Stress Reduction and Tea

We could all use a way to reduce stress created from modern life.

We’re tempted to say that those in our area, the Metro Washington DC region, could all use an excuse to destress. But really, the DMV doesn’t have a monopoly on stress right? High stress has been linked to all kinds of health issues and occurs globally. One paper suggests that, globally, 500 million people are stressed but don’t realize it and aren’t getting help (Stress, work and mental health: a global perspective, PubMed). This paper suggest that, among other causes, stress comes from rapid social changes and the time-compression of modern life.

Regardless of its cause, enjoying tea can be a great way to reduce stress in your life. Here are just a few of our thoughts on how to incorporate tea into activities to reduce stress.

  • Sit down to appreciate one cup of tea every morning. Don’t just grab a travel mug and run out the door. Instead, deliberately think about the tea you want that morning, take time to smell the dry leaf and try to pick out the different aromas. After steeping, inhale deeply the aroma of the infused leaf (stick your nose right into the infuser basket) and again think about the aromas that come to mind. Finally, sit, don’t stand, and enjoy the first mug of tea. Whatever you do, don’t turn on the TV, radio, or read the news online until after that first cup.
  • Have a tea party with friends and family. Grab a tea pot, make a large batch of something special but make an experience of it. Put the loose tea in a small bowl and pass around for everyone to smell before infusing. Once you have finished infusing don’t just toss the leaf. Consider pouring the leaf into the same small bowl and pass around for all to inhale the fresh brewed leaf.
  • Curl up with a good book and a pot of tea. Not sure anything else needs to be said really. Just a good tea and a book that is a bit of an escape goes a long way (step away from your phone).
  • If you really want to go the extra mile, pick up a tea tray, small cups, and a gaiwan or yixing teapot and prepare something special. Making tea in this way produces many small infusions, shared in small cups. It takes a bit of time, intentionally, and allows for appreciation of both tea and company (or family).

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

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Healthy Lifestyles Include Tea

Harmony through tea!This is kinda a self-serving statement, isn’t it? In all seriousness, a healthy lifestyle can certainly be made up of many different things and tea doesn’t need to be one of them. That said, we believe there are way too many artificial products (not real food) on the market, too much emphasis on miracle diets and cures, and we could all do with a bit of simplification. So we eat our own dog food, so to speak, or at least drink our own tea. In prior posts we’ve focused on other aspects of tea and your health including all the amazing micronutrients in tea so this one is short and sweet. Here are some of our thoughts on how tea fits in with a healthy lifestyle:

  • Morning cup (or three) of tea of course. But we like lots of variety so we don’t stick to one type of tea every day. We like to mix it up so sometimes that means green, sometimes black, puerh, or really whatever we are in the mood for.
  • To-go thermos of tea for our son to take to school. We remember the days when you had water from the fountain or milk at lunch and that’s it. No more – even elementary school kids bring a thermos with something – ours likes his morning Sencha.
  • We switch to caffeine free tisanes (herbals) mid-day or, shocking we know, water. We just sleep better by cutting out the caffeine by midday, even if the caffeine in tea is less jolting.
  • We love iced tea in summer. Technically we do cold brew. Throw some leaf into a jug of water at night, place in the fridge, and viola, fresh iced tea for the family in the morning.
  • We stop and smell the roses on the weekends. Meaning, this is when we tend to pull out the special teas we want to enjoy like Japanese Gyokuro, fresh Tieguanyin (in season), or a rare puerh from Yunnan China and to enjoy using traditional teaware. Yes, this takes more time, but it is great way to use your tea to slow down and enjoy the moment.
  • Finally, cooking with tea! This is always a fun way to explore in our house with everyone getting a chance to taste, compare notes, and decide if its something we would make again.

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

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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).

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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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Enjoying the Moment – The Tea Ceremony

Tea readily lends itself to rituals and practices that let us slow down. It allows us to take in not just our surroundings, but our state of mind and the characteristic of the beverage we are patiently awaiting. Not surprisingly, Chinese and Japanese developed formal rituals around tea that are worth exploring as they explain both the culture of tea of those countries and some of the historical manufacturing processes.

The simplicity of the Japanese Tea Ceremony has inspired other accessories.

Japanese Kyusu – Inspired by Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony originated with the Buddhist monks, who incorporated the preparation of powdered tea into their meditation rituals. The accessories and steps taken in the tea ceremony are focused on the comfort of the guests and the preparer. The ceremony appeared in Japan during the 15th century, being created and documented by Sen No Rikyu, a Japanese Buddhist tea master. In his book, the Way of Tea, Rikyu not only lays out the steps of Chanoyu, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, but discusses the philosophy of tea and how tea helps to reinforce the contemplative experience of life and man’s interaction with other men and material objects. Rikyu used the Way of Tea to invite all who believed in harmony, respect, purity and tranquility to become masters of tea, opening up the beverage and the tea ceremony to the masses, effectively taking it out of the temple and into the upper classes of Japanese society.

The ritualization and formalization of the tea ceremony is still seen today in the accessories associated not just with Matcha but with Japanese green teas. Kyusu’s, Japanese tea pots used to serve whole leaf green tea, are either a solid color or decorated with pictures of nature, which are always on the side of the pot that should face the guest when serving the tea. Rikyu is also given credit for having created the bamboo whisk and scoop used in the preparation of Matcha.

Chinese Tea Ceremony

Small Chinese Tea Ceremony Cups

Chinese Tea Cups for a Tea Ceremony

The Chinese also have a tea ceremony. It is lesser known than the Japanese one but it still has its own beauty. Done with whole leaves instead of powder, it is a simple presentation of a kettle, teapot and handle-less cups. The preparation is done simply with few gestures of significance and little concern to the type of pottery or other accessories. Unlike the Japanese ceremony, there is discussion with guests, usually around nature, the tea being drunk and other topics usually related to nature and man’s place in it. The leaves will be infused multiple times by the host as conversation continues.

This informal ceremony reflects the very informal view of tea in China. However, informality should not imply a lack of importance. Tea is considered one of the seven critical items for a healthy life and is consumed throughout the day, every day, by most Chinese.

Creating Your Own Tea Ceremony or Ritual

It is not hard to create your own ritual around your cup of tea. It could be something as simple as taking a few minutes to hold still and breathe while you allow your tea to steep. Alternatively, you may prefer to sit with a pot of tea and a book in your favorite chair. The Chinese and the Japanese both got it right in focusing on tea’s tie to nature and its ability to allow people to slow down and contemplate their place in it. My favorite ritual is enjoying a cup of tea at my kitchen table looking out the windows and watching the stars fade and the sky fill with early morning sunlight. What is your favorite tea ceremony?

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