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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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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