Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A little thing about tea

If I'm not drinking coffee, I'm drinking tea.  Tea is a super special treat for me because it is something that I don't think that I can possibly have enough of sometimes.  My absolute favorites are the loose-leaf teas that I seep with a tea strainer. 

They're not cheap, though.  I go between two different kinds that I have about a lb of each.  Mademoiselle Grey and a Yerba Matte are in my cabinet at the moment and both have such drastically different flavors!  And I like my tea strong.  On my wish list right now is a kind of cinnamon tea that a classmate in college let me try.  The tea, by Harney and Sons, is incredibly flavored and even for someone who loves sugar in tea as much as I do, I found that it does not need sweetened any more than the cinnamon that comes in it!  Talk about wonderful.

I do have quite a collection of bagged teas as well, mostly from the Republic of Tea but also many other cheaper varieties for iced tea in the summer.  The herbs that can be paired with the teas in the bags are magical! 

Of course I wouldn't be me without looking for more information about the different kinds of tea and why there are bags and loose teas and if there's any benefits or drawbacks of either.  Well, I got some answers on The Tea Scoop about how the flavors are affected by bags, the freshness of tea, and how to get the most of the tea that you buy. 

WebMD gave me a bit to think about for the possible health benefits of various kinds of teas:
  • Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. 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.
  • Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
  • White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
  • Oolong tea: In an animal study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
  • Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One animal study showed that animals given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.
  • Chamomile tea: Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.
  • Echinacea: Often touted as a way to fight the common cold, the research on echinacea has been inconclusive.
  • Hibiscus: A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels.
  • Rooibos (red tea): A South African herb that is fermented. Although it has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, medical studies have been limited.
Tea Health  gives benefits as well as drawbacks to tea and what can lessen the benefits (adding milk or sugar, apparently!) to drinking it.  And who'd have thought that it was once used as currency?  I had no idea :-}

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