Each day, we all consume our favorite beverages. Some of us pick coffee drinks, sodas or energy drinks. Others choose healthier options such as tea, fruit juices, milk or water. Doctors recommend an intake of 8-10 glasses of fluids per day to remain healthy.
Why do we choose the beverages that we do? Our bodies crave caffeine, sugar and fat so we gravitate to the richer, more popular selections, which are also the least healthy ones. This is why latte stands have been thriving for over 20 years, with most surviving several recessions.
Worldwide, tea is the second most popular drink after water. Even in North America, on average, about five out of six people drink a cup of tea daily. Energy drinks, many based on green tea, have begun to dominate the soda shelves.
Tea can be divided into two major types:
Tea from the Camellia Plant -
White, green, oolong and black tea all come from the camellia sinensis evergreen. The plant thrives in tropical and sub-tropical climates such as southern areas of China and India.
White tea is made from the tea leaf buds before they open. The new leaves inside the buds are simply dried after harvesting, before any oxidation takes place. The white color is from lack of chlorophyll since the leaves have never seen sunlight.
Green tea is made from mature leaves that are quickly dried without fermentation. Compared to black tea, white and green teas contain the most polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, which can reduce cancer risk and lower blood pressure.
Black tea is made from fermented or oxidized tea leaves. This process increases the caffeine content and also the tannic acid, which is the cause of yellow teeth stains among tea drinkers. On average, black tea still only has one-tenth the caffeine of coffee.
- Cost is low. Retail boxes of 100-count tagless black tea bags are typically $1.00-$1.50 in chain supermarkets. Even the highest grade brands are $0.10-0.15 per bag. Compared to a $4 latte or a $2 energy drink, that’s a remarkable deal.
- Caffeine can be regulated and controlled easier. Face it - many of us are addicted to caffeine and when we do try to give it up completely, we become lethargic and irritable. In some cases, we even get addiction withdrawal headaches. Drinking one cup of tea after breakfast and one cup after lunch makes for excellent caffeine regulation, minus the trembling effects and the crash afterwards we would have gotten from consuming too much coffee. Our minds need to be stimulated a little, not race out of control from a caffeine overdose.
- The antioxidants in tea are good for your health. Cancer rates and high blood pressure are epidemic problems in America. Antioxidants increase the production of nitric acid in the blood, which causes artery wall to relax, thus lowering blood pressure. Tea is the second highest source of antioxidants in the American diet, right after coffee, and far higher than what we get from the amount of vegetables that we typically eat.
- Black tea is a very adaptable drink, both hot and cold. It is good with assorted spices added, such as in the Earl Grey variety that has orange peel oil in it. Chai tea, popular in India and now a fab in the US, has ginger, cinnamon, cloves and pepper as added ingredients. Snapple popularized iced tea with lemon or peach juice flavors. Tea tastes fine with or without milk and sugar, unlike coffee that needs something to cut the acidic flavor. Developing a taste for tea, in any form, happens far more quickly, than with coffee.
Herbal Teas -
Virtually anything with a leaf, root or flower can be made into a tea. The decision of what is a weed and what is a flower was made by our ancestors. They likewise decided for us which plants make the best herbal teas. Here are a few popular types and their benefits:
Chamomile - The plant itself looks like a small wild daisy and was originally called the ground apple. Tea is made from the flowers. The claims made are that it calms the spirit and promotes good sleep. Studies have shown that a flavonoid called Chrysin, found in chamomile, does actually induce sleep in rats. It has a grassy flavor not unlike green tea.
Ginseng - There are two main types, American and Asian (Panax) ginseng. Tea is made from the gnarly twisted roots. Studies have shown that both kinds of ginseng increase sexual libido. It is claimed that ginseng can cause sleeplessness in higher doses, although that is mostly anecdotal, with no conclusive results from clinical studies.
Peppermint - Tea made from any of the mint family helps calm the stomach and clear the sinuses. It grows like a weed in almost any backyard which makes it perhaps the least expensive natural source of tea.
Lemongrass - Amazingly, this grassy plant from the tropics does actually taste like lemon when made into tea. The citral molecule, found in lemongrass, has been shown to selectively kill cancer cells, even in doses as low as that in one cup of tea.
Rosehip - This type of tea was very popular in the 1970s, but hard to find on supermarket shelves, now. It is very high in vitamin C and has a strong, tangy citrus taste.
Licorice - This herb is extracted from a root of a legume plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra. When made into a tea, it helps soothe a sore throat and provides the guiltless pleasure of drinking something healthy, without actually consuming licorice candy loaded with sugar. High doses can be toxic to the liver, however, so it might be best to drink in moderation.
In conclusion, why drink sodas or lattes, when, for a fraction of the cost, you can get a diverse selection of flavors and benefits from tea? Whether all the claims and cancer study results are true or not, tea has never proven to actually harm anyone, other than a little yellowing of the teeth. The adventure of trying all the different types of teas could very well improve your lifestyle and your health.