A nice cup of tea can make life’s little miseries more bearable and boost your antioxidant quotient. Tamra Mercieca tells us what’s brewing.

There’s something very calming about the ritual of preparing a pot of tea. And whether you prefer yours black, white or herbal, tea has many health benefits, with the latest research showing that a daily cuppa is brimful of antioxidants, which can lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.

Recent research also shows that green tea may contain cancer-fighting agents, while certain herbal teas claim to combat or soothe many maladies. Some experts believe its flavonoids may even inhibit the growth of plaque on teeth.

Tea does contain less caffeine than coffee, in fact about half. Caffeine is a stimulant that can give you a lift and when you drink it in moderation – about 300mg – it can be a healthy additionto your diet. That’s seven teacups of guilt-free pleasure to be had!

The Book of Tea, a cult classic on the Japanese tea ceremony written by Kakuzo Okakura in 1906, tells the story of how tea began as medicine and grew into a beverage. It was traditionally used by the Chinese to treat poor kidney function, lethargy, dysentery and digestive disturbances before becoming a spiritual aid for monks in meditation.

While an afternoon tea party may seem a world away from a spiritual experience it does have a prolonged, peaceful air to it. As a gathering of friends, and lovers, it can be a time for reflection, gaiety and appreciation of the finer things in life – fine bone china, sparkling silverware, fairy cupcakesand pretty napkins, not to mentionthe epicentre of witty conversation.

High tea

Sencha

Sencha

Occupational psychologist

Dr Rebecca Newton, who conducted a study into tea drinking for the UK Tea Council, says it’s true that drinking tea together is a relaxing way for people to communicate effectively. “Tea is a natural social lubricant. It helps people relax, talk to one another and catch up. So it makes sense that one of the most effective ways to build a good reputation in the office is to make a refreshing cup of tea for colleagues,”she says.

Tea is secondonly to water in worldwide consumption today, and with so many flavours available, you’re sure to find one that whets the palate. Drink to your health with traditional herbals favourites such as peppermint or chamomile or tempt yourself with one of the modern blends such as berry ripe, a chocolate and berry sensation or maybe Japanese sencha infused with vanilla.

Take tea for health & balance

  • insomnia For those who have lain awake all night watching the clock, drinking the right tea before bedtime can help. Herbal infusions that aid in a good night’s sleep include chamomile, wood betony, lemonbalm, vervain, lavender, passionflower and valerian, solo or in combination.
  • premenstrual syndrome When it comesto menstrual problems a tea with a slow warming action, such as oolong, is best. Tea master, Tjok Kerthyasa, says rosebuds are also a wonderful women’s tonic. “Rose regulates energy, relieves energy congestion, and harmonises the blood, which helps with bloating, heaviness and irritability.” Rosebuds have a sweet yet bitter flavour with a warm energy. It is most famous for its use in treating irregular menstruation.
  • upset tummy and digestion If the upset tummy is a result of overeating with bloating and wind, a pu-erh or oolong tea is best. Pu-erh has a mild and earthy flavour and is particularly good to drink after eating meat and milk products. Peppermint, fennel, calendula, lemon balm and ginger are also considered good for calming the digestive tract.
  • stress and anxiety Taking time out for a cuppa is a ritual revered the world over, from the Japanese tea ceremony to afternoon tea in England. High-grade teas tend to be of the most benefit. Try high mountain oolong, white tea from Fujian, Lung Ching from China, Gyokuro from Japan or Darjeeling from India. Herbs such as liquorice root, wood betony, and chamomile also help the body to de-stress.
  • skin problems While there is no teathat will work wondersfor bad skin, rooiboshas shown someanti-histamine properties which may be usefulin allergy-relatedskin problems.
  • weight problems If you’re looking to shed the kilos, green tea could be your saviour. Studies show it can help reduce body fat and boost your metabolism. William Gorman, the executive chairman of the Tea Council UK, says “Black or green tea without milk has no calories and adding milk adds just 13 calories per cup.”

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