Tea is the second most consumed drink in the world – next to water, that is. Answer this: if you could only drink one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? I’d likely say water, but I might get bored of it, so I’ll agree with some of the great functional medicine docs out there and say tea. Tea can vary the taste of what’s in your cup but with some major benefits like antioxidants, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and even antiviral properties, along with their own individual benefits, depending on what’s in the tea.
From the history books and ancient legend stories, a leaf falling into Shen Nung’s mouth over 6000 years ago started the story of tea. The story unfolds with clipper boats, opium trades between China and England, and it making its way around the globe. It is a fascinating story if you’d like Google to share more.
All traditional tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, in the style of white, green, oolong, black and Pu’erh (pu-ARR or pu-ERR). Then there’s herbal tea that has been taken to a whole new level. Think chamomile that’s calming, or mint tea that’s soothing to your bloated belly, for starters. There is fruity-tutti tea, powerful turmeric for health and teas for your cough, for helping new moms increase breast milk and of course what any herbalist or traditional Chinese medicine doctor prescribes for your ailment of the moment. Tea is a broad term for what was once made with a cake form of dried leaves with boiling water poured over it, and tea now comes either loose leaf or in various shaped bags. Delicate tastes, fragrant flavours and caffeine rich options all dominate the tea aisles, stores, and menus, but what to choose for taste and your health? Let’s talk about it… Today on EAT THIS with Lianne, what’s not to love about tea?
From those early stories of tea in China, tea spread to Japan. The Japanese tea ceremony is still a strong tradition, steeped in their history and culture with green tea and more powerful and antioxidant rich matcha, their tea of choice. India is the land of Chai with deep and warming flavours of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and clove. Morocco has their Moroccan tea with a blend of black and mint tea. I’ve had the pleasure of having real Moroccan mint tea in the markets of Marrakech and that was a beautiful experience, even if the delicate spoon just about stood up with all the sugar added. Moroccan mint tea is at the heart of their culture and their day. I was so taken with it that I even carried back beautiful tea glasses to keep the tradition going, but I never did. New Zealanders have a tea-break, not a coffee break as most of us in North America do. In the US, it’s more iced tea that you’ll see. I lived in Britain for 15 years and visited many times growing up, so I fully understand the classic afternoon tea, the tea culture and importance of the almighty cuppa, but I grew up with afternoon tea looking like finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off, teacakes a plenty, my aunt’s epic profiteroles and my favourite Battenberg or Window Cake that I still adore today. It was a feast of sweets with the largest teapot ever seen that seemed bottomless.
Along with tea traditions and experiences, studies have long been saying that when you drink tea, you support strong bones, a healthy heart, a clear mind, improved muscle endurance, and decreased risk of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.
When you make that hot cuppa with the bag of your choice, you may strengthen your immune system by protecting it against oxidative damage and free radicals. (I talked about that in episode 57 on fats and oils). But what kind of tea should you drink? First, I’d suggest one that you enjoy, and next maybe go for a tea that has a purpose. Every kind of tea has its own unique health-promoting antioxidant properties, let’s talk quickly about some of them before I bring on my guest for today – a tea sommelier.
- Green teas are loaded in catechins (cat-E-kins) and the well-studied EGCG help protect your cells against harmful free radicals and environmental stressors.
- Black teas are high in theaflavins that act as prebiotics to support healthy digestion. Up to 80% of your immune system lives in your gut, so think of your gut as ground zero for healthy immunity.
- Herbal teas are polyphenol powerhouses – the rare antioxidants in rooibos (aspalathin, luteolin and quercetin), a red tea, are highly regarded for their ability to help support your body’s cellular response system. They don’t mess around.
Rather than me share all my tea stories that I have, I thought speaking with Jennifer Commins, a Certified Tea Sommelier and the Founder and CEO of Pluck Tea, would bring another level to this episode. Jennifer is also located in Toronto, and as a fellow entrepreneur, I’ll tip my hat to her as her work was recognized with the Women of Inspiration ‘Game Changer’ award in 2020 from the Universal Women’s Network for her work in changing the tea landscape in Canada.
Picture this. It’s 2012 and a Toronto-based tea lover is fed up with the poor quality of restaurant tea. Wanting to shake up the industry by injecting a little fun (and some local ingredients), Pluck was born from a desire to create a beverage that was anything but your grandmother’s cup of tea. Today Pluck Tea is the brand of choice for many top restaurants and cafes across Canada, and the company’s unique signature blends are now available at select retailers such as Whole Foods as well as Indigo stores across the nation.
Jennifer gave us an amazing roundup of tea! Be sure to listen to the episode (buttons above) so you don’t miss out!
Do you have a favourite?
My go-to is Earl Grey with a piece of shortbread of course. I also love the spicy and warming Bengal Spice, and I’m partial to a Genmaicha tea which is green tea with roasted brown rice in the morning. I have a cupboard dedicated to tea and a stunning collection of teacups and saucers handed down to me, and of course a fair few teapots. I didn’t love green for the longest while but tried to get radio host Jerry Agar off his 5 coffees a day onto matcha tea, so for Christmas one year gave him the powder and a little mixer. Not sure it stuck, but I wanted him to have that anti-inflammatory benefits from the catechin EGCG’s for his sore knees. Also, his blood pressure was climbing so I wanted those polyphenols (Polyphenols are a family of organic molecules produced by plants that have far reaching health benefits as they contain antioxidants) going into him every day. Did you know that to make green tea even healthier, you can add in a squeeze of lemon? Now as crazy as that sounds, it actually took the bitter edge off it when I tried it this morning. Lemon boasts its own antioxidant profile already, with good amounts of immune-supporting vitamin C, so it can’t hurt to squeeze a bit of the juice into your morning cup of tea. Better yet, add the zest, too: Lemon zest contains compounds called salvestrol Q40 and limonene, which are known to have antioxidant properties, and lemon peels may have five to 10 times more vitamins than the juice itself. I’m going down the lemon rabbit hole, here, but I thought it was fascinating to know that! And also, I wondered if that meant that when I have a lemon twist in my martini, it’s healthier? Not sure if I have to eat it, I’m going to say yes, but I’ll bend that one to my benefit I think!
To get you too the other side of the fence from coffee, Jennifer has kindly offered a $75 gift card to use on Pluck Tea’s website for you to taste test for yourself! Head to sproutright.com/plucktea to enter. Giveaway is open for entry until March, 15, 2021.
Remember that drinking tea is a great way to hydrate. I’m curious to know what your favourite is, what you add to it, and of course I’m still looking for the perfect Earl Grey to try. I might have to try Jennifer’s and see how it measures up! So go forth, drink tea, see how you feel, and let me know! And please remember to EAT THIS, one mouthful at a time.