Care for a spot of tea? Make it three.

Polly put the kettle on,
We’ll all have tea.
— Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge (1841)

My resolution for August is to drink more tea – particularly the green variety. Frankly, I don’t like the taste of green tea – or any hot tea in general – but I once developed a taste for tequila which is the vilest form of beverage known to man. Certainly I can develop a love of green tea in the interest of better health.

A burgeoning interest in tea is due to a spreading realization of its health benefits. Studies confirm what tea drinkers in Asia have known for centuries: that tea is good for you. Many consider true tea to be the ultimate health beverage. Now that medical science is validating tea’s health claims, Americans are embracing it wholeheartedly.

Ammunition in war against aging – Nuff said!

More than just a beverage, true tea of all kinds — from white to black — is an elixir brim full of antioxidants that are beneficial to the body. Antioxidants reduce oxidation reactions in the body that are associated with aging and other disease processes. Specifically, tea has been shown to help promote healthy cholesterol levels, increase metabolism and improve mental performance. Green tea may also inhibit plaque buildup on teeth and may help the body deal with stress.

How much is enough

Benefits can be realized by consuming three cups a day, which is the historical average for most Asian tea drinkers and the base line for many recent studies. Because the antioxidants in tea are water-soluble and therefore short-lived, tea should be drunk at intervals throughout the day. The best time to drink tea is on an empty stomach between meals. Antioxidants are best absorbed in the absence of food and tea can interfere with the absorption of some nutrients, particularly iron.

If you enjoy milk with your tea, you may want to consider recent research published in the European Heart Journal reporting that adding milk to tea negates its health benefits. Caseins, a group of proteins found in milk, react with the flavonoids in tea to cancel out their beneficial effects.

Green tea is leading the tea revolution in North America, sparked by reports of its health benefits. It’s available in a bewildering array of infusions and styles that can be traced to two general regions: China and Japan. Chinese-style green tea is described as light, with a soft natural sweetness and hint of smokiness, whereas tea produced in Japan is fresh, with grassy notes and a hint of the ocean. These subtle differences are due to the variant production methods used in each country.

Green tea undergoes only slightly more processing than white tea and has a little more caffeine. Its high antioxidant levels are the basis for the health claims that have made it so popular.

How to brew tea

In the U.S., brewing tea is a relatively straightforward process involving a single infusion of tea leaves in hot water. Tea brewing in Asia can be much more complex, with several infusions, each lasting a prescribed amount of time from 15 seconds to 5 minutes with variations depending on leaf size and water temperature.

Since tea is more than 95% water, the quality of the brewing water is critical. Use fresh spring water or light mineral water if available. Water with high iron content or chlorinated tap water should be avoided.

Keep home-prepared tea at room temperature to avoid clouding. If tea does become cloudy, restore the clear color by adding a little boiling water.

Other uses for tea

After the tea has been drunk and the recipe made, don’t throw away those tea leaves. They can be used in compost or for mulch around both indoor and outdoor plants. Leftover brewed tea? Use it to water indoor plants — they’ll lo

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