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This post was inspired by a non-skid-faux-leopard-slipper-wearing British friend of mine. Don’t even ask, I’m not sure I could explain. She’s quite charming though.

Tea contains plant compounds called polyphenols, which have major antioxidant properties that may help lower cholesterol levels, promote bone strength, and boost the immune system. The polyphenols in tea include EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), one of the super antioxidants being studied for its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory abilities. A recent study from Egypt even suggests green tea may enhance the effects of antibiotics.

The 4 basic types of true tea are black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea. All true teas come from the buds or twigs of the Camellia sinensis bush. Herbal tea refers to an infusion of herbs (like chamomile or rosehips) and fruit and doesn’t normally contain any of the traditional tea bush.

Legend has it that one of the key spiritual leaders of Zen Buddhism, Guatama Buddha, discovered tea when some leaves from the Camellia sinensis bush fell into a pot of water he was heating. He drank the potion and decided it had medicinal and restorative powers. And here we are thousands of years later paying $7 for a can of dried bush leaves. Are we enlightened?

Whatever the case, tea does have some “enlightening” physiological powers. It can be spiritually and emotionally healing as well. Nourishment also includes slowing down, taking a break, and enjoying some quiet time. Having a cup of warm tea with a little honey might be a perfect way to do that.

Potent antioxidants are something we can all use, especially with our hectic lifestyle and the environmental toxins we’re sucking in on a daily basis. Antioxidants prevent or delay the oxidation process. They minimize the effects of free radicals on normal physiological functions. Blah, blah, blah — trust me, that’s a good thing.

I’ll touch on the basics of the most recognized types of tea. All have varying degrees of health benefits, but the least processed forms (exposing them to heat and drying methods) are the best.

White tea – grown in China, more expensive, and produced with the least amount of processing. It is almost colorless and has a delicate flavor.

Green tea – this is the one we’re most familiar with and comes in many varieties from all over Asia. It is stronger in color and flavor, but lower in antioxidant properties than white tea (but still on the high end with overall antioxidant ability).

Oolong tea – the word oolong means “black dragon” in Chinese. This version is more fragrant and flowery and according to some sources can vary between inexpensive Chinese restaurant tea to high-end versions that sell for $10,000 a pound. Huh? And I thought $7 a can was bad.

Black tea – is produced in large quantities in India and Ceylon. (Quick, where is Ceylon?) This is the mainstream stuff, the generic version, the most inexpensive and what we North Americans drink as iced tea. Ugh . . .

Bottom line? Add some green tea to your diet (along with dark chocolate and red wine). Buy organic versions and steep them properly. You can even eliminate most of the caffeine by steeping the leaves in hot water for about thirty seconds and then drain off the water. Now steep the leaves again as you normally would. This doesn’t impact the antioxidant abilities or the flavor for that matter, just the caffeine content

*Ceylon became Sri Lanka in 1972. So, where’s Sri Lanka?

http://www.srilankatourism.org/

P.S. Okay, I realize this isn’t exactly eating local (100 mile radius), which I’ve been accused of ranting about on occasion, but there are limits to my locavore attempts. Wait, on second thought, I have no idea where Sri Lanka is. Don’t tell me — maybe it’s closer than I think.

In good health,
Melissa

22 Responses to “tea time”

  1. I didn’t know you could remove some of the caffeine in that way. :)

    My favorite tea is tulsi tea (holy basil). It is naturally caffeine free, and it boosts the immune system too!

  2. greedydave says:

    Melissa,
    You’re really talking my language here. I don’t think I’d be able to function properly without at least 3 cups of tea per day. Whilst not be founded in science, we Brits know that a cuppa tea is the cure for most ailments, emotional, physical or otherwise. I think Cid would be quite disappointed to hear that I’m a ‘standard bag’ man. Our standard tea bags are filled with a leaf grade called ‘dust’ which sounds far from appealing but simply means that it’s the leftovers from the posh tea leaf brigade. Not that I’m immune from that myself; I do enjoy the occasional cup of keemun or gunpowder tea.

    As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, you can chalk them up as another country that England can’t beat at cricket. :)

    GDave

  3. I do love tea, but only black tea. My mother was British and tea cured all ails! Check out my latest post for a free give away of a great book on gluten http://simplygluten-free.blogspot.com/2009/02/gluten-book-give-away.html

  4. Miles says:

    Melissa,
    Now you’re talking! Tea is my favourite drink, more so than wine which is quite incredible. I drink mostly Indian Chai and Moroccan Mint at work. When I’m off it’s jasmine,chamomille and the odd valerian for a good night’s sleep.
    Where would we all be without tea?

    Miles

  5. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    What a marvelous post (she says as she sips a cup of fine assam while wearing her all terrain faux leopard slippers :) ). It’s interesting that there are so many types of tea or tissanes/infusions….and we all have our favourites. I’ve tried some of the Japanese teas and on the whole found them an acquired taste.

