Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Wonders of Tea

In line with my last post, here is my favorite treatment for the common cold.

Four of the numerous types of tea: green, yellow, oolong, and black

Tea is incredibly soothing when you have a sore throat, and it is always great to have as a hot drink when it's cold outside. The steam can also help relieve congestion, just like taking a hot shower can.

Unfortunately, the majority of tea that is drunk in the United States is iced and is often made from powdered tea. Like most lovers of tea, I find powdered tea to be a downright travesty. I've tried it, and it's very flat and bitter. Tea bags are okay, and are especially nice for their ease of use. However, you have never really had tea until you have had a well-made cup of loose leaf tea. The decrease in processing of the leaves, as well as giving the leaves more room to move produces a much better depth of flavor. It is true that the quality of bagged teas has improved greatly over the years, but there are some brands that I flat-out avoid due to the fact that their tea tends to taste wrong. For example, Lipton packages their bags in paper wrappings, which makes the already sub-par flavor degrade incredibly quickly. There is nothing as bad as skunky tea.

A small tea bush.
True tea come from the plant Camellia sinensis. Like many of the plants I have mentioned on this blog, there are tea plants growing on my college campus.  In not trimmed, they can grow to a remarkable size. To make tea, the leaves of the plant are removed and processed, with the processing depending on the type of tea. This can include the following: wilting, oxidizing, bruising, crushing, and even fermenting. Some types involve the addition of other chemicals to the tea, such as oil of bergamot in Earl Grey. There are also many forms of "tea" that come from other sources, and as such they are not a true tea. These include Red Tea (rooibos), and various and sundry other herbal teas, which often come from flowers (such as chamomile, hibiscus) or leaves of other plants (such as mint, raspberry). As a general rule of thumb, true teas have caffeine, while herbal teas have no caffeine.

Green tea is an excellent source of antioxidants, and can help stave off numerous health issues. The benefits include reducing the recurrence of cancer, decreasing the incidence of clogged arteries, decreasing bad cholesterol, even preventing obesity. However, the benefits only appear to work when it is consumed on a regular basis. Attempts at creating a tablet form of the good chemicals in green tea have decreased the benefits that come from actually drinking the tea. On average, Americans drink it far too infrequently to get any benefits.

There are numerous different ways to prepare and serve tea. For some teas, steeping time can be flexible, while for others it you leave the leaves in too long you will regret it (Orange Pekoe tastes like rubber when over-steeped). Some people prefer their tea straight, while others like sugar, sugar in the raw, honey, milk, cream, lemon, non-dairy creamer, or artificial sweetener. One lesson: never mix lemon with milk or cream in your tea. The acid can easily curdle the dairy, and produce a very nasty drink indeed.

Some of my current favorite teas include Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Oolong, Green, Orange Pekoe, and virtually any form of herbal tea. My long-standing favorite herbal tea is mint, but I also enjoy chamomile, and numerous blended herbals, as well as herbal blends that include green or black tea. I prefer my tea with sugar in the raw, but generally my second favorite is Splenda because it isn't sticky. When I was younger I liked milk in my tea, but it lost its appeal when I was around thirteen. Honey is okay, and my favorite honey for tea is tupelo honey due to its mild flavor. Unfortunately, tupelo honey is quite expensive. I have never liked lemon in my tea.

I will admit that I do enjoy iced tea, and prefer it to sodas if I am at a restaurant. Sweet tea is a very popular beverage here in the South, and it's quite an adventure ordering it at a restaurant because you can never know quite how they make their tea. Sometimes it's barely sweet at all, and other times it's almost like syrup. Sometimes it's steeped well, and other times it's really bad.

Images are from Wikimedia Commons under a creative commons license or are copyright free: one, two.


  1. Replies
    1. I love PG Tips as well!! It is very strong :)

  2. Hi - I have a 'guess the genotype' candidate for you!

    5 and a half months old

    She has a white chest and a white dot on her chin

    When she was young, she had a dorsal stripe (?)

    It went all the way up her neck

    If you haven't guessed, she is another bedlington/whippet lurcher. Her dam was an irish marked brindle whippet, and her sire was a first cross whippet/bedlington (who I didn't see, but that cross is known for producing uniform black puppies who fade to 'blue' as the coat comes in).

    Thoughts? Great blog, by the way!

  3. Chris, I have heard of that brand, but I am unsure if it's available in my area. I'll have to try it some day.

    Susie, thank you. She's quite an attractive little lurcher. It looks like she's also fading as she ages. I think I'll have to use her very soon in a Guess the Genotype post. May I ask her name?

  4. Thanks Stephanie - her name is Mouse :), and yes - the longer coat coming through currently is quite light in colour. I look forward to seeing what you make of her!