Tea is Full of Amazing Micronutrients

Surely you’ve heard it. Tea is healthy for you – especially green tea! We hear it said all the time in our shop and of course we think it is for many reasons. Talking tea and health can be a slippery slope so we tend to avoid it. That said, in this post we are going to add just a tiny bit more to consider with respect to compounds found in tea, what they are thought to help with, and links to sources you may wish to explore.

So here are just a few of those micronutrients:

  • Caffeine (of course) – All tea from camellia sinensis (even decaffeinated) has some amount of caffeine in it. Caffeine is a stimulant and helps to wake us up in the morning and get us going. While research on benefits and risks of caffeine are ongoing we can’t deny that caffeine gives us a boost of energy.
  • L-theanine – We’ve written about this before ( Is caffeine from tea less jolting? ) but the long and short is there is a good bit of research, which we cite in the blog, around the moderating effect L-theanine has on caffeine in tea. It’s the same caffeine found in any other product but the L-theanine seems to moderate its effects for a more stable alertness. The monks of China and Japan have known this for centuries. ( The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness – PubMed Central )
  • Catechins, a Polyphenol (green tea) – A family of compounds found in green tea, primarily EGCG, which are thought to contribute to the significant antioxidant qualities of tea. ( Beneficial Effects of Green Tea:  A Literature Review – PubMed Central )
  • Thearubigens and Theaflavins, Oxidized Polyphenols (black tea) – As tea leaves are processed into what becomes black tea, the polyphenols themselves are transformed into theaflavins and thearubigens. Both are thought to have strong antioxident properties, like catechins, though in the case of thearubigens it seems a lot more study is needed to really understand these. ( Theaflavins in Black Tea and Catechins in Green Tea Are Equally Effective Antioxidants – Journal of Nutirition and Green tea composition, consumption, and polyphenol chemistry – PubMed Central )
  • Tannins, a Polyphenol – Found in both green and black tea, tannins are really very similar to catechins, though not as concentrated. They too are considered to have strong antioxidative qualities and are also what brings out bitterness in tea if its steeped too long. Among other things some research points to possibly being beneficial to dental and oral health. ( Oolong Tea and Health Benefits – Tea Research and Extension Station, Taiwan )
  • GABA – Research seems to suggest that GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric Acid) may be beneficial for reducing stress, depression, and enhancing sleep ( Improvement of Antioxidant Defences and Mood Status by Oral GABA Tea Administration in a Mouse Model of Post-Stroke Depression – PubMed Central ). In Japan and Taiwan some tea growers are specifically using a process to produce and market a high GABA tea, though this area likely needs quite a bit more study.

For a nice summary chart on the compounds in green tea, as well as everything you could want to know about Japanese Green Tease have a look at Let’s Enjoy Nihon Cha (Japanese Tea) from the Japan Tea Industry Association.

We eagerly devour scientific, peer reviewed, studies of a statistically meaningful sample size, where tea is part of a healthy lifestyle. That said, our focus has been and remains on learning all we can about tea, where it comes from, the people who make it, the cultures it has impacted, and the trade it has spawned. That’s why we offer a wide variety of teas on our website and in-store. It’s why we offer flights to feed the curiosity of our guests, and we try to keep adding new tea experiences. And finally, it’s why we travel to meet our suppliers and import directly, so that we can offer our customers the best experiences and knowledge to support a healthy tea habit.

In closing we leave you with a quote from Tea and Health: Studies in Humans in PubMed Central:

Large scale well-controlled human clinical trials are necessary to establish the health promoting effects of tea consumption. Only based on these findings, recommendations to human population could be made.

(Note: we have zero medical background so consider these interesting reads but not definitive — talk to your doctor).

Don’t miss the entire series on tea and your health!

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Tea and Your Health

Healthy Tea

Tea is an amazing beverage and part of any healthy lifestyle.

