By Jenn Sturiale
"Oh -- I'm sorry, what did you say?"
It happens to the best of us while engaged in a conversation (even an interesting one): We suddenly snap back to the present, then realize we have no idea what was just said. Our mind wandered away and went... where? Most likely it skipped off to the past or the future. It doesn't just happen during conversations. While watching a movie, we'll start compiling a mental grocery list. Or while walking the dog, we'll replay a conversation we had...
The health benefits of tea are one compelling reason: Green and black teas have 10 times the antioxidants found in fruits and veggies, by one estimate.
For jaded coffee drinkers, tea also offers new sensory frontiers, with its roots in Chinese, Japanese, Indian, African, and South American cultures.
When you sip a chai tea latte, for example, you're enjoying a beverage born in India. "All over India, on almost every street corner, vendors sell chai tea," says Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Council of the U.S.A.
"The traditional tea lover won't like chai tea that much," he tells WebMD. "The spices -- ginger, cardamom -- overpower the taste of the black tea. But for American coffee consumers, it's perfect."
In the U.S., elegant tea salons, tearooms, and take-out tea shops are popping up everywhere, says Simrany. "Four years ago, we had one-quarter the tea salons we have today. Even coffee shops are selling more tea."
People find tranquility in tearooms, says Dominique Tanton, manager of the Dushanbe Teahouse, an exquisite traditional Persian teahouse in Boulder, Colo.
"Coffee shops are for the quick caffeine buzz before work or while you're frantically studying for a test," she tells WebMD. "A tearoom is for slowing down, relaxing, admiring the surroundings."
Studies of humans, animals, and Petri dish experiments show that black and green tea is highly beneficial to our health, says 82-year-old John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y.
"I've published over 500 papers, including a hell of a lot on tea," says Weisburger, who drinks 10 cups daily. "I was the first American researcher to show that tea modifies the metabolism to detoxify harmful chemicals."
Green tea, black tea, oolong tea -- they all come from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis; the leaves are simply processed differently, explains Weisburger. Green tea leaves are not fermented; they are withered and steamed. Black tea and oolong tea leaves undergo crushing and fermenting processes.