    My own tea supplier has his shop in a very old beamed building (12th to 13th century I think) on an old cobbled street, but with contemporary, stylish chandeliers. The shelves are full of silver caddies laden with tea, most of which I’ll never get to try. Opposite is a Belgium chocolate shop… sometimes I stand in between the two and wonder if Heaven is anything like this :)

    Like Miles, I do occasionally have Indian Chai as we’ve talked about before, and after Chinese food I like Jasmine tea. As for GDave… we’ll have to get him a tea bag making kit so he can have the best of both worlds!

    Here’s to odd cups/mugs Melissa and friendships made through wonderful blogs like this!

    Cid

  6. Melissa says:

    Heather,

    I like Tulsi tea as well and although not a “true” tea, it’s a delightful herbal “infusion” brew. Good stuff, for sure!

  7. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    Actually, much of what you say is grounded in science. Tea (certain versions) has been found to have adaptogenic properties that actually help the body deal with stress. And like you pointed out, that means both emotional and physical types.

    As for being a “standard dust bag” man, yes, I’m guessing Cid may have some tips for you — from the quality of the tea to what you drink it from. I promise I won’t rant, but no styrofoam cups, okay Dave?

    Being from a country that sells cheap tea in 45 ounce plastic containers full of refined white sugar and fake lemon, I’m thrilled to have you Brits share your tea knowledge with us, whether you’re a bag man or not! We need all the help we can get when it comes to tea.

    Thanks for your input.

    :-)

  8. Melissa says:

    Miles,

    I think that’s probably a fairly smart choice — tea over wine. At least with the tea, there are no headaches in the morning. It’s funny, valerian actually bothers me. It works the reverse and makes me a touch jittery. Hmmm? I do like chamomile though.

    I’ll have to try some of these teas you British experts are suggesting. I’ve always liked tea, but haven’t branched out into some of the more exotic versions.

  9. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    I wish I had thought of using the term “all terrain” in describing your slippers. When Miles writes his book, you must write the introduction — you have such a delightful way of stringing words together.

    The image of your tea “supplier” (sounds a bit unlawful) on the cobblestone street in the vintage building just adds to the mystique and serenity of choosing and enjoying tea. It’s not just in the drinking, it’s about the whole process — from purchase to cup choice. That’s part of what makes drinking tea so satisfying.

    My son broke his back in an accident in Austria a year or so ago. My cousin, his wife, and daughters live in Salzburg and ended up caring for him in between his hospital stay and his flight home to the US. Although he was miserable, Decker said the most “healing” part of his day was having a cup of tea that my cousin’s wife Margareth lovingly made. Talking with her and enjoying his tea — that was the best medicine he could have had. Not only are the nutrients in tea healing, but the tradition, care, and tranquility involved in the process is emotionally healing and calming as well. You really can’t quantify how beneficial rituals like this can be.

    You Brits have more knowledge of these kinds of things and we appreciate you sharing that with us.

    Yes, Cid, here’s to friendship in all forms.

  10. Melissa says:

    * I’m adding this prior comment from Cid (which was left on a different post) because it’s so perfect for this post. I love learning about teas and I want to share this wonderful information with everyone.

    :-)

    Melissa,

    My tea of choice this month is organic Keemun Spring Gold, which is a black China tea. Some time back I had a lovely batch of Royal Phoenix Feathers which was similar and one of the most delicious I’ve tried. I always keep a good Breakfast Blend Assam in because no one else seems to like the China. A South African Redbush, several Earl Grey’s and box of herbal and green teas. Please don’t think the rest of the UK follows suit…. you’re much more likely to find a box of standard tea bags in the average household along with some instant coffee.

    Subsequently I’m drawn to an odd mix of cups and saucers. Needless to say my Canadian relatives were amazed by the whole process :)

    Cid

  11. greedydave says:

    Melissa,
    So sorry and concerned to hear about your Son’s accident last year, but it’s great that he’s able to take such a positive experience from it. He certainly seems to have an ideal attitude.

    Cid,
    Totally, totally busted! :)

    http://i293.photobucket.com/albums/mm56/greedydave/tea_cupboard.jpg

    Hey, a skydiver doesn’t worry whether his parachute is made from the finest, embroidered Chinese silk, he just wants it to stop him hitting the ground face first. I have the same relationship with tea. :)

    GDave

  12. Cid says:

    GDave,

    You certainly will be hitting the ground face first if I catch you with those tea bags :) Very neat cupboard though and not a bad instant coffee so I’ll forgive you just this once :)

    By the way that cupboard of yours is exceptionally neat and minimalist which is more than can be said for mine. I trust you’ll be joining Melissa and I for a spot of tea and crumpets when we drop in on Miles? :)

    Cid

  13. greedydave says:

    Cid,
    I gave it a bit of a wipe over before taking the photo, but I swear that’s the state in which you’ll invariably find my brew cupboard. Occasionally there’ll be some real coffee in there and sometimes it’s Twinings instead of PG Tips. See! I’m not a neanderthal. :)

    As for tea and crumpets at Miles’s, count me in! I got myself barred from his restaurants thanks to the Valentines menu prank, but I’ll wear a fake mustache. :)

    All the best Cid and chums.

