Without a cup of hot beverage – tea or coffee, my monsoon days are incomplete. What can be better than a kadak chai on a breezy and pouring day! Tea flourishes in damp tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world and I would be stating the obvious but tea is an international star! It’s the most popular, most loved and the most fragrant beverage that exists in the world.
Brimming with health
Tea is actually not just a beverage that helps us to wake up from slumber or perks us up mid-afternoon. It is a drink with such a taste and aroma that it makes you feel good and a sense of calm pervades you. Tea makes you feel good, I say, but it also makes you look good!
- Being a naturally refreshing drink, taken on its own, tea has no calories. It’s the perfect drink to keep looking good and feeling fit.
- Also when taken with milk, four cups of tea a day can provide you with significant amounts of the following nutrients: approximately 17% of the recommended intake for calcium, 5% for zinc, 22% for vitamin B2, 5% for folic acid and vitamins B1and B6.
- A cup of tea is also a good source of manganese, which is essential for general physical development and potassium, which helps to maintain your body’s fluid balance.
- Tea has antioxidant activities, which may help fight a variety of diseases. We will dwell on this in detail later in the column.
- Tea is a great natural source of fluoride, which is found in water and added to toothpaste because it can actually strengthen tooth enamel. Tea can also prevent tooth decay by helping to cut down the buildup of plaque on your pearly whites – and just in case you’re wondering, the tea plant is in itself a rich source of fluoride because it absorbs the compound from the soil via its roots. Black and green teas contain fluoride and they appear to control bacterial growth by reducing plaque.
Choose your tea
It all depends on personal choices. Go through the gamut of teas available like Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Jasmine and pick your best. In fact, indulge in a variety of them like a connoisseur! Brand name teas are mixtures of as many as twenty different varieties of leaves, blended to ensure a consistent flavour.
To make it easier, let me tell you that tea can be segregated into three basic types: black, green and oolong. Black tea is fully oxidized or fermented and yields a hearty-flavoured, amber brew. Green tea skips the oxidizing step. It has a more delicate taste and is light green/golden in colour. It is gaining popularity due to scientific studies linking it with reduced cancer risk. Oolong tea is partly oxidized and is a cross between black and green tea. Some varieties of oolong tea have cholesterol-lowering properties which are especially effective if the tea is drunk after a fatty meal. Oolong tea may also reduce blood pressure and arterial disease possibly by decreasing the clotting tendency of blood. Black tea is rich in chemicals called tannins, which are astringent. For herbalists these are useful in treating diarrhea. Cooled, damp black tea bags may also be placed over tired, red eyes or on insect bites to relieve itching and redness.
There is a variety of teas available on the shelves that would wow you. While flavoured teas evolve from the three basic teas (green, black, oolong), herbal teas contain no true tea leaves. Herbal and ‘medicinal’ teas are created from the flowers, berries, peels, seeds, leaves and roots of many different plants.
Actually frayed nerves, rushed hours and lack of patience is what rules the roost these days because everyday life is loaded with stress and strain as we all are so very busy. To save from early burn out it is advised to take regular breaks from work: breaks here should read as ‘tea breaks!’ Having a hot cuppa is the perfect way to relax and unwind. It is a panacea for all and as it rich in a group of antioxidants called flavonoids which help to fight the damage causing free radicals. For example, there is eight times the amount of ‘anti-oxidant power’ in three cups of tea than in one apple, and every time you brew tea for upto one minute you get 140mg of free radical-fighting flavonoids.
Further studies are looking into how tea could be beneficial for your heart. The result from trials so far show that flavonoids may prevent the oxidation of the so-called bad cholesterol in the blood that leads to the buildup of plaque in artery walls, as well as protecting the blood vessels from inflammation and inhibiting blood clot formation.
Brew it just right
- The best way to brew tea is in a pot made of china or glazed earthenware.
- Heat fresh water in a kettle. Just before the kettle boils, pour a little of the hot water into a teapot, swirl the water around the sides of the teapot and then empty it out. Return the kettle to the heat.
- Measure the tea leaves (for medium strength tea, add one heaped teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup) into the prepared teapot.
- As soon as the water in the kettle comes to a boil, pour into the teapot. Place the lid on the pot and let the leaves infuse for five minutes. You can keep the tea warm by covering it with a tea-cozy.
- Towards the end of the infusion time, stir the tea once, so that it is of even colour. When the tea has infused, pour it into individual cups through a strainer. Serve it immediately with sugar and milk in separate bowls.
Well, now the time is to enjoy my cuppa, when there is a chill in the air. Some of the recipes I would like to share with you all.
Sip on a hot tea and drive away those monsoon blues.
Tea it up!