Dating back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient China, tea has been used for hundreds of years for its health benefits and great taste. In the beginning, tea was used in ritual offerings. Over the centuries, tea leaves have also been used medicinally and various other ingredients like spices, orange peels and ginger to name a few have been added to tea for additional health benefits and added taste.
Tea is the most popular beverage in the world as well as one of the healthiest! The health benefits of Tea are great. Tell me – are you a tea person?
All tea is produced via cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub (bush) native to East Asia.
Tea is not to be confused with herbal teas or “Tisane” (such as chamomile or roobios for example) made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water. Herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas.
HOME-BREWED VS. STORE-BOUGHT
Nutrition labels on bottled tea beverages sold commercially are typically plastered with declarations of their rich antioxidant content. However, studies suggest, if you’re looking for high doses of healthful antioxidants, you’re better off brewing your tea at home!
In addition, bottled beverages often contain large amounts of sugar and ‘other’ ingredients, such as flavorings which have no nutritional value, in them.
With home brewed – you have more control over the all around quality of your tea.
LOOSE LEAF VS. TRADITIONAL TEA BAGS
The differences between loose leaf tea and traditional tea bags are numerous. The leaves used in most tea bags are actually the “dust and fannings” from broken tea leaves. This is a huge compromise in quality from full leaf tea. Finely broken tea leaves have lost most of their essential oils and aroma and antioxidant potency.
Another factor to consider is that tea leaves need room to expand for full-bodied flavor. This is the reason most tea balls are not ideal for brewing loose leaf tea. Standard tea bag material is often low-flow, preventing the brew from diffusing beyond the inside of the bag. Paper tea bags collapse onto the leaves, preventing their natural unfurling.
Lastly, the quality of the tea bag itself can be of concern – i.e. what it is made out of. While looking for organic helps – it is not full proof to ensuring quality materials.
Bottom line – whole leaf teas provide you with more flavor, aroma, antioxidants, and pleasure than the tiny leaf bits and tea dust in most mass-produced tea bags.
HOT VS. COLD BREW
There is a lot of controversy between hot and cold tea lovers between which is better. In terms of health – steeping your tea in boiling water initially is essential to reaping all the beneficial properties of your tea.
After the initial steeping process, you can enjoy your tea at what temperature you prefer. Keep in mind, some studies suggest drinking scalding hot beverages can greatly increase your risk for esophageal cancer due to damage to esophagus membranes. In addition, extremely cold beverages can hinder digestibility.
HOW TO PROPERLY STEEP TEA
What you will need:
1. Tea Kettle
2. Tea pot
3. Tea infuser or leaf strainer (a lot of tea pots come with an infuser basket)
4. Fresh water (preferably filtered or spring)
5. Tea(s) of your choice (Plan on about one teaspoon of tea per six-ounce cup)
6. Any extra ingredients you want to add to your tea like lemon or honey
7. Tea cup
1. Pour fresh, cold water into your tea kettle, filling it up. Allow the water to heat to a rolling boil — unless you’re making green or 100% White Tea. In that case, stop short of boiling to avoid “cooking” the delicate tea leaves. Approximately 160 degrees Fahrenheit/ 70 degrees Celsius (for green tea) to as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit (for black, oolong, or herbal tea).
2. Place your loose leaf tea in the infuser basket or infuser ball and into the teapot if that’s what you are using. Otherwise, you will need to use a tea leaf strainer when pouring.
3. Pour the heated water from the kettle over the tea in your pot, cover, and infuse to taste. Different teas take well to different infusing times. Experiment to find your ideal time, but take care – don’t steep for too long or you’ll find your tea has gone bitter.
Note: Just as water temperatures vary greatly with different tea types, so do steeping times. The longer teas steep, the more likely they are to develop bitter flavors. As a rule of thumb, it’s recommended to steep tea for 1 to 5 minutes, making sure to taste every 30 seconds to achieve the best flavor. Different types of tea require a specific amount of time for steeping.
Follow these general guidelines to steep tea:
*Black tea: 3 to 5 minutes for both loose leaf and tea bags
*Pu-erh tea: 2 to 4 minutes for both loose leaf and tea bags
*Green tea: 2 to 4 minutes for loose leaf, 1 to 3 minutes with tea bags
*White tea: 2 to 3 minutes for loose leaf, 30 to 60 seconds with tea bags
*Oolong tea: 5 to 7 minutes for loose leaf, 3 to 5 minutes with tea bags
4. Remove the infuser, or use a tea strainer for the leaves. Pour the steaming tea into a cup and let it cool for a moment.