If you have closely read our blog posts or come into our tasting room to explore, you may have noticed that we tend not to focus on tea and health. There are two reasons for this. First, there is so much to tea that health need not be a primary focus. The second reason, however, can be summed up in three letters:  FDA. In short, any company that starts making health claims about tea is treading on thin ice. Making health claims about a product places it dangerously close to regulation as a drug, and it’s way too easy to make claims not supported by sound research or are simply misleading. We would rather have people appreciate the beverage for its taste, history, and the craftsmanship it takes to produce a high quality tea.

Does that mean we discount tea and health? Absolutely not! But, we take claims with a dose of reality. Here is what we do believe.

Over the next few blog posts we will be focusing a bit more on these specific health aspects of tea. So if you are looking for a bit of support in justifying more tea consumption, be sure to check out the next several posts. In the meantime, why not slowly enjoy a pot of your favorite tea.

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Fenghuang Dancong – Phoenix Oolong

A product of Phoenix mountain in Guangdong Province, China

Fenghuang Dancong — Phoenix Oolong

Fenghuang Dancong is one of many oolong teas that comes from Southeastern China. This oolong grows in a highly mountainous region north of Hong Kong and west of Chaozhou in the Guangdong province. The word Fenghuang literally means phoenix, which refers to the name of the mountain where the Dancong is grown, while the word Dancong means single bush.

Fenghuang Dancong History

Oolongs have been produced since about the Ming/Qing Dynasty, somewhere around the late 1600’s to 1700’s. Often called Qing Cha, referring to a blue-green color, oolongs cover a wide range of oxidation between green and black (15-85%) and can be found twisted, rolled, balled and any number of combinations of forms and oxidation levels. Typically have much greater complexity in the overall production process than other teas. Dancong oolongs specifically are twisted in shape and grown in the Wudong Mountains at high elevation.

There is no particular story behind these oolongs, like with many other older Chinese teas. Instead, the important item to note is that the flavors of a true Dancong oolong are complex and offer a wide variety flavors ranging from orange blossom to grapefruit. Dancong are produced from 10 distinct cultivars of the tea plant, without mixing the cultivars together. Instead, multiple days of harvest are mixed together to produce a batch. Dancong bushes are also allowed to grow wild, so plucking them requires a ladder and the flavor is very much influenced by the combination of cultivar, terroir, and other flowering plants and trees nearby.

Fenghuang Dancong Preparation for Drinking

This oolong is lighter in oxidation, so it can be brewed between 170°-190°F for 4 minutes. You need 3 grams for 8oz of water. Steep at least 3 times before discarding the leaves.

If you are willing and have the time, this is a perfect oolong for a gaiwan. Start your stepping times in the gaiwan at 30 seconds and gradually increase by increments of 15 seconds on subsequent steeps. We found that roughly 1.33 grams of tea per oz of water in the gaiwan produces both the expected flavor and mouth feel. Gaiwans vary greatly in size, so use a measuring cup and figure out how much water your gaiwan can hold before measuring in the tea.

This oolong is worthy of your time to explore and appreciate.

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3 Unique Uses for Used or Old Tea Bags

Old tea bags

Old tea bags are great for the compost!

Tea drinkers inevitably have old tea bags in their pantry along with their other teas. As we have either given up tea bags for higher quality loose leaf tea or been given them as a gift by a non-tea drinking friend, these old tea bags take up space because it feels wasteful to throw them away. Well, here are 3 easy ways to use those old tea bags around the house without ever having to drink them.

Fertilizer and compost for your plants. You may not like the taste of stale tea bags (if your tea tastes like paper, it is stale), but your plants love it. Break open those tea bags and put the tea leaves around your house plants or out in your flower beds. They will decompose quickly and their nutrients are helpful for any plant.

