January 21, 2016
Growing up with an English mum meant that drinking tea was a cure for just about everything. From an early age, I was given weak tea with a little sugar whenever I had a cold or stomach bug. I remember my Nana, who was actually born and raised in England, always having a used, squeezed tea bag on her saucer. She would reuse the tea bag and get two or three cups from it.
As I grew a little older, I’d often have tea with my cousin, Pam, or my BFF, Eileen. They had both been raised on tea and knew the score. I cannot imagine today’s youth sharing a cup of tea! (But I certainly hope I’m wrong). As an adult and stay-at-home Mom, I shared many a cup of tea with my sister-in-law, Bev, while the kids played together.
Nowadays, most of my tea is consumed alone. (The exception is when I visit my friend, Deb – She knows how to enjoy a cup of tea!) I must have my coffee in the morning, but still love a nice afternoon cup of tea. And I have branched out to many different kinds of tea, even brewing my own from fresh tea leaves on occasion.
The health benefits are two-fold. Many teas contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids. The most potent of these may help against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries. Some like caffeine because it can increase alertness. More about the benefits of some particular teas in a minute.
The second thing I love about a good cup of tea is the ceremony of it. I always use a favorite cup and drink my tea as a solitary event – no distractions. It’s almost like a ten minute vacation. This goes back to my earlier blogs about being in the moment and finding joy every day. When I have time, I make a pot and set it out nicely. On busy days, I use a K-cup. But I try to notice the warmth of the cup and the scent of the steam. It really is so comforting – partly because of the way I was raised and all of the good memories a cup of tea invokes for me.
Can a cup of tea really provide healing? I say yes – both physically and emotionally. Here are some health claims about the most common teas:
Green tea has a high concentration of antioxidants that may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers. It’s also said to 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.
Black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
White tea probably has the most potent anticancer properties, compared to more processed teas.
Oolong tea was found to lower bad cholesterol levels, in an animal study. One variety of oolong, called Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
Pu-erh tea is also considered a black tea and its leaves are pressed into cakes. One animal study showed that animals given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.
For every type of tea there is, there are probably six ways to prepare it: Milk? Honey & lemon? Sugar? It’s a matter of personal taste. I like a nice hot cup of English breakfast tea with just milk, thank you. Pinkies out …. And cheers!