People have been consuming brewed tea from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant for almost 50 centuries. Although health benefits have been attributed to tea, especially green tea consumption since the beginning of its history, scientific investigations of this beverage and its constituents have been underway for less than three decades. Currently, tea, in the form of green or black tea, next to water, is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. In vitro and animal studies provide strong evidence that polyphenols derived from tea may possess the bioactivity to affect the pathogenesis of several chronic diseases. Among all tea polyphenols, epigallocatechin-3-gallate has been shown to be responsible for much of the health promoting ability of green tea. Tea and tea preparations have been shown to inhibit tumorigenesis in a variety of animal models of carcinogenesis. However, with increasing interest in the health promoting properties of tea and a significant rise in scientific investigation, this review covers recent findings on the medicinal properties and health benefits of tea with special reference to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.