Friday, December 18, 2009

Tea, Glorious Tea



Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. Green, black, or oolong, they all come from the same species of plant- Camellia sinensis. The difference is in the processing. Green tea is unfermented, so the least processed. It retains the most antioxidant polyphenols. One of these, a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate or ECGC, is thought to be responsible for most of the long list of health benefits attributed to green tea. And it's quite an impressive list.

Numerous studies have shown that those consuming green tea are at lower risk for heart disease, stroke, periodontal disease, osteoporosis, and a slew of cancers including prostate, ovarian, breast, kidney, leukemia and childhood brain tumors. The catechins in tea prevent cell mutation, inhibit the growth of blood vessels that tumors need to grow and metastasize, help eliminate carcinogens from the body, and trigger cancer cell suicide (apoptosis). A recent study even showed that green tea inhibits the influenza virus.

Oohlong tea has been partially fermented, and black tea has been fully fermented. Black tea contains the least antioxidants of the three. There have been fewer studies done on oohlong and black teas, but they show similar health benefits to green tea. Just keep in mind that to gain the benefits, tea consumption should be part of a healthy lifestyle. You can't live on fast food, avoid exercise, drink alcohol and smoke and expect tea to be a miracle cure.

While tea bags are convenient, loose leaf teas produce a higher quality cup of tea. Loose leaf teas contain whole leaves or large pieces of leaves. Tea bags contain tiny pieces of broken leaves whose oils have evaporated, so they have less flavor. If you want the convenience of tea bags, be sure to look for unbleached bags. To use loose leaf tea you need to place it in an infusor or strainer.

Use 1 tsp. of loose green tea or 1 bag to 8 oz. water. Heat the water to just below boiling to prevent a bitter taste. While it's generally recommended to steep green tea for 2-5 minutes, to get the most benefit from green tea, allow it to steep for 10 minutes.  Black tea should be steeped for 3-5 min. using boiling water. Oolong tea is usually steeped 1-3 min.

Herbal teas, which are not actually tea, but are called tisanes, have their own health benefits. I'm working on a series of posts about them which you will see sometime in January. Herbal teas must steep much longer to get the full benefits; from 10 min. up to 1 hour.

I drink lots of herbal teas, but for years I was not able to acquire a taste for green tea. Knowing its amazing health benefits, I really wanted to. Alicia over at Vegan Epicurean gave me lots of encouragement as well as ideas to try such as adding pomegranate juice or lemon and ginger to it. That really helped.  Thanks Alicia! I also recently discovered chai green tea. Chai tea traditionally contains milk, which I do not add. I only add a little honey or a dash of agave. The combination of spices- especially the cloves, got me hooked. It is my new favorite tea! The spices also contain health benefits. Cloves contain eugenol which is anti-inflammatory and may help prevent digestive tract cancers.

All true tea contains tannic acid, which blocks the absorption of iron. If this is a concern for you, do not drink tea for one hour before or after meals, or try adding lemon to the tea to help increase iron absorption.


Tea Review

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am an affiliate for Mountain Rose Herbs, and they sent me this to review:




 The Oregon Chai is an herbal blend that made me swoon with delight when I opened the bag and smelled it.
 The Oolong Tea is a blend of green and black tea which also had a delightful, fresh fragrance.

They are both high quality loose leaf varieties which I prefer over tea bags. I adored the Oregon Chai, it was a perfect blend of spices. I am sorry to say that I am still not a fan of plain green or black teas, so I mixed the Oolong with the Oregon Chai and it was fabulous! I get the health benefits of the tea combined with those of the spices and the flavor is addictive. Both are certified Kosher and Organic. I will definitely order more of these when my free samples are used up. I am very satisfied with Mountain Rose Herbs products and with the way the company does business.

Finally, a shameless plug. If you still need a Christmas gift for someone, tea, an infuser or a teapot make nice gifts. If you order anything  from Mountain Rose Herbs through a link on my page, I earn a small commission.
Have a great weekend everyone!

11 comments:

vtknitboy December 18, 2009 at 1:17 PM  

What a nice article to read! I am a tea lover, and I enjoy seeing more and more articles appearing on the web about the joys of drinking tea, especially loose leaf. I wanted to comment on a couple things that you mentioned.

'Loose leaf teas contain whole leaves or large pieces of leaves'

While this is typical, it is not entirely true. Loose leaf tea can be found in several size grades, including OP (orange pekoe-pronounced 'peck-oh') and BOP (broken orange pekoe), which is a size similar to, but larger than, tea found in tea bags. BOP teas are often found as tea blends, such as Prince of Wales, English Breakfast, and other popular blends. Some teas are sold as "orange pekoe". This is not a flavor or type of tea, rather just a size grade.

