Tea is far more than just a hot beverage

cup of tea and book

Tea is second only to water as the most popular drink in the world. In my house it’s always time for tea. There is so much more to a cup of tea than a mere hot beverage.  It provides comfort in a time of grief or loss. It is a relaxing way to take a break.  A book and a cup of tea makes all right with the world. Good chats accompanied by cups of tea are an essential part of my friendships. Tea has been with me through thick and thin, at moments of crisis and during some of my most meaningful conversations.

When I was a student, coffee was king. It’s caffeine kick was essential for late night studying. Pregnant with my first child, the taste of coffee became repugnant to me. Its strong, exotic flavours had no more appeal and it was the more subtle flavours of tea that became my addiction. My coffee drinking friends can never remember that I don’t drink coffee. They can’t seem to even entertain the possibility that someone may not drink their favourite beverage.

How to drink your tea

Black tea is one of the most popular teas with 3,200,000 tons produced worldwide every year. However, its popularity is being challenged by green tea with production expected to exceed 3 million by 2023.  Of course by 2023 black tea may have reached the 4 million mark.  There are many different ways of drinking both black and green tea, with most tea lovers being extremely particular about the way they drink it.

Arguments over whether milk should be added first, last or left out altogether are common. Evidently, the traditional way was to pour the milk into the cup first to avoid cracking the delicate glaze on the cup. We do not have that problem any longer and most of us add milk after pouring the tea so we can judge how much to add based on the colour change. Scientists say that adding milk to your tea helps to neutralize the tannins and reduce acidity. I am probably stepping on many toes when I say that there is no right or wrong way to drink a cup of tea, other than the way you like it.

tea partyThose who grew up in Victorian times would be horrified by the fact that I drink my tea out of a mug rather than a fragile teacup. The size of the mug has to be exactly right too or somehow the tea doesn’t taste quite the same. Of course the fact that the teabag goes straight into the cup instead of into a teapot also totally violates tea etiquette. Another habit I have is to squash the teabag against the side of the cup. Evidently this is totally wrong too as it squeezes out all the natural astringent tannins, making the tea bitter. Maybe I’ve just become used to the strong, bitterness and I am actually missing out on some of the delicate flavours I should be experiencing.  Every tea lover I know has their own particular quirks when it comes to how they drink it. This is part of the comforting nature of the ritual, whether its adding just the right amount of milk or drinking it out of a special cup.

Does tea contain more caffeine than coffee?

According to the variety of tea, the caffeine it contains corresponds to a quantity ranging between 30 and 90 milligrams to a cup of approximately 250 ml.  Black tea contains the most caffeine: about 22-28 milligrams to 1 gram.  A cup of black coffee contains about 100-200mg of caffeine per cup. If you’re talking about weight for weight, tea contains more caffeine than coffee but less tea needs to be used to make a cup.

6 Health benefits of tea

The type of tea you drink does make a difference but tea drinking definitely appears to have a number of health benefits.

  1. Tea contains antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
  2. Research has revealed that at least three cups of tea a day can help to prevent the risk of a heart attack.  Some animal studies have demonstrated that tea also lowers cholesterol levels.
  3. Tea drinking has also been linked with protection of cell loss in certain areas of the brain. Studies on mice show that EGCG, a polyphenol in green tea, may guard against neurological diseases.
  4. The mild diuretic effect of tea does not counteract its benefit as a rehydrator.  It helps you to rehydrate with something other than water alone.
  5. The high levels of catechins in tea help with healthy bone formation. People who drink tea on a regular basis are less likely to develop osteoporosis.
  6. Since 2006, numerous studies have compared drinkers of black and green tea to non-tea drinkers. Results have been inconsistent but there does appear to be some link between drinking tea and reduced risk of certain types of cancer.

Going green

organic matchaWhereas black tea is left to oxidize,  green tea is made by using heat to prevent the fermentation process.  This preserves its green colour and natural properties. Many studies have showed the benefits of drinking green tea.  Green tea has been a staple in the East for centuries but its only in recent years that its popularity has spread. When I began drinking green tea, I found it a poor substitute for my black tea but after a while I started loving the freshness of its taste.  If you find green tea a bit difficult to drink, you can add a slice of lemon or choose one with added mint or jasmine. Organic Matcha is a special form of green tea that seems to be everywhere these days. You can’t miss its vibrant green hue when it is used lattes, desserts and smoothies.

In the Red

Rooibos

Rooibos is a South African tea that I drink on a daily basis. It is caffeine-free and packed with antioxidants, even more than found in green tea. It’s also low in tannins and rich in Vitamin C. I drink this tea in the afternoons as its zero caffeine content means it won’t keep me awake at night. It’s great to drink this tea when suffering from digestive cramps. It also contains many minerals such as calcium, potassium and zinc that help to support  your immune system.  The flavanoids found in Rooibos tea are well known for their cancer-fighting qualities.

My top 3 Herbal Helpers

Herbal teas are considered as infusions rather than proper teas by the purists but drinking them offers many health benefits. I am including a few of the ones I usually reach for to help with a specific complaint.

Chamomile

Chamomile herbal tea helps me with insomnia. It also helps with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and bloating. A chamomile tea with honey and vanilla is one of my favourites.

chamomile

Peppermint

This tea is great for bloating, overindulgence, nausea and flatulence. It also helps with headaches and congested sinuses.

peppermint tea

Ginger

Ginger is a life saver when you’re dealing with morning sickness, nausea or travel sickness. It is also good for menstrual cramps.

ginger tea

Too much tea is not a good thing

Drinking too much tea can cause heartburn, jittery feelings and insomnia due to the caffeine content. High tannin intake can interfere with iron absorption. Stick to a maximum of five cups of tea daily – and make sure it’s not too hot. Research has showed that very hot beverages can increase the risk of oesophageal cancers.

Last word

It’s good to know that a beverage I love so much is good for my health, as long as I don’t drink too much of it. I can freely indulge in my three cups of tea a day and know that it’s of benefit to my heart and much more.  Funnily enough, the smell of coffee still appeals to me and sometimes I’m fooled into thinking that I might enjoy a cup. As soon as I start drinking it, I know immediately why I gave it up and go straight back to my tea. I’m an unrepentant tea addict. What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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