    GDave

    xx

  14. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    You always make me laugh — out loud (at 5 AM)! I love that photo of your cupboard — I must get Tevis (my daughter) involved in this exchange as she went to college in London and then Glasgow and her cupboard looked just about like yours (same PG Tips box). She also had a few gluten-free Kit Kats on hand.

    :-)

    Love your parachuting analogy. I’m feeling a bit like I’m on a free-fall right now — with fingers crossed that my chute opens. Things are a little “tense” around these parts with the economic situation. All the more reason to joyfully blog away.

  15. Elsie Nean says:

    Melissa,
    I am a bit late. It’s hard to get a word in once Cid starts :) . I actually know the teashop she mentions and it is my favourite too, whenever I visit the area. You can spend a fortune there. I love the ist and 2nd flush Assams and Ceylons.
    Before I came to the UK, I had not found a hot drink that I really enjoyed. All those years ago, tea was truly the answer to everything in England and it did not take me long to feel the same. I had finally found the drink I had searched for.
    I mainly drink black leaf tea (Yorkshire Tea), green tea, Indian Chai and all manner of herbal teas. I have not tried the white tea yet. Thank you for the info, Melissa.
    Sorry to hear about your Son’s accident and so far from home. Salzburg is a lovely place. One of our visits there was during the Mozart festivals.
    Otherwise known for it’s “Von Trapp Family” and “The hills are alive..” springs to mind. I now have visions of Cid in her yellow socks yodelling in the hills :)
    Elsie
    Sorry, Melissa, gone on a bit there.

  16. Melissa says:

    Elsie,

    You don’t have to be speedy when it comes to commenting on my blog — I do things at a little slower pace than Miles does. In fact, I’m not sure how he maintains that frenetic tempo of his.

    Before you came to the UK? You sound every bit as interesting as the rest of Miles’ blog mates. Seriously, I want a program so I know who’s who in this eccentric cast of characters. Who is connected with who and how you all know each other. Or, do you?

    :-)

    Yes, I have a “sense” about each one of you, but I must admit, I am curious — especially considering I have a rather vivid imagination. And with Cid’s sense of fashion, I do spiral with what I’m envisioning.

    We are basically clueless in this country when it comes to the finer points of tea. I really enjoy it though and find all your comments so interesting. I do appreciate it!

    P.S. Oh, and I know it’s “whom.”

    :-)

  17. Cid says:

    GDave,

    I’ve been giving some thought to how we are all going to recognize each other at Mile’s ….. it’s either got to be a pink carnation or a false moustache or both :) In case we meet any real moustaches perhaps we ought to have a secret password as well?

    I myself, will be wearing a vintage kimono, carnation and false moustache just to be on the side :)

    Cid

  18. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    This post has been a delight… one more thing though, the term ‘tiffin’ an old English word to describe a sort of mid afternoon snack with tea I believe. In India and in the UK it is possible to buy tiffin boxes or carriers which are made up of trays with individual compartments for different foods, which stack up and are then clamped together with a metal handle. These were the original lunch boxes in Asia for people on the go and are still used today I think. Not that anyone I know uses the term these days… er except me of course :)

    Tiffin anyone?

    Cid

  19. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    Or Bento Boxes? Tiffin must be the UK version of a Bento Box. Very cute little compartment lunch boxes (as you described). This is the Japanese version. Since I have such strange eating habits, I often bring my own food with me when I know I’m going to be out and about all day and these little boxes are a good way to go. That or my trusty Stanley Thermos.

    http://loveghibli.ecrater.com/product.php?pid=3427708

  20. Melissa says:

    Oh, as for all of us meeting at Miles’ place, we will have to do that sometime. Wouldn’t that be fun?! Poor Miles, little did he know…

    A pink carnation sounds fairly doable, even for GDave. Mine may be rather wilted by the time I arrive. You know, with sleeping on an overseas flight, taking the train from London and so on. How far are you all from London?

  21. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    Can’t believe we both have ‘tiffin’ boxes… but then how could I ever have doubted it :) That will be the secret sign when we all meet and a jolly useful item to have with us to store all the delicious food we couldn’t quite manage. Miles will think what a resourceful bunch we are and never notice when the contents of the dessert trolley mysteriously disappears before we make a hasty exit with our tiffin boxes on wheels :)

    Cid

  22. Ah ha, your British friend is revealed. ;-) She sounds like a fun, clever girl! I adore tea. I am taking a break from it at the moment as I am embarking on an even more special diet than GF (oh joy! LOL). I didn’t know all the info you shared, especially the part about easily decaffeinating tea. I will do that as sometimes I am at friends or establishments that only have caffeinated tea. I can tolerate a little, but I do far better with no caffeine.

    Thanks, Melissa!
    Shirley

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