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Healthy Living

Why Drink Tea?

By Sheryl Kraft

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I'm a coffee drinker.  But if you looked in my kitchen cabinet to the left of my refrigerator you'd think I was a tea addict. The shelves are bursting with every variety of tea imaginable, some popular brews like chamomile and jasmine and some others you may not have heard of, like Yerba Mate and Matcha.

And there they sit, virtually undisturbed, unless a tea drinker comes to visit.

For years I've tried to "like" tea, given what I know about its superior health benefits. And come winter, when the weather outside is waaay to cold for my liking – I'm always looking for ways to warm my shivering self. But try as I might, I've yet to become a tea drinker. (By the way, I'm always impressed by the way tea drinkers look when they're sitting with a steaming cup of the brew. Maybe it's my imagination, but a person drinking a cup of tea vs. a person drinking coffee looks so much calmer and somehow more savvy, like they know a thing or two about health. They just exude purity and a certain amount of…je ne sais quoi.)  

This past summer when my older son and I were visiting Boulder, Colorado, he, an avid tea-drinker, dragged me to the headquarters of Celestial Tea for a tour. I was a good sport about it – after all, he's indulged my cravings for museums and other adventures he'd rather not partake in from time to time - so it was payback time from me.

What I discovered surprised me. I learned that all tea comes from one plant, a warm-weather evergreen tree called Camellia sinensis. The difference in black, green and white being in simply in the way it's processed. The more it's processed, the darker the leaves become: black tea is the most processed and white and green are less. And then I was reminded about something I had long known but often forget: that herbal tea is not tea at all, but instead a blend of herbs.

Teas do contain caffeine, but much less than coffee does. A cup of black tea has about 60 mg., white tea has 50 mg and green tea has about 30 mg. And herbal teas have none. In comparison, a cup of (drip) coffee contains about 90 mg of caffeine, and regular cola has about 45 mg.

I'm further trying to convince myself to embrace tea because of all its health benefits. Teas are high in antioxidants called Polyphenols; they have anti-carcinogenic properties and may even lower cholesterol levels. Green tea has been touted for its ability to speed up your metabolism and fight belly fat, as well as stimulate the immune system to fight disease; white tea extract has been shown in studies to retard the growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus infections, pneumonia and dental caries and even stall the activity of enzymes that wear down the skin's proteins elastin and collagen. And black tea is thought to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes due to its ability to expand the arteries and increase blood flow to the heart.

A few years ago, when I was doing research for an article I wrote about herbal teas, I learned about teas that can do everything from increasing a lagging libido to helping your gallbladder produce bile. (In case you're wondering, oat seed tea is often used as an aphrodisiac, and dandelion root tea is recommended by many herbalists for people with high cholesterol, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or gallbladder disease.)

I did have a cup of tea late this afternoon. Too late for coffee (I try to cut my caffeine off after 2:00 PM or so), I found it hard to warm up after my dog decided she was in the mood to explore the neighborhood - despite the temperature being in the teens with the wind chill - when all I wanted to do was take her for a quick walk.  And you know what? It really wasn't so bad. I picked out an Indian Chai, and I added some soy creamer to it.

I can't say it took the place of coffee, exactly, but it was almost....my cup of tea.

Comments

I used to be a big tea drinker, but a medical condition has ruled it out for me now and I really miss it. I visited the tea plantation in South Carolina owned by American Classic Tea. It was really neat to see the plants and see how they dry the leaves.

I drink very little coffee, even though I like it. I simply do NOT want to be one of those people who cannot function without it. That seems sad to me.

I do drink some tea, mostly decaf/herbal ... since I am in CO (home to Celestial Seasonings), but my fav tea (Good Earth) is on the no-no list now because it totally makes my acid reflux worse. Such a bummer.

I'm also a coffee addict. Thanks for this reminder to include tea during my day, if not first thing in the morning. I find that drinking herbal tea at night does really help with sleep.

I find herbal tea at night to be so soothing, too. That is, when I remember to drink it :)

I find herbal tea at night to be so soothing, too. That is, when I remember to drink it :)

I'm amused by your determined efforts to like something healthy. I spend my life doing that with most vegetables, eating them grimly. Wish I just naturally loved them. Life would be so much easier.

I'm a big tea drinker, mostly green tea but sometimes black. There certainly is a lot of research behind the potential health benefits of tea drinking. Some people, though, think that commercial iced teas are just as good as the brewed varieties but it turns out they have little in the way of polyphenols. I guess if you want to brew your own iced green tea, which I do, that might work.

Yes, you're right, Jeanine. Once you bottle the tea and it sits around it loses its potency. Much better to make your own and drink it fairly quickly.

I'm a coffee drinker, but I like "infusions", that is the name how I know the herbals teas. In my childhood if we were sick, no matter what was it, we had to drink some kind of herbal teas, and believe me it cured us!

I've always been a tea drinker. do not care for coffee -- glad to know there are health benefits. hope you'll continue to takea cup now and again, Sheryl.

Your tour sounds fascinating. I'm not a tea drinker myself, but it's always interesting to find out more about how something is made. I've heard there's a new trend toward people trying to make their own.

Hand up here as a mostly tea gal; it's a cultural thing. I like coffee, too, but it's not the best match for my metabolism.

I guzzle both tea and coffee but DO feel healthier when I've got a nice mug of herbal tea in my hand - now I know I'm not just making it up!

Nope, not your imagination, Casey...although if it helps to know that coffee is loaded with antioxidants, too, then you can feel healthy when you drink that as well!

I think I would enjoy that tea tour! I just purchased some cool Republic of Tea teas from their "Get" line...Get Wellness, Get Heart, etc. They have more than a dozen...very tasty.

Hi Sheryl, thanks for posting a link to this article on the Teapotnet Facebook page. A well written article. I wish you the best in your quest to become a tea drinker. For teapots and lots of varieties of tea, check out http://www.teapotnet.com

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