Tea used to be something I only drank to complete my meal at the local Chinese restaurant. But ever since I visited an organic tea plantation in Peru last summer, I no longer limit tea time to tiny cups at Dragon Palace. After learning about the benefits of drinking tea on mind, body and spirit, I chug the stuff daily from a giant mug.
On the tour, my daughter, Heather, and I got to pick tea leaves from tea bushes — that is, when we weren’t picking mosquitoes from each other. The tea plants were waist high with pointed, leathery dark leaves. Harvesting tea was exciting because before that, I’d only ever picked tea off the shelf at Stop & Shop, and even then, it wasn’t real tea.
It turns out that not all teas are created equal. Our Peruvian tour guide, Maria, taught me that real tea is derived from the plant, Camellia sinensis, and includes black, oolong, green and white tea, not to be confused with herbal tea (the kind I was buying), which usually refers to infusions of fruit or herbs. Herbal teas may have fun names like Peach Passion and Lemon Zinger (which explains the stacks of them in my cupboard) but according to Maria, don’t offer the same benefits as real tea which contains antioxidants that are beneficial to your health.
Here are five surprising reasons I fell in love with tea.
1. From trendy teahouses to Starbucks, tea has become a popular social experience in America. It’s a drink you can enjoy with a friend — kind of like a cocktail, but without the hangover.
2. A warm cup of tea has a calming effect. Psychologists have found that the simple act of putting the kettle on the stove helps ease the mind. Think of it as a Snuggie for adults.
3. Tea has less caffeine than coffee, so you can drink more freely without worrying about insomnia. If you’re reading this at 2 a.m., take notice.
4. Tea is brimming with antioxidants — disease-fighting compounds thought to protect against cancer. Tea may also protect against cardiovascular disease. And, it tastes better than kale juice.
5. Recent research has debunked the myth that tea is dehydrating. Studies show that drinking tea hydrates as well as water. Generally one cup of tea has only five calories — the equivalent of one breath mint. Speaking of which, tea has been shown to fight mouth bacteria. So drink up — warm your soul and freshen your breath!
With few calories, no fat, and no salt, tea is a no brainer. With so many options on the market now, we’re no longer limited to Lipton. My favorite is Vanilla Coconut White Tea.
Time to put the kettle on!