A common misconception is to assume that the larger leaved tea is of higher quality. This is not true, as many BOP and smaller sized tea leaves are exceptional.

'To use loose leaf tea you need to place it in an infuser or strainer.'

I tend to not recommend infusers or strainers, especially small ones, such as tea-balls or tea-spoons, as there are not enough holes (or not big enough) for adequate water flow. These containers are usually not large enough to adequately allow the tea leaves to expand.

The type of strainer that you linked to is one found in many Asian markets. I have several of those, although one problem with this type is that it breaks down after long-term usage due to the material.

I would recommend instead of placing the tea IN the infuser or strainer, to steep the tea in a small pot (glass, yixing, or ceramic) and to then strain the liquor (decant) into another pot using a strainer. This allows for adequate space for the "agony of the tea".

If using an infuser/strainer that fits in a pot/mug, a favorite of mine is this type, that can be found at most online teashops, or in kitchen supply stores. http://bit.ly/nX8ZZ

Thanks for posting this! I'm vtknitboy on twitter and ravelry.

Morgan December 18, 2009 at 3:14 PM  

Thanks for the info! I tried to get Abby to drink green tea this week but she took one sip and refused any more! It was chai green tea with a little milk and agave. I loved it! I might try plain green tea with honey and lemon. Anyway, thanks for this great post!

Fayinagirl (means Free One) December 18, 2009 at 3:58 PM  

Great post...very informative. Thank you. =)

I love tea! When we were in China there were HUGE bags of loose tea in every market. Smelled glorious! I was sipping water just now...hmm...think I'll put the kettle on. =)

The Ordinary Vegetarian December 18, 2009 at 4:19 PM  

This year I switched from coffee to tea without looking back. This is thanks to a local tea shop with an amazing selection of loose teas. Their catalog is also up online, I highly recommend it http://www.sereneteaz.com/tea-c-22.html It's worth a look, I think you'll be stunned by the vast selection!

It was the Cinnamon Toffee green tea flavor that I've been obsessed with lately. I love it because it is savory rather than tart or fruity. If you like green chai, I'm sure you'd love this one as well.

Claudia December 18, 2009 at 6:24 PM  

Right on target. Mzkes me want to go back to my afternoon tea drinking habit...

janet December 18, 2009 at 7:54 PM  

vtknitboy, thanks for the comment, I appreciate all of your input!

Morgan, sorry Abby didn't like the chai, she may like plain green tea with honey and lemon, or as my son likes it-with pomegranite juice. It's worth a try. I'm glad you liked the chai!
I hope you and your sweet girls have a wonderful Christmas!

Fayinagirl, I can just imagine being in a market with all that tea. Fabulous!

Ordinary Vegetarian, cinnamon toffee green tea sounds really good. Thanks so much for the link, I'll check it out!

Claudia, now that I've developed the habit, I don't think I'll give it up :)

Vegan Epicurean December 19, 2009 at 12:36 AM  

Janet,

What a nice tea post. You know I love the stuff, but it did take a while to cultivate a taste for it. I am so glad you found one you like.

I would have been here sooner but we were "braving the elements of Costco" before the big snow storm. If we get the snow they predict we won't be out of the house for days.

talk to you later,
Alicia

5 Star Foodie December 19, 2009 at 1:05 AM  

I love to drink a cup of tea every night! Thanks for the recommendation!

janet December 19, 2009 at 7:56 AM  

Alicia, I'm glad you're stocked up, I can't imagine having as much snow as they're predicting for you and I'm in MI where we tend to get a lot.
There are a few things I need, but I'm not going to Costco today. It's the busiest shopping day of the year so I'm staying home. I really dislike shopping in crowds,and we don't have bad weather coming so I can wait.

janet December 19, 2009 at 7:58 AM  

5 Star Foodie, you're welcome. I like to drink herbal tea at night, often a cup of chamomile before bed. It's so soothing and relaxing.

Vegan Epicurean December 19, 2009 at 9:52 AM  

Janet,

Good morning. I don't love crowded stores either so last night at Costco wasn't exactly pleasant. But we are well stocked now and looking at the snow through the windows. It looks beautiful from the warmth of my house. I think we got a foot of it overnight and it is still falling and predicted to continue through the overnight tonight.

talk to you later,
Alicia

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