Thursday, 1 April 2010

My Latest Obsession: Tea

Today I thought I’d talk about my latest passion obsession; tea. While I’ve been quite a fan of the beverage for some time, my interests has exploded recently. It’s one of the things that makes me incredibly happy at the moment, and it’s pretty good for me as well, so I thought I would talk about it for a while.

My family are quite big tea drinkers; they get through a good six or seven (big) pots a day. And that’s a conservative estimate. Sometimes I thin they might almost single handedly keep their chosen tea suppliers in business if they had to. I can’t quite remember when I first made the transition from ‘kiddy’ drinks like fruit squash up to the more mature and adult cup of tea, but it was a good few years ago now. In any case, I quickly matched my family’s thirst for tea.

Whenever I’m at home I’m the first to ask if it’s cup of tea time, the first to finish the cup and ask for another one. But until about 6 months ago most of my tea drinking experience was limited to bog standard supermarket blends with lots of milk. I’d experimented with lemon tea, green tea, herbal teas and slimming teas, but I always came back to the blended English tea.

I blame my Student’s Union for starting my current obsession with tea. One of their freebie bags at Fresher’s Fayre had a tea sampler in it. One of the teabags was a Rooibos or redbush. I really liked it, so I bought a box.

A couple of months later I was searching for free tea samples on the internet, because, well, I’m a poor student and can’t afford to buy a whole box to try a new kind if tea. I spoke to a few friends who also got some samples for me. Next thing I knew I was buying tea from Twinings by the crate load.

I now own many different varieties of tea; Lapsang Souchong, Lady Gray, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Rooibos, Honeybush, green tea, vanilla flavoured, rose flavoured, camomile and more besides.

The great thing about drinking so much tea is that it’s weaned me off sugary coffee, carbonated drinks and fruit juices. Tea is essentially calorie free, which means that my waistline is benefitting from my obsession. I very rarely drank carbonated drinks, but I would start every day with a large glass of fresh fruit juice and spend most of the rest of the day drinking coffee with two sugars in. Now I start the day with a large mug of Lady Gray, and to be perfectly honest, I feel better for it.

There’s a lot of contention and controversy over the health benefits of tea. I tend to take the claims that it can protect you against cancer with a large pinch of salt, and it would be nice if green tea could burn fat for you. I think if that truly was the case then all my family would be stick thin. What is generally accepted is that tea is packed full of antioxidants in varying levels depending on whether you’re drinking black, green or white tea. The antioxidants mop up free radicals in your body, and help your natural enzymes do their job properly. These free radicals have been blamed for all sorts of diseases so drinking tea could be very good for your health.

In any case, drinking tea is a great, low calorie way to get your recommended liquid level each day. And the advantage of my collection is I have so many varieties than I shouldn’t get bored. Boredom is the enemy when I comes to food and drink, because it means your start eating and drinking things that aren’t good for you, things that aren’t in your plan.

Captainraz’s guide to teas:

Lapsang Souchong: Very smokey flavoured tea. Definitely an acquired taste. Have to be in the right mood for this tea.

Lady Gray: light and refreshing with lots of bright citrus flavours. Not as heavy on the bergamot as her husband’s tea. Definitely an all day tea.

Redbush/Rooibos: Not actually made from the tea plant at all. Naturally sweet, a little bit smokey and completely caffeine free. More accessible than Lapsang and great as an iced tea.

Vanilla: From Twining’s international range. Good strong black tea with a vanilla taste that’s not overpowering. A good afternoon tea. The vanilla flavour gives it a sweetness so no sugar is needed.

Rose Garden: Got this free from Twinings. A very nice black tea delicately flavoured with rose petals. Very nice for relaxing.

Ceylon: Another light and refreshing cup of tea. One of my go to cups along with Lady Gray

Darjeeling: another refreshing cup. Not tried as much of this as some other teas. I should rectify that

Oolong: Somewhere between green tea and black tea. A light amber brew with a delicate but refreshing tastes.

White: Very delicate and almost flowery. Very easy to scald this tea. Water temperature needs to be about 80°C

Keemun: Very similar to oolong in my opinion. I really need to try more of those two.

Rooibos Vanilla and Strawberry: Much like the regular rooibos only fruity and sweet. From Twinings Calming range, and it really does calm.

Honeybush, Orange and Mandarin. Another tea from the moment of calm range, and these really do the job. Again not actually a tea, but a herbal brew. Naturally sweet with a good orange flavour. Tastes slightly of cinnamon even though there’s non in it.

Peppermint: sweet, minty and caffeine free. I find peppermint tea helps settle a gippy stomach.

Lipton’s Morocoo Tea: An interesting infusion of liquorice, cinnamon and mint flavours. Even Sam likes this one

Of course there are many more types of tea I’ve tried that aren’t on the list; and even more tea in the world that I haven’t tried. I do want to get my hands on Yunnan and Pu-Erh at some point, but that will have to wait until I have money (in abundance, Pu-Erh is really expensive).

As a diet aid, tea really has been indispensible for me. It’s a sugar free, low calorie, and means I don’t have to drink water all the time. It’s also full of antioxidants which may or may not have drastic health benefits.

In any case, tea in all its forms is a delicious beverage, that keeps me awake and refreshes my soul. And it does all this without adding to my waistline. Which is just fine by me.

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