Day 28: Honesty time — I took several days off. I went away for the long weekend, and I overindulged in Mexican food, wine tastings, and cherry ice cream. When I got home, I was nursing an exhausted body and a bad case of bloat. The solution? To drink my final cup of tea. After drinking it, I went to bed feeling refreshed and lighter, then woke up the next morning ready for a workout and a day back at work.
In China though, the term black tea or dark tea typically refers to a tea that we call Pu-erh in the United States. This tea is fermented anywhere between 2 weeks to two months and then aged for 2 months to 20+ years in order to create dark black leaves and a dark color to the brew. In this fermentation process the leaves are intentionally kept damp to encourage good microbes and bacteria to slowly oxidize and ferment the leaves. This is distinguished from red tea which typically only takes about 6-10 hours to oxidize. Pu-erh tea typically has a strong fermentation taste but high quality pu-erh should not taste overly earthy as this is a sign of low quality production techniques.
Along with caffeine, which gives green tea its characteristic taste, bitterness, and stimulating effect, green tea is also rich in a group of chemicals, called catechin polyphenols (commonly known as tannins, which contribute to bitter taste and astringency). These catechin polyphenols include catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and various proanthocyanidins. They are also known as flavonoids and are very powerful antioxidants. Flavonoids, together with some amino acids like thiamine, are responsible for the potent flavor of green tea.
The leaves are used to make a herbal tea that is called by the names: rooibos, bush tea (especially in Southern Africa), or redbush tea (predominantly in Great Britain). The tea has been popular in Southern Africa for generations, but is now consumed in many countries worldwide. It is sometimes spelled rooibosch in accordance with the original Dutch. The tea has a taste and color somewhat similar to hibiscus tea, or an earthy flavor like yerba mate.
Because matcha preparation uses ground tea leaves that cannot be removed after steeping, the caffeine content in a cup of matcha is much higher than that of a cup of tea prepared using tea bags or leaves. However, the exact caffeine content may vary depending on the ratio of water to matcha powder used. Matcha contains less than half the amount of caffeine per cup than in a similar-sized cup of coffee.
This tea is a rich source of antispasmodic agents, which can ease severe stomach cramps and abdominal pains. This is mainly due to the activation of K+ (potassium) ions in the body without antagonizing the activities of calcium, according to a report published in the Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. This can reduce the presence of hyperactivity in the gastrointestinal tract, thus preventing diarrhea and other intestinal issues.
Researchers from the Netherlands confirmed in a recent study that two green tea compounds, L-theanine and caffeine, can significantly boost levels of attention and alertness, building on what is already known about the brain benefits of green tea. The drink is less likely to make you jittery and anxious than other energy-boosting drinks, because it contains lower levels of caffeine than other teas or coffee. In another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers discovered that drinking just one cup of green tea a day made people age 55 and older 38 percent less likely to experience a decline in their mental abilities. Drinking a second cup daily made them 54 percent less likely to show mental declines.
In 1994, Burke International registered the name "Rooibos" with the US Patent and Trademark Office, thus establishing a monopoly on the name in the United States at a time when it was virtually unknown there. When the plant later entered more widespread use, Burke demanded that companies either pay fees for use of the name, or cease its use. In 2005, the American Herbal Products Association and a number of import companies succeeded in defeating the trademark through petitions and lawsuits; after losing one of the cases, Burke surrendered the name to the public domain.
Heat or boil water, but don’t let it completely boil and become too hot, as this can destroy some of the delicate compounds found in green tea leaves. The “ideal” temperature for brewing green tea is between 160 degrees Fahrenheit to 180 degrees F (traditionally standard Chinese green teas brew at a slightly higher temperatures). Pour hot water into the teapot to steep the leaves for only about 1–3 minutes. Larger leaves need more time to steep than finer, smaller leaves. At this point you can also add any fresh herbs you plan on steeping.
African red tea's naturally sweet taste makes it easy to keep your added sugar intake low. According to the American Heart Association, most Americans consume too much added sugar in their diet, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. The association recommends consuming no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Added sugar, and especially drinks high in added sugar such as sodas, have no nutritional benefits whatsoever, unlike rooibos, which has a number of associated health benefits.
Shade grown: All matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves—a labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sun and light is filtered to the bushes in a very controlled manor. Shading boosts the chlorophyll production in the plant, giving the leaves a rich green color. The lack of sun reduces the plant’s photosynthesis of the leaves, which in turn alters the naturally occurring levels of caffeine, flavanols, sugars, antioxidants, and theanine. By controlling the sun exposure, tea producers can significantly alter the chemical make-up and flavor of the final tea leaves.