The word ”tea” is often synonymous with places like India, China and the U.K., but tea is also produced and consumed on the African continent and offers many health benefits.
Tea is a major business in countries like Kenya, which has year-round plantations and Malawi, which has centuries-old tea trees. Kenya is the largest producer of tea on the continent and a major exporter of teas around the world. The U.K. imports over 50% of its tea from Kenya, which began growing, producing and exporting tea at the turn of the last century.
Although later to the game than other countries, they are known for producing bright, flavorful blends based on their ideal climate, tropical, volcanic red soils and well-distributed rainfall. The country is also located near the equator, which also makes it ideal for year-round production. Coupled with their use of the cut-tear-curl method (CTC), which allows for better placement in tea bags, Kenya is a leading producer of black tea in the world.
Malawi has the oldest tea plantations in Africa. Malawi’s tea production and industry emerged following the devastation of coffee plantations by the fungal disease Hemileia vastatrix (or Coffee Leaf Rust Disease,) in the 1850s which affected major coffee producers in Africa, like Kenya, and throughout the world, most notably Sri Lanka and other areas in Asia.
The infestation caused a precipitous dip in coffee production over the next 20 years. This devastation led to many coffee producers moving from Sri Lanka to Malawi and planting tea, creating an industry there upon which Malawi and other African nations capitalized. Malawi was a great place for growing tea because of its bright red soil which was reflected in the color of the liquid from the brew.
It is clear that people have been drinking tea all over the world for centuries and tea lovers get more from the beverage than just delightful colors and flavors. Studies have shown that many different types of teas have health benefits that help tea drinkers lead healthy lives.
With two-thirds of the world’s population consuming tea, studies have shown tea may boost your immune system, fight inflammation and stave off various cancers and heart disease. According to UPenn Medicine, “While some brews provide more health advantages than others, there’s plenty of evidence that regularly drinking tea can have a lasting impact on your wellness.”
For example, white tea is the least processed tea and is known for fighting various forms of cancers because of the high level of antioxidants in the tea. It is also good for your teeth because it contains fluoride and can help strengthen teeth and fight decay.
Herbal teas are similar to white teas, but they contain a blend of flowers, fruits, spices and herbs in addition to tea leaves. They also don’t contain caffeine which is why they are known for their calming properties. Some of the most popular herbal teas include:
Chamomile tea – Helps to reduce menstrual pain and muscle spasms, improves sleep and relaxation and reduces stress.
Rooibos (South Africa) – Improves blood pressure and circulation, boosts good cholesterol while lowering bad cholesterol, keeps hair strong and skin healthy, and provides relief from allergies.
Peppermint – Contains menthol, which can soothe an upset stomach and serve as a cure for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and motion sickness. This tea variety also offers pain relief from tension headaches and migraines.
Ginger – Helps to fight against morning sickness, can be used to treat chronic indigestion and helps to relieve joint pain caused by osteoarthritis.
Hibiscus – Lowers blood pressure and fat levels, improves overall liver health, can fend off cravings for unhealthy sweets, and may prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Green tea originates from China and is exceptionally high in flavonoids that can help boost your heart health by lowering bad cholesterol and reducing blood clotting. It can also help lower blood pressure, triglycerides and total cholesterol. It can also have a positive impact on liver function, breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. Green tea is also anti-inflammatory which contributes to healthy skin. The fan favorite matcha green tea, which is made from the leaves of tea bushes grown in the shade, has even more antioxidants than traditional green tea.
Not only does tea grow all over the world and offer an abundance of health benefits, African Americans are embracing the beverage and creating businesses out of it. There’s Just Add Honey Tea Company, Jayida Ché Herbal Tea Spot, Transcending Tea, Fresh Steeped Tea and Brooklyn Tea in Atlanta, GA.
The next time you get a hankering for something that ignites the senses, including taste and smell, offers health benefits, and has been a part of our history for thousands of years, consider a wonderful cup of tea.