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  • Writer's pictureMarielle

What is Tea? More Than Just Hot Leaf Water

Updated: May 19

What is tea? While this may be a seemingly simple question, the answers may surprise you. Most people are familiar with tea as a beverage, and perhaps tea is already a part of your daily life. Maybe it’s your go-to fountain drink when having a meal out with family, or it could be part of your rainy day routine.

But… What IS tea?

Tea is made from the leaves from the Thea sinesis plant, a tree part of the Camellia family. The two main varieties are Camellia sinensis, and Camellia assamica, and both come with their own unique traits for which they are cultivated. Camellia sinensis is a bushy, cold-hardy variety and does well in the climates of China and Japan, whereas the Camellia assamica prefers the humid, tropical climate and high elevations of northern India. Ancient legend tells a tale of a scholar and herbalist, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, who discovered the invigorating and delicious potential of tea in 2737 B.C., when a light breeze shook a few leaves into his pot of simmering water as he was resting under a wild tea tree.

This theory regarding the first brew remains unproven, however it is not unlikely that the preparation and consumption of tea does date back this far. Not including water, tea is the world's most popular beverage; people have been drinking it for over 4000 years.

For thousands of years the exact use and history of tea was unclear, due to multiple variations of herbal tonics being described using a single Chinese character, ’Tu,’ with the only known differences between them being a slight difference in pronunciation. The history becomes more clear after an emperor in the period of the Han Dynasty made a ruling that tea should be distinguished as ‘cha’ and separated as its own unique character.

In the early years, tea leaves were gathered from wild trees and steeped fresh, primarily for medicinal purposes, but due to a growing demand they began to cultivate them and develop processes of preservation. As the popularity grew, the delights of tea began to spread throughout the neighboring nations, and soon the royal families, Buddhist monks, and people from all walks of life were enjoying tea across Asia and Europe. From then on, tea has remained an important part of numerous cultures, playing a large role in notable historical events such as the Opium Wars and the Boston Tea Party.

With all this craze over tea, you may be wondering why it was such a big deal in the first place. Well, even in the early years, the benefits of tea became obvious. Buddhist monks used tea to help themselves stay focused during extended meditations, and healers used teas to treat health problems ranging from sleeplessness to the flu and more.

We drink tea for many of the same reasons as people have for thousands of years. Aside from the taste and the versatility of the beverage, the most popular reason we drink tea is for the added health benefits that it provides. Drinking tea is one of the easiest, most natural ways to get more vitamins and antioxidants, and you can control what benefits you receive by adding other herbs to create a healthy blend to supplement what your diet doesn’t provide.

Health benefits of tea

Tea contains:

  • Fluoride; helps strengthen your bones and teeth, prevents tooth decay

  • Zinc; helps your body process foods and absorb nutrients

  • Beta-carotene; converts to vitamin A in the body, helps to improve your vision and keep fragile areas (like the inside of your nose) healthy

  • Vitamin C; helps your body heal injuries, helps your body fight illnesses

  • Vitamin E; helps maintain healthy eyes and skin, boosts your body's immune system

  • Caffeine; stimulates the mind, improves focus, helps relieve headaches and can reduce the frequency of migraines, and acts as an appetite suppressant

In addition to all those physical benefits, Tea can also be incorporated into your self-care routine. Settling in with a cup of tea at the end of a long day can help you transition from the stresses of work or school to a more relaxed state of mind.

Tips for using tea to unwind

  • Choose a low caffeine variety, such as a white tea or an herbal blend

  • Drink it hot; a warm, fragrant beverage is soothing, like the feeling you get when you wrap up in a soft blanket

  • Use it as part of a meditation. You can clear your mind by focusing solely on the process of making your tea; then sip it slowly, allowing your body and mind to relax

  • Look for ingredients known to relieve anxiety, such as lavender and chamomile. These will give you the extra help you need during particularly stressful times

You can even make tea a part of your spiritual journey. Many cultures use tea for religious ceremonies, spiritual gatherings, and as an offering to higher powers. No matter your personal beliefs, you can make tea part of your spiritual rituals as well.

Ways to incorporate tea into your spiritual practice

  • Choose blends with ingredients that correspond with your higher power of choice (For example, in pagan belief systems, the Greek Goddess of love, Aphrodite, is affiliated with roses)

  • Brew a cup of your favorite tea right before prayer. Dedicate the cup as an offering to the higher power or deity you are speaking to, and place it in front of you as you pray. When you’ve finished, drink the tea as a final step to connect with the spiritual being you associate with.

  • Use tea as a manifestation tool; Here’s How:

  1. set your intentions as you prepare your tea; make sure to really focus your energy into every action and thought

  2. Sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes as you sip your tea

  3. Enjoy it while you imagine the changes in your life that you are manifesting

  4. Picture your ideal self, sitting where you want to be, living the life you are seeking.

  5. Get specific; visualize the place you are in, what you are wearing, how you are feeling, down to the small details. The more you bring the image to life, the more powerful the manifestation will be

Adding a tangible thing, like a cup of tea, acts as a mental bridge to be able to really visualize yourself in the life you are meant to have.

Hopefully this post has not only taught you something new about this popular beverage, but also given you some easy, approachable ways to nurture your body and your mind. The act of brewing a cup of tea may seem small, but the ways this small act can improve your daily life are countless! Leave a comment below to share with us here @Moonstone Teas and Botanicals what you thought of this post and what other ideas you can think of to add tea to your life!

Thanks for sipping with us!

Marielle @Moonstone Teas and Apothecary


National Health Service UK (2020, August 3) Vitamins and Minerals.

Safi, T. (2001) Healthy Teas. Boston, USA: Periplus (HK) Ltd.

Pettigrew, J. (2004) The Tea Companion; a Connoisseur’s Guide. Philadelphia, USA: Running Press Book Publishers

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