Tea Matters

Thingyan - A Holiday and One Giant Water Fight

A very important holiday has just finished in Myanmar. It’s the New Year water festival known as Thingyan. It is normally held between the 13th to the 16th of April every year. It’s the most important public holiday, like Christmas is for the US, but the festival is very different! At this time of year in Myanmar, the hot season has been going on for quite some time. A festival celebrating water is quite welcome.

Thingyan is also an important time for tea harvesters. Some of the best tea of the year is harvested during Thingyan season. This is the earliest time that new tea can be harvested from tea plants. Be on the lookout for 2015 shipments of our first flush teas coming into our shop after they’ve been processed!

There are three sides to the Thingyan festival. First, there is the Buddhist side. Myanmar is a devoutly Buddhist country. People take trips to monasteries to observe special practices and to give alms to monks. This is also a time to honor elders of the family.

The second side is the symbolism of the water. The sprinkling of water is meant to wash away the trouble of the old year, but many people go far beyond a sprinkling. If you don’t like getting wet do not come to Myanmar during Thingyan! You can hardly get down the street without water trucks, hoses, children with buckets, people wandering around with squirt guns, and many other people trying to get everyone else wet.

The third side is the party side. A party far more wild than any Mardi Gras kicks in all over the country. Myanmar is a very reserved country most of the time. During Thingyan, all that pent up energy gets released. Many cultural taboos are lifted.

Visiting during Thingyan is like joining a nation-wide water fight, especially in the major cities. If that’s the sort of thing you really like to do, then there’s nothing like it. Again, if you don’t like getting wet stay home during Thingyan! There are plenty of other festivals in Myanmar you enjoy that don’t involve constant soaking and rowdy behavior.

The Benefits of Green Tea for Your Skin

There is so much information about the benefits of green tea for overall good health. Most of them focus on the internal benefits of this delicious, relaxing beverage. Other benefits that are not so obvious are the ways in which green tea can help your body externally.

 

Green tea, like black tea, comes from the plant, Camellia sinensis. Unlike black teas, however, the leaves of green tea are not fermented or aged before they are steamed and dried, and so they are fresher.

 

One of the most important aspects of green tea, like black tea, coffee, and red wine is that they all contain large quantities of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a group of bioflavonoids that researchers have found which have antioxidant, anticancer, antibacterial, and antiviral properties within them. What this means in terms of skin care is that free radicals, cells or molecules that are missing an electron and are considered unstable. At any given time, free radicals can form in your skin. This happens because of exposure to UV radiation from the son when you don’t use sunscreen, for example, and can cause premature aging and even some forms of pre-cancer of the skin.

 

Over the years, there have been several scientific studies on the benefits of green tea extract on the skin. Several of these studies evidenced that green tea extract showed the ability to neutralize much of the damage that was caused by exposure to the UV rays of the sun. In one study, the extract was applied to the study subjects and it was shown to give dramatic protection from sunburn.

 

Exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays is a major cause of both premature aging and for skin cancer. A study conducted in the United Kingdom showed that those who drank on average two or more cups of green tea per day had a risk 65% lower of developing squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. The addition of lemon, according to the same study, further emphasized the cancer prevention qualities of green tea. Of course, this does not mean you should forgo using sunscreen. When using sunscreen, make sure you use one that is zinc oxide-based. These zinc oxide-based sunscreens generally will not react when used in combination with green tree oxide on the skin because they are chemically inert.

 

Green tea has also been shown as an effective anti-inflammatory agent. If you have a tendency toward skin redness, green tea extract can help alleviate this. In addition, green tea extract contains an active enzyme that will inhibit the production of collagenase. Collegenase breaks down collagen which helps maintain the skin’s elasticity which keeps the skin looking youthful and resist the effects of aging. Clinical studies have shown that subjects who used products containing green tea extract on a continuous basis exhibited both less redness in the skin and greater elasticity in their skin.

You could save your spent tea leaves to make a poultice the next time you get a sunburn and try out this remedy for yourself. Mix the tea leaves into a paste with warm water and leave it on the burn for 30 minutes. See how it feels!

