovers of tea be cognizant of the facts surrounding the production and linkages of tea. The United Nations states that tea production and processing represent a livelihood for millions of families. On this day, tea lovers unite in celebration of their favorite beverage. International Tea Day also promotes ways to sustain the production and consumption of tea. On this day, we can also learn of the importance of tea in combating hunger and poverty. It is stated that every second, people consume 25 000 cups of tea, meaning more than two billion cups of tea are consumed per day. Tea is enjoyed across various religious and social class indicators. There is no better day to put aside your problems and immerse yourselves in the aromatic world of tea. Happy International Tea Day.
In the words of Lin Yutang, there is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. [email protected] @WayneCamo© #InternationalTeaDay