Tea Time Ideas for Healthy Me Time
Tea time might sound like an outdated indulgence, but with some minor adjustments, this British tradition can offer an energy boost and then some. With less caffeine than coffee, tea also has health benefits. Packed with antioxidants, tea may reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, each tea’s aroma, flavor and color is determined by how long those tea leaves are allowed to wilt and oxidize after harvesting. Herbal teas, also known as tisanes, are made from flowers, herbs and fruit, such as chamomile, hibiscus, ginger or lemon. Unlike traditional teas, they don’t usually contain caffeine.
The health benefits of traditional teas come from a group of plant chemicals known as polyphenol flavonoids. Within simple polyphenols, catechins are considered the most beneficial.
Whether it’s tea for two or tea for you, here’s how to choose the perfect cup.
Popular in China and Japan, green tea contains unoxidized leaves. With the highest amount of polyphenols by weight, green tea is also the type most studied for its health benefits, including its effects on bone health and cancer prevention. Green tea contains the highest levels of four potentially beneficial catechins, according to the National Cancer Institute: EGCG, EGC, ECG and EC.
In black tea, the most popular tea in the United States, tea leaves are wilted, bruised, rolled, and completely oxidized. Because of its higher oxidation, black tea contains lower levels of catechins than green tea, but increased concentrations of thearubigins and theaflavins, two types of complex polyphenols.
Somewhere between black and green tea, oolong tea is produced from wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized leaves. Oolong contains both simple and complex polyphenols.
Also subjected to minimal oxidation, white tea uses young tea leaves or growth buds. White tea contains the same amount of EGCG as green tea.
If want something a little out of the ordinary, consider fermented kombucha tea, served cold. Studies, like this one in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, have shown fermented foods may improve gut health and mental health.
Brewing the Perfect Cup
Whether you take your tea hot, cold, with one lump or two, follow these steps to brew a perfect cup:
- Bring fresh, cold, filtered or spring water to a gentle boil. Never reboil water, which could make the water less acidic and reduce the amount of polyphenol content in the tea.
- Don’t microwave your water — it will get too hot too fast, and ruin the delicate flavor of the tea.
- Pour over your tea and let it steep.
- To avoid a bitter taste, steep according to the type of tea and the desired strength. That’s 2-3 minutes for green, white, and oolong teas, and 3-5 minutes for black, herbal and fruit teas.
To avoid disrupting a good night’s sleep, schedule your morning tea time no later than noon. For an afternoon respite, switch to decaffeinated tea. Or choose an herbal or fruit tea. Some of these may provide antioxidant vitamins A and C.
Scheduling a daily tea break also helps you to carve out quiet time for yourself. Incorporate mindfulness meditation to reap even more mental health and sleep benefits. Or enjoy a relaxing get-together with friends. With its wellness potential, maybe tea is the secret to current royals’ longevity?
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