**We are not doctors. Any information in this blog post is purely for entertainment purposes, and does not constitute medical advice under any circumstances.  

Improve Overall Good Health With Green Tea

Green tea has been used within traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) as a way to promote healing within the body. Applications such as healing wounds by controlling bleeding, helping to improve heart and digestive functions and to promote good mental health are all a part of these ancient medicinal uses.

 

Today, modern researchers conducting various studies on the positive health effects of green tea have seen some connection between the regular consumption of green tea on health by assisting in weight loss and keeping more serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and some types of liver disorders at bay.

 

Over time and today, green tea has been considered to be one of the beneficial beverages to overall health in the world. One reason for this could be because green tea contains within it especially high levels of antioxidants. All teas contain antioxidants, but green tea has within it more than any other type of tea on the market. The health-giving antioxidants are known as polyphenols. These polyphenols are what give green tea its healthful benefits.

 

Green Tea and Dental Health

 

One of the more unexpected effects of consuming green tea is the benefits that it provides to overall dental health. While good oral hygiene is always necessary, studies have shown that green tea catechin can help prevent the formation of plaque on the teeth, help tighten and support the gums around teeth that hold them in place. A number of harmful bacteria in the mouth when left unchecked can cause halitosis or bad breath as well as causing plaque and other dental health issues that can have a negative effect on your smile.

 

Green Tea and Potential Cancer-Fighting Effects

Those countries in the world where the consumption of green tea is the highest tend to see lower rates of cancer. Of course, it isn’t really possible to know if the consumption of green tea is what is preventing cancer in these populations, mostly across parts of Asia, but it is believed that consuming green tea along with other healthful lifestyle factors may have some effect on this.

In a recent study by the National Cancer Institute, researchers found that the polyphenols that are contained within green tea have shown significant effect in the decrease in the growth of some types of cancers in laboratory animals. Some researchers believe that similar benefits can affect humans as well. One study at the Institute showed that promise that green tea extract was shown to shield the body against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

While 2005 the FDA said that the benefits of green tea could not be proven, studies hinted there may be a connection. One study on the positive effects of the consumption of green tea indicated that those who drank between two and ten cups per day were far less likely to develop certain forms of cancer such as cancer of the pancreas. Similar studies indicate that cancers of the bladder, breast, ovaries, stomach, and prostate were less in those patients who reported regularly consuming green tea. Most likely this can be linked directly to the higher levels of polyphenols contained within green tea that stop cancerous and pre-cancerous cells from growing.

Feeling Refreshed with Green Tea

All teas contain caffeine even in trace amounts. Over time, researchers realize that a little caffeine can be extremely beneficial to the body with the exception being those people who are very sensitive to it. The caffeine levels found in green tea have been shown to stimulate almost every organ within the human body. This is especially true within the heart, liver and central nervous system. The stimulating effects of the caffeine found within green tea are particularly noticeable when the subject is tired or even sleepy. After consuming a cup of green tea, the mind becomes less cloudy and seems to sharpen the mind. Perhaps this is why so many people consume tea or coffee in the morning after a night of sleep or when burning the midnight oil. Studies have shown that the practice around the world of consuming tea in the afternoon does seem to help offer a bit of a recharge for the body to help it get through the remainder of the day.

**We are not doctors. Any information in this blog post is purely for entertainment purposes, and does not constitute medical advice under any circumstances.  

Growing a Great Cup of Green Tea

For several generations, some of the finest teas in the world have been grown in the Shan Valley. Our first flush green tea coming from the Shan Valley has a uniquely fresh and clean taste that has been met with much enthusiasm by tea lovers around the world.

 

Tea has been grown throughout Asia for several thousand years. Tea from the Kyaukme Shan Valley is especially fine since it is uniquely suited to grow fine green tea that comes from the Camellia sinensis or tea plant. The altitude is high enough and wet enough to produce the high quality leaves that tea connoisseurs demand.

