Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world, second after water. Individual countries’ cultures are built around tea drinking and its ceremonies. In India, Chai is more than just a cup of tea to start the day – the thick sweet drink is part of the rhythm of life. From the deeply spiritual Japanese tea ceremony and inspirational tearooms, to the traditional British afternoon tea, tea-drinking habits are a great way to find out about a country’s people.
Just take a look at the British afternoon tea, as served in the Downton Abbey TV series for a snapshot of history.
The first afternoon tea event was held in England in the 1800’s. Story says the Duchess of Bedford had the habit of asking for tea and cake to be sent to her room between lunch and supper; but after a while she started inviting friends to join her, and this is how the tradition of afternoon tea started in English society.
Are there Health Benefits from Teas?
There are many studies highlighting the ways in which teas may improve our wellbeing:
- Tea drinking appears to lower the risk for heart disease and stroke
- Natural compounds called polyphenols in green tea might protect against several cancers, including those of the prostate, digestive tract, lungs, breast and skin.
- Antioxidants called catechins found in green, oolong and white teas might increase metabolism and promote small amounts of weight loss.
- Tea polyphenols are thought to strengthen bones and protect against fractures.
- People who drink tea might see improvements in mood, concentration and performance.
- Drinking green tea may also help ward off your cold and flu this winter!
Tea: Black, Green, White or Oolong?
Black, green, white and oolong teas derive their leaves from a warm-weather evergreen tree known as Camellia sinensis. The leaves from this tree contain polyphenols. The more processing the leaves undergo, the darker they will turn.
Green and white teas are the least processed tea. They are simply steamed quickly. According to a tea expert from Lipton, white tea is derived from the young new leaves of the Camellia plant, which contain no chlorophyll, so they are silvery white. Black and oolong teas are partially dried, crushed and fermented.
The good news is that they all contain polyphenols.
And if you like green tea, you might like to try Japanese matcha. Matcha powder is produced by grinding green tea leaves and contains an antioxidant that is 137 times greater than in Chinese green tea.
What about Herbal Tea and Red Rooibos Tea?
Herbal tea is not derived from the leaves of the Camellia plant and so does not have the particular health promoting properties. Indeed most herbal teas in the market technically are not tea. Herbal teas are infusions made with herbs, flowers roots spices or some other part of a plant. This type of beverage is known as “tisane”.
Red Rooibos tea also falls within the herbal tea group and may not contain the same beneficial flavonoid compounds as found in black tea, but has been found by some to be helpful for use in allergy relief and other health issues.
Certain herbal teas may be recommended as natural remedies; for example dandelion tea as a mild diuretic, ginger for digestive issues, chamomile for sleep and anxiety.
The Acai berry including Acai tea has been popular recently. Acai berries are 10 times richer in antioxidants than grapes, and contain twice the amount of cancer-fighting compounds provided by blueberries.
Refreshing fruit teas for tiring days.
Fruit teas retain the benefits of the raw fruits they’re made of, and can make great replacements for regular sodas and fruit drinks, as they have no added sugars.
They are packed with flavor, warming in the cold winter months and a great addition to any weight loss plan.
Should I worry about the Caffeine content in Tea?
Tea generally contains less caffeine than coffee, about 30-60 mg per cup.
The amount is low compared to about 120mg in a cup of home brewed coffee.
So if you want to cut down on caffeine, switching to becoming a regular tea drinker can be a great choice!
Should I drink my tea without adding Milk?
Yes! All the research suggests the best way to get the health benefits of tea is without adding milk.
Last, but not least if you are thinking of hosting an afternoon tea for a few friends or family, here is the recipe for an easy to make tea bread.
Delicious served on its own, or spread with a little butter, a great hit with children and adults alike.
Plan ahead when making this, because you have to soak the dried sultanas and raisins overnight until the fruit swells and is soft.
Easy to make Tea Bread
1-cup strong black tea
8oz mixed dried fruit
8oz self-raising flour
4oz light brown muscavado sugar*
1 large beaten egg
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1. Grease a 1.5lb loaf tin and line with baking parchment paper.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Place the fruit in a small bowl; pour the tea over the top.
4. Soak overnight if possible or until the fruit swells
5. In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, egg and marmalade.
6. Then pour in the fruit and any tea left in the bowl. Stir thoroughly.
7. Put into loaf tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour.
8. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin
*Dark or light brown sugar or granulated sugar with molasses can be used as substitutes for muscovado sugar. For 1/2 cup of dark muscovado sugar, use 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 tablespoons of molasses.