Treat yourself to a tea bath. The Chinese have used tea for centuries to help alleviate the pain of sun burn or poison ivy. Black tea is best for this, but other teas will work as well. You can place a cool wet tea bag on a burn to alleviate the pain. Brewed black tea also helps to dry out a weeping poison ivy rash. After you have brewed the tea for your skin, allow the bags to cool and use them as a compress for your eyes. Black tea helps to remove the puffiness around tired eyes.

Deodorize your home. There is a reason tea is stored in air tight containers. Tea is hygrosopic, which means it absorbs moisture and odor from the air. The Chinese will leave a small plate of used tea leaves in freezers and refrigerators to remove odor. Put those tea bags in your closets to remove odor. Dried used tea bags also work in removing odor from shoes. The good news here is that the tea doesn’t impart its own smell while absorbing odors. You know when to change the leaves by smelling them. They will smell like the odor they absorbed.

So, clean those bags out of your tea cabinet and put them to work for you!

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What is Dim Sum?

Hong Kong Dim Sum

Custard Filled Hong Kong Style Dim Sum at a Xiamen Restaurant

Dim Sum has a long history in China that dates back to the Silk Road. This tea centered meal has spread from Southastern China to the world. As a tea drinker, this is a culinary tradition from China that is just as important as British high tea. Every serious tea drinker should go to Dim Sum at least once in their life.

Dim Sum Origins

Since the Song Dynasty (960-1127 C.E.), Dim Sum has been served in Southeastern China in the Provence of Guangdong, which is home to Hong Kong and the Cantonese people. It is common to find Dim Sum referred to as Cantonese cuisine. Originating in the tea houses along the Silk Road, Dim Sum is a series of small dishes of food served with a never ending pot of tea. It was up to the traveler to pick and choose what they wanted from the menu. In China, Dim Sum is typically served all day. In the US, you may find it served as brunch, lunch or dinner.

The Dim Sum menu is vast and overwhelming. However, it is an amazing array of flavors and textures that reflect not only the Cantonese people but food cultures through out China. There are dumplings filled with seafood, meat or vegetables. Congee, rice porridge, mixed with vegetables and pork. Rice buns filled with barbecued pork, stir fried seafood or vegetables. Dragon claws, or fried chicken feet, is another Cantonese delicacy. There are plates of stir fried meat or vegetables in various sauces. One of our favorite plates is the rice noodle rolls filled with sweet potato or taro. The roll is made by wrapping the rice noodles around the food and dropping it into a fryer, which gives a crispy texture to the outside and a soft inside. There are also sweets in the form of pastries and rice buns filled with sweet egg custard. This is a multi-course meal, so you don’t have to order everything at once. That gives you time to digest and decide on what is next to try. Keep in mind, the serving portions are small so you can order and try a lot of different things.

Much like high tea, Dim Sum has its own etiquette that should be followed.

Cantonese Dim Sum

Cantonese Style Dim Sum at one of the oldest garden style restaurants in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Dim Sum Etiquette

One starts Dim Sum by ordering the tea. Traditionally it would oolong tea in Guangdong but even they now offer all types. In Guangdong, the first pot is used to wash the dishes. To an American, this is rather odd as the dishes come out clean and often shrink wrapped in plastic to confirm cleanliness. However, you watch many a table unwrap the dishes and pour hot oolong tea over them into a bin that is taken away by staff.

If you sit to the left of the tea pot, it is your job to serve the guests at the table tea and to turn up the lid on the tea pot when it gets empty. That indicates to the staff that they need to bring more water. Always pour the other guests tea first, then pour your own cup.

Keep your chopsticks to yourself. Each dish is to be shared with the table, so it comes with serving spoons or chopsticks and your have your own chopsticks. So there are a fair number of utensils to keep straight. Just remember if the chopsticks went in your mouth, they do not get used to take food off the serving plate.

Most of the authentic dishes are best served warm and don’t reheat well, so skip the doggie bag.

Dim Sum is an amazing meal with tea that is worth the effort to find here in the states. As a tea drinker, you will find it is just as social an experience as high tea but with a lot more food choices.

 

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