Some say that coffee is the most valuable traded commodity after oil, but second to water, tea is the most consumed beverage on the planet. According to Wikipedia, it outranks the total consumption of coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and alcohol combined. All non-herbal tea comes from one plant, camellia sinensis, which gives us black, green and white tea as well as the more unusual varieties such as, kukicha, which is made from the twigs of the tea bush and the beautiful jasmine lotus balls, which unfurl into a chrysanthemum-like bloom- best appreciated in a glass pot.
The Tea Centre has hundreds of different types of tea including many types of herbal tea.
Right now I’m sipping a Husk herbal tea called Harmony, which has cinnamon, lemon balm, rosehip, apple, clove, ginger and cardamom and will presumably help me live in harmony with my fellow creatures (perhaps they should sell it in a convenient pack for sipping when driving). There are so many varieties of tea, even along the supermarket shelves, as well as at dedicated tea shops like T2 that have sprung up around the place, that it got me wondering what exactly are we looking for in a humble cup of tea…
There are health benefits claimed for tea, particularly green tea, including reducing diabetes, heart disease and cancer, although more research still needs to be done to confirm preliminary results.
But what about herbal teas? Chamomile is said to help with stress, rosehip is a tonic for the liver and kidney, cinnamon is for digestion and circulation, fennel for weight loss and ginko biloba for concentration. Then there are the blends- detox, wellbeing, sleepytime, relaxation, passion, revive and fitness mix.
As I perused the aisle of the supermarket the other day, I wondered about our high expectations of tea. Are we really convinced that we can revive passion or loose weight by drinking tea made with a tiny bag of dried and crushed leaves? Are we somehow hoping to change our lives by partaking in a cup of tea? Or perhaps it’s somehow more than that. The Japanese tea ceremony is so ritualised that it has became a form of meditation. Maybe by partaking in a brew of tea, we are somehow creating a time in the day to pause and reflect. However, I’m not sure that dunking a tea bag in hot water qualifies.
According to the British Tea Council, (yes there is such a thing) in the UK, 96% of tea drunk is made with tea bags. I find that a disturbing figure as tea bags are generally made with the ‘fannings’ and dust left over from the production of the higher quality loose leaf tea. If you want a better quality and flavour of tea, try using a tea infuser with loose leaf tea. It works out much cheaper than tea bags and given the superior taste, justifies the minimal extra effort required.
I am an Earl Grey addict and have been searching high and low for a fair trade version in the loose leaf. The best one I’ve tried so far is the Hampstead Organic Fair Trade. It’s a delicate, fragrant guilt-free brew, which is refreshing, but beyond that, I somehow don’t think it’s going to improve my life, despite the presence of bergamot oil, which may have properties to protect my neurons from degeneration (this could well be too late, I’m afraid).
On that note, I feel the need for a cup of something to watch TV with.