 

To grow a quality green tea, it takes between 3 years before these plants are ready for their first harvest. When tea is harvested, it is only the top one or two inches of the mature plant that are harvested. These tea plant buds are called flushes. It takes 7 - 15 days for a new flush to be produced. When teas take a little longer to reach this level of maturity, it tends to produce a better tasting tea. The second and third leaves are the only ones that are plucked in order to make the best tea. This is called fine plucking. Plucking more leaves along with the bud is called course plucking and produces teas of lesser quality. A tea bush will produce a few thousand leaves per year. While this may sound like a huge number of tea leaves, it produces roughly just one pound per bush in one year.

 

When the leaves for green tea are harvested, they are not left to oxidize. Generally, leaves that have been freshly harvested will be laid out and allowed to dry for between 8 -24 hours to allow most of the water that is contained within the leaf to evaporate. It is at this point that the leaves are steamed or even pan fried. This prevents oxidization which causes the leaves to appear more green than black teas, for example. The next portion of the process is to roll the leaves according to the type of tea that it is. The tea is then left for final drying before being packaged and sold.

 

Shan Valley offices are located in the United States but we work closely with our growers in the Shan Valley that help us to offer some of the greatest green tea available on the market today.

How Much Green Tea Should You Drink?

The benefits of drinking green tea and even applying it topically are well known. But just how much green tea should you be drinking or using in order to be beneficial? There is still a debate about how much is good enough or how much may be too much when consuming green tea. Because the answers vary, sometimes it is difficult to determine what is considered a real number and what may be a figure inflated by those who sell green tea in order to get you to consume more of their product.

 

In a recent study for cancer prevention conducted at the University of California, scientists indicate that the antioxidants and other constituents within green tea that act as a cancer-preventative can be attained in consuming as little as two cups of green tea per day. Other studies indicate that you should consume as much as 10 cups per day in order to see real benefit. Perhaps a figure somewhere between 2 - 5 cups of green tea per day is more than likely enough for most people who are interested in maintaining overall good health without any serious side effects.

 

If you want to avoid the potential of consuming too much caffeine try to pay close attention to how much green tea you drink. Most people who consume green tea don’t even have to think about this even if they consume green tea all day. So, even if you tend to be able to tolerate a relatively high intake, it is a good idea to try not to drink more than 12 - 15 cups per day. The equivalent of a cup of tea is one tea bag infused in hot, not boiling water, for an average steeping time of 7 -10 minutes. This longer steeping time is better for health benefits, since the water will have more time to extract valuable compounds from the tea. However, it will make the tea bitterer than normal.

 

You may want to consume less than this if you have heart or liver problems, high blood pressure, anemia, glaucoma, osteoporosis, suffer from insomnia or anxiety. So while green tea can be good for you, at times it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Also, be sure to check with your doctor to make certain that any medications you may be taking do not pose a potential problem with the caffeine contained within green tea.

 

Very high consumption of green tea can decrease the body’s ability to absorb folic acid. Folic acid is very important for women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant in the prevention of birth defects. If you are pregnant or considering pregnancy, try to drop your green tea consumption down to no more than 2 cups per day.

 

As a note, we are not physicians, nor do we intend to offer medical advice.  Any information offered here is for entertainment value only.  

External Uses For Green Tea

We’ve talked about the benefits of drinking green tea, but did you know that green tea can be used externally as well? One of the benefits is green tea’s effect on your skin. The antioxidant properties of green tea can be used to help deter some of the signs of aging and acne and give an overall youthful appearance.

External Uses of Green Tea

Skin care with green tea

After a cup of green tea, you can take the contents of your tea bag, or the lose tea and use it as a nourishing mask treatment. Add to the tea a bit of honey to make up a paste. Apply directly on the skin and leave it on for ten to fifteen minutes then rinse it off to reveal softer, glowing skin. You may also choose to add a bit of baking soda to act as an exfoliating agent. The baking soda will also tighten pores and help pull impurities out of your skin.

Another mask is to use a few tablespoons of plain yogurt with some loose green tea or contents of a green tea bag. Simply mix the two ingredients together and spread lightly on the face. Now just lay back and relax. After about ten or fifteen minutes, rinse off the green tea and yogurt mixture to reveal soft, dewy looking skin.

