January is Hot Tea Month
by Christina Van Starkenburg
January is National Hot Tea Month. So what better time of year to further indulge the benefits of drinking tea! While your fingers are warming up on your cup of tea and the steam is swirling around your face, take a few relaxing breaths and inhale the tea’s delicious aroma. As you do this, know that you are partaking in a beverage that’s both enjoyable and good for you. There are a myriad of different teas out there and each one has its own health benefits. Some relieve joint pain, others enhance your immune system, and still others improve your memory.
The most common way to consume tea is as a hot beverage, which is either bought at a café or made at home with instant powder, individual tea bags, or loose-leaves. You can also drink tea cold – whether this happens because you simply forgot to drink it while it was hot, or because of personal preference.
However, the most common way does not mean it’s the only way to use tea.
Nutrition consultant at Pure Nutrition Consulting on Vancouver Island, Jodi Holland says using green tea matcha in your cooking is becoming popular because of the flavour it adds. And chai teas are sometimes baked into cookies; rooibos is being blended in with cracker dips; and black teas are being mixed in with steak rubs. The teas add their own unique flavour and health benefits, like antioxidants and when you eat these foods you are getting even more of the benefits, because the whole leaf is consumed instead of just the liquid made from steeping them.
Another way to get more benefits from tea is by taking them in the form of a capsule or extract, because once again you will be consuming the whole leaf. “The extract is going to have more polythenols (than a brewed beverage), so it’s going to have a higher antioxidant content,” explains Holland. However, she cautioned that there are no long term studies about the side effects of taking green tea in extract form; but there is some indication that it can cause liver problems if you take too much of it.
If you are drinking tea because of its nutritional aspects, you should try to consume it in forms that are local, less processed, and grown naturally. In her book Think & Eat Yourself Smart, Dr. Caroline Leaf explains that food loses its nutritional value the more time there is between when it’s picked and when it’s consumed.
Leaf also writes: “real food should, by and large, be processed in a kitchen, not a factory” if you want to get the most nutrients from it. Research agrees with her. The American Chemical Society found that bottled teas contained less polyphenols than steeped teas.
Like bottled teas, bagged teas are less nutritious than loose-leaf teas. One reason is that the tea is ground into smaller pieces. Another reason is that the bags prevent the tea leaves from expanding, which means they aren’t able to release their polyphenols, antioxidants, and minerals. However, if finding locally grown organic loose-leaf tea seems like too much effort, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this drink.
“Tea is a just a fabulous beverage, because it can be a calorie free beverage if you’re not putting any sugar in it, and it contributes to our hydration. So, really, whatever tea people are drinking, it can still be a good choice,” says Holland.
So this month, pick up your tea of choice, and invite some friends over for a steaming cup of hot tea and cookies, or sit down to a dinner with friends and family and enjoy a nice tea-seasoned steak. After all, what better way to celebrate National Hot Tea Month than with friends and family?