5. Sip and enjoy!
Adding lemon to your tea can help prolong the life of antioxidants. It can also increase the potency of the tea plus it’s tasty!
HEALTH BENEFITS OF TEA
Tea is a refreshing beverage that contains no sodium, fat, carbonation, or sugar. It is virtually calorie-free. Tea helps maintain proper fluid balance and may contribute to overall good health thanks to it’s antioxidant properties.
All tea contains powerful antioxidants called poly-phenols. Tea poly-phenols are bio-active compounds, such as flavanoids and tannins, found naturally in tea. Depending on how the tea is harvested, handled, processed, and brewed, the poly-phenol level can vary. These bio-active compounds are believed to help neutralize free radicals, which scientists believe, over time, damage elements in the body, and contribute to chronic disease.
Tea also has caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain and seem to heighten mental alertness.
Each of the following teas have been found to have their own unique benefits, such as:
1. Green Tea – Has a high concentration of EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate). Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
2. Black Tea – May protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
3. Oolong Tea – Can help lower cholesterol levels and may aid in weight loss.
4. Pu-erh tea – Reduces bad cholesterol and aids in weight loss.
5. White Tea – Has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
Storage conditions and type determine the shelf life of tea. Black tea’s is greater than green’s. Others, such as pu-erh, improve with age.
To remain fresh and prevent mold, tea needs to be stored away from heat, light, air, and moisture. Tea must be kept at room temperature in an air-tight container. Black tea in a bag within a sealed opaque canister may keep for two years. Green tea deteriorates more rapidly, usually in less than a year. Tightly rolled gunpowder tea leaves keep longer than the more open-leafed Chun Mee tea.
Storage life for all teas can be extended by using desiccant or oxygen-absorbing packets, vacuum sealing, or refrigeration in air-tight containers (except green tea, where discrete use of refrigeration or freezing is recommended and temperature variation kept to a minimum)
SAFETY AND SIDE EFFECTS
While tea is generally safe – it is good to note that Tea does contain naturally occurring caffeine – theine – (milder in some teas than others) and is not recommended for those with caffeine sensitivity or who are on certain medications that it may interfere with. In addition, tea is not recommended for the following individuals:
1. Breast feeding women. The naturally occurring caffeine – theine – stimulant can increase risk of miscarriage.
2. Those suffering from anemia. Tannins are responsible for minerals such as iron from vegetable sources not being absorbed properly by the body. People who are anemic should limit consumption of tea when eating iron-rich foods.
3. Those with hypertension. A stimulant effect due to the naturally occurring caffeine – theine – can cause increased anxiety, stress and/or tachycardia.
4. Those with gastrointestinal issues such as IBS or chronic constipation. While tannins have beneficial properties, they also have an astringent effect which can increase risk of dehydration and exacerbate conditions such as IBS or constipation. In addition, tea increases the production of acid in the stomach. For this reason, it is not appropriate to consume Tea in cases of gastric problems such as gastric ulcers, stomach pain, gastric reflux, heartburn or vomiting.
Overall, unless you have a specific condition or take a certain medication that Tea may not pair well with – tea is safe to consume in moderation. Most adverse reactions occur with over-consumption. In general, up to 3 cups a day should be safe.
It is always recommended to be sure to consult your physician first to ensure tea is right for you!
I hope with this article you get to have your tea and enjoy it too! Especially the health benefits :). My personal favorite is green tea. Do you have a favorite yet?
If you would like a recommendation for a place to shop for high quality teas – one website I like and use is Paromi.com. Paromi sells whole-leaf teas, since the size of a tea leaf plays an important role in the way it tastes and the health benefits it provides. The leaves are sifted to get rid of leftover dust and bits. Paromi sells its loose leaf tea in glass jars, which keep it fresh and fragrant, and bags made of biodegradable, non-GMO cornstarch. Not all Paromi teas are certified fair trade, so be sure to search for that specific criterion before buying.
If you have any thoughts or questions or recommendations of your own, please don’t hesitate to comment below!