Do your eyes feel or look tired?

Take the tea bag you’ve just made your last cup of tea with and use it on your eyes rather than just throwing it away. The tannins contained in green tea act as an astringent which can shrink the pores of the skin. A cool teabag on the eyes can help reduce any swelling and tighten the skin around the eye area. After a few minutes you will definitely see and feel the difference.

Facial scrubs

Green tea can also be used in making facial scrubs as well as the nourishing mask mentioned above. Since green tea helps to tighten the pores, using it in a facial scrub can also be very beneficial for facial skin. Use the tea in your used tea bag along with some granulated sugar to make an exfoliating scrub. This particular scrub can be made easily and any extra can be stored in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.

Hair care

Green tea can also add shine and luster to your hair. Put 3 or 4 green tea bags into boiling water then let it simmer on the stove 10-15 minutes. Allow this mixture to cool completely, or for optimum results, let it infuse overnight. When you go to shampoo the next day, use this mixture to wet your hair down. Leave it on for about ten minutes, then rinse. You can then shampoo with your favorite shampoo and conditioner.

These are just a few of the was that green tea offers health benefits outside the body as well as the ones that are experienced internally when you drink green tea every day. Don’t be afraid to try other mixtures and tips or come up with your own ways to enjoy the benefits of green tea.

What is In Green Tea That Makes it So Good For You?

Green tea has been used as a treatment for many different afflictions. It has being touted as a way to help lose weight, lower blood pressure and even potentially lowering the risk of cancer to those who regularly drink it.

 

What is in Green Tea? 

Catechins

Because of the lack of fermentation, the amount of antioxidants and other healthful substances such as polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins are higher than other teas. These substances act as a deterrent within the body to help stop free radicals, thus protecting the cells in the body from damage. The cumulative damage on the part of free radicals can contribute to illness and disease. One of these substances is epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG as it is more commonly known.

Green tea has also been attributed with increased concentration and “brain power” thanks to the caffeine in it. The caffeine acts to block a neurotransmitter, adenosine, which affects levels of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These aid in mood improvement, focus and concentration. These same neurotransmitters are also attributed in helping to inhibit the deterioration that is often attributed to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Theanine

Laboratory tests have also indicated that the amino acid L-theanine found green tea aided in the restoration of damaged brain cells and helped to prevent other cells in the brain from deterioration. It also assists in preventing some forms of depression.

What Can Green Tea Help With?

Weight Loss

Widely publicized is the effect that green tea can have in weight loss. Green tea increases the metabolism and the levels of fat oxidation and increases the rate at which the human body can turn food into calories. Green tea also assists in regulating glucose levels by slowing the body’s rise in blood sugar that occurs after eating. This slowing can help to prevent insulin spikes and assist in helping to control some forms of diabetes such as Type II diabetes. Reducing insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar levels helps the body to maintain optimum health and prevent extreme highs and lows that often afflict diabetic patients.

Heart Health

Initial tests indicate also that green tea works to help keep blood vessels stay relaxed and more readily able to handle changes in blood pressure by working on the linings of blood vessels. Similarly, it may also prevent blood clots from forming, thus preventing stroke or heart attack.

Cancer Prevention

Recent studies indicate that drinking green tea can decrease the incidence of some forms of cancer. Green tea increasing the levels of antioxidants in the body that can help to prevent all kinds of cancers which include breast, esophageal, prostate and colorectal cancer. Many studies have been conducted and it does appear that overall, regular drinkers of green tea have a much decreased risk of cancer.

Dental Health

Green tea has also been known to help stem tooth decay. The antioxidant catechin found in green tea destroys bacteria in the mouth that can lead to dental caries, gum recession, and other dental conditions including tooth loss. Tooth decay and other dental issues have also been linked to increase in heart disease.

More than just a coffee substitute, just taking the time to take a break to relax with a cup of green tea can do much to add to your overall health and sense of well-being. Try one of Shan Valley’s exceptional green teas today.

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