The Roots of Tea
You may not realize just how far back people have been drinking this magnificent beverage. In fact, containers for tea have been found in Chinese tombs, dating from the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).
And since then, the culture has been slowly spreading. First to Japan, and later to Great Britain and beyond. In fact, it was in Great Britain where tea drinking received its snooty reputation. This was in part due to heavy taxation that led to tea smuggling. It was also part of the infamous Boston Tea Party Revolt that, in combination with other political issues, brought many of our ancestors to this country.
My Own Experiences
Growing up, I was not a fan of the iced tea that was popular in the summertime of the Midwest. It was not until my 20s during a visit to Turkey that I became accustomed to drinking the beverage.
In Turkish culture, it is quite common for practically anyone and everyone to offer you a glass of hot tea. Every home you visit and every shop you peruse; the one thing they all had in common was their offering of a glass of piping hot tea. Considering I was there during the heat of summer, I found it a bit odd at first. But they tell me it is also seen as a way to sweat out the impurities, or toxins. And to that I can most definitely relate.
Since then, upon reading all about The Blue Zones regions and their consumption of herbal teas; I have been making a true, concerted effort to incorporate a daily cup of hot tea into my everyday diet.
Benefits of Tea
There are sooo many reasons to make tea drinking part of your daily routine. It may just be one of the healthiest consumptions you can engage in! Here’s why:
- Contains antioxidants that fight cancer & heart disease
- Boosts prevention of stroke & heart attacks
- Helps with weight loss
- Keeps bones healthy & strong
- Decrease in incidences of tooth loss
- Boost the immune system
- Aids in the fight against cancer
- Ease of digestion issues
- Lowers bad cholesterol (ldl)
- Improves gut health
- Reduces blood pressure
- May lower blood sugar
- Improves focus
The Boiling Method
Pardon the pun, but this option pretty much boils down to the old fashioned teapot or the electric kettle.
The old–fashioned teapot
It may appear completely harmless, but there are a few things to be aware of when shopping for a teapot. First off, lower qualities of stainless steel have been known to leach the heavy metals, nickel & chromium. In addition to that, any ceramic waterproofing glaze can be suspected of containing lead and/or cadmium as well.
Tamara Rubin of Lead Safe Mama, also offers some excellent options for your tea drinking safety.
With the electric kettles, you need to be aware of their age. While I typically recommend thrifting practically everything, the old styles of these kettles may leach nickel.
You don’t want to overexpose yourself to heavy metals because they accumulate in the body over time, and can lead to a variety of health issues.
As with any water you are consuming, it is highly recommended that you filter it properly. Depending upon where you live and what your water source is, your water can contain anything from agricultural pesticides to pharmaceuticals, and more heavy metals. And then there are additives like fluoride, chlorine and/or chloramine.
There are a lot of health risks to being exposed to these chemicals, so you should always make the effort to stay informed. Go to your local water company’s web page and find their most recent water report. This will give you a list of contaminants that you need to consider filtering out.
With that info in hand, you can then select an appropriate water filter. We love our trusted Berkey because it filters out approximately 99 percent of all of the bad stuff. And those are pretty darn good stats.
Tea plants are considered “hyperaccumulators,” which basically means they suck everything out of the soil and store it in their leaves, including the bad stuff. This “bad stuff” can include chemicals like fluoride, lead, aluminum, arsenic and pesticides.
Therefore, it is crucial that you look for a high quality, organic teas. Besides avoiding the pesticides and heavy metals, you will also experience a tea free from artificial flavorings, colorings and genetically modified organisms.
Due to the extremely acidic nature of the tea leaf soil, the accumulation of heavy metals tends to accelerate. I mentioned earlier about the dangers of heavy metal toxicity, but fluoride toxicity in the body can lead to several health issues as well.
Here is a link to the results of an investigation done by Greenpeace in order to learn the effects of pesticides used in growing tea leaves in China.
For the best health protections, your tea bag should be completely free of plastic and all other chemicals; or, better yet, opt for looseleaf.
Most paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a known carcinogen. Fortunately, there are some compostable disposable tea bags as well as reusable organic cotton versions that can be safely used instead.
The silky tea bags are the worst because they are made from plastics like nylon or polypropylene that are very unstable when immersed in hot water. That means the chemicals end up leaching right into your drink.
You may have read some of the recent articles that came out in regard to all the microplastics in these nylon tea bags. This is bad news for our bodies as well as our oceans and sea creatures that are the final receptacle for this overabundance of plastics.
What to Buy
So, to be clear; organic, non gmo looseleaf teas are the best option your money can buy. Beyond that, you will do well to seek out the more ethical brands that state their bags are epichlorohydrin-free. Here is a good list.
Keep in mind that coffee and tea shops tend to carry the cheapest “crap teas” available.
When out shopping at your local grocery or any other retail location, check the ingredient list for potential GMO ingredients that include soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup, and other additives that spark suspicion. The words “natural flavors” is often reason to run the other way.
Types of Teas
There are so many, but following are 10 of the most popular varieties.
Green tea is one of the oldest and healthiest drinks that we have available to us. Just don’t opt for the retail version as they often contain high doses of sugar and other additives.
Black tea involves a lengthier processing than green tea, as it’s leaves are first dried in the sun. It results in a stronger, more bitter flavor that often requires a little bit of milk to stifle.
Oolong tea is processed like black tea and can taste more like black or green teas based on the length of its leaf oxidation process.
Matcha tea involves drinking the actual ground up green tea leaves, so that is why its health benefits are some of the best out of all the varieties. Just be wary of the more westernized green tea latte where the benefits are offset by the additives.
Yerba Mate is sourced from the Amazon Rainforest. It is unusual in its high caffeine content, 80 milligrams!
Chamomile tea is a mildly bitter, slightly floral and sweet tea that comes from the edible flowers of the chamomilla plant. It is known for it’s relaxing properties and is often used to treat insomnia.
Chai tea is basically black tea with some steamed milk and Indian spices mixed in, making it creamier and one of my favorites. Be aware though that many coffee shop versions are absolutely loaded with sugar.
Dandelion tea is often used as a healthier coffee substitute. I have yet to try it, but hope to soon!
Pu’er tea is a fermented green or black tea with many benefits to gut health as well.
Chaga tea is very popular right now for the many health benefits of the chaga mushroom.
Lastly the cup you use also has an effect on the toxicity of your tea. Glass or high quality stainless steel, free from any glaze, is your best bet for a toxin free cup of tea.
One final note: Remember to steep your tea for no more than 3 minutes in order to avoid any extra heavy metal contamination from the teabags.
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