Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tea - the other morning drink

I'm a tea drinker. I'll drink coffee on occasion, if I have a headache and need caffeine to get rid of it, or if tea isn't available. But tea is my caffeine addiction of choice (and given how sensitive to caffeine I am, it does in fact become an addiction. Blast those no-caffeine headaches!). I've even gone so far as to buy an individual teapot with a mesh insert-thingie to steep loose-leaf tea at work. Tealuxe is the brand currently overflowing the food drawer at work, with flavors ranging from Tra Que Chai (far and away my fave) to peach rooibos (strange after flavor) to pumpkin chai (fine, but probably won't order it again). I've also found quite a few flavors of Stash teas that I quite like (I haven't found any other brand to match their mint tea, especially with a sore throat).

One of my co-workers broke out the smokey chai today, and gave me a whiff of it. And I'm not kidding, it smelled like smoke. Imagine the smokiest smoked turkey you've ever had, and take away the turkey flavor. That's what I'm talking about. Not sure the appeal in that, but to each their own, I say.

I also add milk and sugar to my tea. I'd like to be able to say I could drink tea "black" because it's so much more healthy that way. Maybe it's my English heritage that I've got to muddle it up with milk (if I were to get really crazy I'd get a milk steamer since it's soooo much better that way, but seeing as they give us those free little individual packages of milk at work, I'll just stick with that...). I've researched Splenda online about health risks, but I think it's just one of those things that's still pretty new so who knows. I may switch to Stevia, which is a natural product made from plants. Anyone tried it? Is it as tasty as sugar?

Interesting factoid about tea: when I was in France, I asked for "decaffeinated" tea. They looked at me like I had three heads, then told me that tea does not ever have caffeine. At this point, I'm thinking "wtf?" Well, apparently, tea and coffee have separate words for caffeine in France - caffeine is only in coffee (this is where I had the "duh" moment, because of the prefix of the word), whereas tea has theine (accent aigu on the first "e" - tay-een). For decaf tea, you want to ask for a tisane (herbal tea).

I heard a story on npr last year where they were discussing tea grown in China (this was even before all the other health scares about tainted drugs and about the same time as the tainted dog food). The story discussed the short cuts taken by some of the tea drying factories - the tea leaves were grown organically, but then hung to dry with car exhaust fumes spewed over them to speed the process (and they can still claim it's grown organically). The hard part of it is that when you look at a box of tea, it tells you where it was packaged, but not where it was grown. That's what I like so much about Tealuxe, they tell you what country all their tea comes from.

And while it looks like coffee isn't the big evil it's been made out to be for so many years, tea has all those antioxidants and anti-cancer properties. So go find a flavor you like, try not to ingest chemicals from car fumes if you can help it (though I suppose I get a good dose of that every day, given the big city I live in...), and please share your favorites (so I can try them out, of course!).


Richard said...

Hi RC. Here's a question I've never answered satisfactorily: is there tea in mint tea? I'm generally anti no-tea tea (i.e. herbal infusions - unless the herbs are particularly good ;) but sometimes sweet mint tea, Moroccan style, is just the thing. But does it, should it, have tea in it, or just mint leaves? Answers on a tea leaf, please :)

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Hm...that seems like an existential question...what is, in fact, the nature of tea?

I think the tea umbrella covers lots of things, and it probably just sort of depends on what the common understanding of it is...tea seems to cover black tea (like assam), green tea, white tea, chai, herbal tea, that kind of thing. My impression is that tea is any kind of plant thing steeped in water to give the water flavor. So mint is tea, but it's not the same as black tea, which has caffeine. I did just order some moroccan sweet tea.

I tend not to like lots of herbal teas (not a fan of chamomile), but I do like Verbena and Linden tea (Verveine and Tilleul), though mint and orange and lemon can be good as well.

Now let's see if I can fit all that on a tea leaf... ;)

JavaChick said...

Not much of a tea fan, much prefer coffee. I do like herbal tea sometimes, Mint being a favourite.

Re: Stevia. I have never used stevia as a sweetener, but I have tried the odd herbal tea blends that contained stevia and I really didn't like them; nasty aftertaste. I have attributed that to the stevia, since it was the common ingredient. But I guess I can't say for sure that was it.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

I'll try it out and let you know. I think sugar is the best (apart from the calories), because it's all natural. But I usually stick with splenda, also because it seems to mix into the tea better than real sugar. I'll have to try Stevia to see how it compares. I think I tried Xylitol also, but didn't really like the texture.

Richard said...

I think I've cracked it: "a tea" can be a cup or glass of pretty much anything steeped in water, though obviously without some qualifier you'd expect it to be proper tea. But if you're selling me a packet of dried stuff, "tea" should mean there's actual "tea" in there, not just mint, nettles, 'erbs, etc.

Ever tried valerian root tea? Tastes like a wet spaniel, but boy does it tranquilize!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

LMAO! That's hilarious! Tastes like wet spaniel? Do you mean tranquilize like if you're jittery you're calm? Or are you talking on the order of valium? I think some of the authors I work with could use that...

I think that technically tea does have to have a particular kind of plant in it (black/white/green tea all does, but herbal doesn't), so herbal tea can't advertise itself as tea, but in common parlance it is. Kind of like champagne. Or Kleenex.

Richard said...

Not that I go round licking gundogs you understand (we Brits aren't that weird, I think).

According to Wikipedia, valerian can be used to ween people off diazepam, etc. I tried making tea once from the dried root - no idea about dosage - that was one woozy evening.

Russians swear by it: where we might say "take an aspirin", they're more likely to say "take some valerian".