Hello tea. Nice to drink you!
Did you know that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, second only to water? Maybe you’ll also be surprised you learn that tea is a hydrating drink! This means tea counts towards the 6-8 cups of water that doctors recommend we drink daily. This is great news for the many people who struggle to drink enough water every day! (My Mom was very excited when I told her tea was a hydrator!)
What is this beverage called tea and where did it come from? Why do we drink it?
If you go by popular Chinese legend, tea was accidentally discovered by Shenoog, the Emperor of China in 2737 B.C. During a trip away, some of his servants were boiling his water when some withered leaves from a nearby bush fell in the water, changing its colour and smell. The Emperor enjoyed the new aroma and tasted the drink for himself. (He was a progressive Emperor!) Legend follows that he ordered his servants to bring the bush back to his plantation and away tea grows from there!
Since then many other cultures have taken this same warm-weather evergreen bush, called the Camellia Sinensis, and processed/dried the leaves in different ways to produce the various tea varieties that we now enjoy. According to the Tea Association of Canada, there are over 1,500 tea varieties from the Camellia Sinensis bush. These teas can be divided into five types: black, oolong, green, white and pu’erh, and each type differs by how it is processed. For example, some types require leaving the tea leaves to oxidize for varying amounts of time while others are fermented. The natural chemical reactions of the processes result in unique tastes and characteristics. Think of it like wine! There are many types of wines coming from one type of grape… it’s all in the processing, and letting nature do its thing, that results in something very yummy!
Have you heard the saying, “Drink some tea everyday to keep the doctor away?” There is a lot truth to this! Tea, like fruits and vegetables, is a natural source of polyphenols and flavonoids which have antioxidant activity. Antioxidants slow down oxidation and in our bodies antioxidants can soak up free radicals. These are unstable substances which can disrupt biochemical processes in the body and have been implicated in cancer and heart disease prevention. Sounds complicated but, ultimately, we just need to know that tea contains antioxidants which our bodies need to fight certain diseases. Tea is also a natural source of fluoride that can help protect against tooth decay and gum disease. So I can drink my yummy tea and I’ll be healthier doing it?! To this I say, YAY! (or so my 2-year old son would say!)
Rachel Assuncao, my health coach, says tea is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle, especially when it replaces other, less healthy, beverages. “While water is by far the healthiest beverage choice, sometimes it can be boring. Drinking tea is a great alternative, whether iced and refreshing after exercise or on a hot day, or hot and naturally sweet to help curb those sugar cravings. You can enjoy naturally caffeine free or low caffeine teas like herbal, roobios, white or green throughout the day as a healthy calorie-free addition to your everyday diet.” I have made this healthy lifestyle change. No more diet pop! Once again, YAY!
What’s the difference between loose leaf tea and tea bags? It’s all a matter of taste and choice. I mostly drink loose leaf as I know it is a superior quality tea. Just to be clear, there are tea bags that contain loose leaf teas so as not to confuse them with generic grocery store tea bags. Loose leaf tea is made from the whole leaf, and thus, allows for greater infusion of flavour. Tea bag tea is made from the tiniest, broken leftover tea leaves called fannings. On top of this, tea tastes best when the leaves are able to move or steep freely in the water; tea bag tea is very limited in how much the fannings can move around thus limiting the flavor infusion. There are also a much larger variety of loose leaf teas from which to choose.
Loose leaf doesn’t have to be that much more work either. It’s all about having the right tools. I personally love my stainless steel Henley teapot with mesh infuser and no drip spout! As my husband always says, ‘anything can be done easily if you have the right tools’! Even he now enjoys a cuppa tea with me in the evening. (And that is saying something because he’s a big coffee lover.)
Some quick tips on brewing the perfect cup of tea:
Use fresh cold water.
Never re-boil your water. (re-boiling results in a bitter taste) Never over-boil your water. (over-boiling results in a flat taste)
Do not wash your tea pot with soap. (unless you prefer a soapy after taste!)
Use one teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup, unless otherwise indicated.
Always brew your tea for the proper amount of time. But then again, some people like a bitter tea!
Serve with milk, sugar, lemon or on its own.
Try pouring tea over ice for a completely different drink!
And if you really think about it, the best cup of tea is often about who you drink it with. Take a few minutes to enjoy a cuppa with your friends. It’s creating and recollecting those memories that life is all about!
I really could go on and on about tea etiquette, myths about caffeine levels and so much more but let’s save that for another tea talk!
Time to get the kettle on!