Monday, June 29, 2009
The Art, Pleasure & Health of Tea
Yesterday, I met a friend at Stella's Tea House in Denver which is a remarkable treat in and of itself. (www.stellascoffee.com if you'd like a peek!) Walking into Stellas is like walking into a kind, fun, eccentric, eclectic old Granny's house. Multi level porches outside, rooms without end inside. Nothing matches but somehow it all works.
On a brisk fall day last year, my husband Greg and I stopped at Stellas to visit with my son, Zeke and his family. Zeke, ever the adventurer, popped inside and bought me a cup of tea, announcing, "It's a blooming tea. They put a pod in there that opens to a flower. The guy called it the 'white wine' of teas." (You can watch a lovely video on blooming flower teas at www.bloomingteahouse.com) Leave it to Zeke to find a way to give his mom a drinkable flower.
Sure enough, the hot water began working its magic on the ugly peach-pit looking pod as it opened up and flowered into a work of floral art. The tea was wonderful tasting too -- green tea with a mild hint of jasmine. I took in the aroma, then sipped and smiled. "I could get into this."
This year I had to give up two of my favorite beverages: wine and coffee. For whatever reason, they both stopped agreeing with my head and stomach. I missed the taste of both of course, but even more I missed the ambiance, fellowship and experimenting with flavors within the genre.
So it is with no small amount of joy that I am grateful to discover Tea People, Tea Houses, Tea Aficionados. A new beverage genre to savor and discover!
Last week I sampled my first South African rooibos tea a la Starbuck's rooibos vanilla drink. It was love at first latte. In This is Your Brain on Joy we included research on aromatherapy to help balance your brain's moods. The fragrances of many teas from Earl Grey to jasmine proved a quadruple boost to joy: you get the scent, the warmth of the cup in your hand, the beauty of it all, and the taste of the tea -- all creating a happy multi sensory moment.
All this, and tea is actually great for your health as well.
My sweet mother suffers at night from heart arrhythmias. Last month she wrote that, "I've found if I drink a cup of green tea, my heart calms. It soothes me nicely and I'm able to get back to bed and fall asleep soon after."
Below are 33 more health reasons to consider adopting the lovely habit of the English, to start the day and pause the day with a nice spot of tea.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Drinking Tea
There are lots of reasons why I enjoy a hot cup of tea: I love the aroma of various flavors of tea; holding onto a hot tea mug warms my hands on a cold winter morning; sipping tea in front of the fireplace is a great way to relax. And those are just the feel-good reasons. If you're not drinking tea yet, read up on these 10 ways tea does your body good and then see if you're ready to change your Starbucks order!
1. Tea contains antioxidants. Like the Rust-Oleum paint that keeps your outdoor furniture from rusting, tea's antioxidants protect your body from the ravages of aging and the effects of pollution.
2. Tea has less caffeine than coffee. Coffee usually has two to three times the caffeine of tea (unless you're a fan of Morning Thunder, which combines caffeine with mate, an herb that acts like caffeine in our body). An eight-ounce cup of coffee contains around 135 mg caffeine; tea contains only 30 to 40 mg per cup. If drinking coffee gives you the jitters, causes indigestion or headaches or interferes with sleep -- switch to tea.
3. Tea may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Unwanted blood clots formed from cholesterol and blood platelets cause heart attack and stroke. Drinking tea may help keep your arteries smooth and clog-free, the same way a drain keeps your bathroom pipes clear. A 5.6-year study from the Netherlands found a 70 percent lower risk of fatal heart attack in people who drank at least two to three cups of black tea daily compared to non-tea drinkers.
4. Tea protects your bones. It's not just the milk added to tea that builds strong bones. One study that compared tea drinkers with non-drinkers, found that people who drank tea for 10 or more years had the strongest bones, even after adjusting for age, body weight, exercise, smoking and other risk factors. The authors suggest that this may be the work of tea's many beneficial phytochemicals.
5. Tea gives you a sweet smile. One look at the grimy grin of Austin Powers and you may not think drinking tea is good for your teeth, but think again. It's the sugar added to it that's likely to blame for England's bad dental record. Tea itself actually contains fluoride and tannins that may keep plaque at bay. So add unsweetened tea drinking to your daily dental routine of brushing and flossing for healthier teeth and gums.
6. Tea bolsters your immune defenses. Drinking tea may help your body's immune system fight off infection. When 21 volunteers drank either five cups of tea or coffee each day for four weeks, researchers saw higher immune system activity in the blood of the tea drinkers.
7. Tea protects against cancer. Thank the polyphenols, the antioxidants found in tea, once again for their cancer-fighting effects. While the overall research is inconclusive, there are enough studies that show the potential protective effects of drinking tea to make adding tea to your list of daily beverages.
8. Tea helps keep you hydrated. Caffeinated beverages, including tea, used to be on the list of beverages that didn't contribute to our daily fluid needs. Since caffeine is a diuretic and makes us pee more, the thought was that caffeinated beverages couldn't contribute to our overall fluid requirement. However, recent research has shown that the caffeine really doesn't matter -- tea and other caffeinated beverages definitely contribute to our fluid needs. The only time the caffeine becomes a problem as far as fluid is concerned is when you drink more than five or six cups of a caffeinated beverage at one time.
9. Tea is calorie-free. Tea doesn't have any calories, unless you add sweetener or milk. Consuming even 250 fewer calories per day can result in losing one pound per week. If you're looking for a satisfying, calorie-free beverage, tea is a top choice.
10. Tea increases your metabolism. Lots of people complain about a slow metabolic rate and their inability to lose weight. Green tea has been shown to actually increase metabolic rate so that you can burn 70 to 80 additional calories by drinking just five cups of green tea per day. Over a year's time you could lose eight pounds just by drinking green tea. Of course, taking a 15-minute walk every day will also burn calories.
1. Which tea is better -- green, black, white?
There really isn't enough difference to get overly excited about. All teas generally contain the same amount of flavonoids. Green and black tea come from the same plants, but green tea is dried for a shorter time and doesn't go through a fermenting process used for black tea.
2. Are decaffeinated teas just as good for you?
Some companies use chemicals to decaffeinate tea; others use a water process. The chemical process removes more of the beneficial polyphenols, so read labels carefully when choosing decaf.
3. How do you brew a perfect cup of tea?
For hot tea:
Bring one cup of water per tea bag, or teaspoon of dried tea, to a rolling boil.
Measure the tea into a glass container (plastic and metal pick up unwanted flavors).
Pour the boiling water over your tea and steep to the desired strength. Steep too long and you'll get an acidic taste.
For iced tea:
Brew your tea with boiling water, as described above.
Chill with ice and keep in the fridge.