When I was growing up, tea was just tea. It was a wonderful caramel-coloured brew we drank every morning to fortify ourselves for the day ahead.
When we needed an afternoon pick-me-up, we had a “tea break”, and when friends dropped by, we’d always offer them a cup of tea. Whether they preferred to drink it black or take it with milk and sugar, it was just tea. Easy.
Drinking tea has been a practice for centuries but never before has there been so many varieties so readily available and for so many purposes. Credit:Stocksy
Fast forward to today and if you offer a friend a cup of tea, they’re likely to say, “Oh yes, what have you got?” It’s no longer black and white. Tea today comes in so many colours, flavours and combinations, the choice is mind-boggling.
Of course, drinking tea is something people all over the world have been doing for centuries (it’s thought to have originated in China as far back as the third century AD), but never before have there been so many varieties so readily available and for so many purposes.
There are teas for almost every ailment, from puffy eyes (apply cooled black or green teabags) and flyaway hair (try rinsing with ginger and mint tea) to period pain (chamomile, dandelion or fennel) and anxiety (lemon balm or rooibos).
In most cases, tea is mass produced, but artisan tea makers are springing up everywhere with bespoke brews. Herbal Fix is Australia’s first range of functional beverages scientifically formulated by food scientists.
“We understand the benefits of herbs and use the expertise of our teams to find the right equilibrium between nature and science,” says Herbal Fix marketing manager Maria Kavadas. “Today, there’s a growing body of modern scientific knowledge showing that herbal beverages can play an effective role in preventative and proactive healthcare.”
For the purists, only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong and pu-erh are the real deal. These teas are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is native to China and India and contains high levels of antioxidants. The less the leaves have been processed, the better.
Oolong and black tea are fermented and have fewer polyphenols than green tea, but their antioxidising powers are still high. Matcha, a powdered form of green tea, can be added to milk drinks (matcha latte, anyone?) or used in baking (matcha and macadamia cookies – yes!).
“Green tea has traditionally been used for weight loss, mental alertness, lowering cholesterol and protecting skin from sun damage,” says Kavadas. “Green tea has a long list of potential health benefits. It helps to regulate blood-sugar levels and blood pressure, boosts immunity, heightens mental alertness and increases energy levels.”
When you need to relax, chamomile tea is a good choice. “It’s used to calm anxiety and settle the stomach,” she says. “Chamomile promotes sleep, so it’s a great nightcap and has wonderful anti-inflammatory properties.”
Lesser-known gotu kola tea has been used for thousands of years in India, China and Indonesia as a brain tonic, and is said to support memory function and to even help make you smarter.
“Gotu kola is also used to soothe varicose veins, treat skin impurities and minimise scarring,” says Kavadas. “Studies have shown that gotu kola, and also gingko biloba, can improve blood flow to the brain.”
The anti-inflammatory properties of lavender are said to help skin breakouts and lemongrass tea aids digestion and helps prevent bloating.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale March 8.
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