Warm Up with a Hot Cup of Tea

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With the blustery winter weather, a hot cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa is a favorite way to stay warm. America's second favorite beverage, aside from water is tea. January is also hot tea month. Tea whether it is black, green, white, or oolong, is a low calorie beverage choice with potential health benefits from the plant-based flavonoids it produces.

Potential Health Benefits

Flavonoids are antioxidants that protect against free radicals that damage cells in the body. Research finds steeping tea for at least three minutes will bring out the strongest boost of flavonoids. Although there is not enough definite and sound research based evidence supporting a daily tea recommendation for disease prevention, studies have found avid tea drinkers who consumed 4-6 cups a day may be at a reduced risk of skin, gastric, or esophageal cancer. Research has also found sipping tea may offer protection against stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Feeling stressed out? Some research suggests the combination of caffeine and L-theanine in tea can improve brain performance, and reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Tea may also be beneficial for dental health. Tea leaves absorb fluoride from the soil and rain water. The older the tea leaves the higher amount of fluoride and the lower amount of antioxidants. Fluoride can help fight bacteria, reduce the occurrence of cavities, and strengthen tooth enamel.

Where does tea come from?

Black, white, oolong, and green tea comes from the same Camellia sinensis plant. The four popular types of tea all originate from the same plant, but differ based on how the leaves are prepared. Black tea is the most processed leaves and white tea is the least processed. Black tea leaves are dried out and fully fermented (oxidized), oolong tea leaves are dried out and partially fermented, green tea leaves are dried out but not fermented, and white tea leaves are not dried out or fermented.

Caffeine & Tea

Coffee is the world's main source of caffeine with an 8-ounce cup containing 60-120 milligram. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines suggest moderate coffee intake and limiting caffeine to 400 mg/day can be integrated into a healthy lifestyle. Those who do not consume caffeinated beverages are not encouraged to start. Tea generally contains about half the amount of caffeine in comparison with coffee. The amount of caffeine in tea is based on the type of leaf and how it is prepared. A larger leaf steeped in hot water for a longer period will have a higher amount of caffeine than a smaller leaf steeped in cold water for a shorter amount of time. See the table below for the average amount of caffeine per 8 ounces of tea.

Type of Tea

Average Caffeine Per 8 oz. Cup

Black

42-79 mg.

Green

9-63 mg.

The amount of caffeine in oolong tea is similar to green tea leaves and  since white tea is typically younger tea leaves, the amount of caffeine in white tea is higher than green tea. Herbal teas typically do not contain caffeine and decaffeinated tea has, on average, less than 12 mg. caffeine per serving.

Liven Up Your Cup

Not a fan of straight black or green tea? Try adding a hint of flavor with fresh mint leaves, a slice of lemon, lime, or orange juice. Other ingredients to add an extra kick to your tea is utilizing spices! Add a dash of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, or pepper. Add creaminess to tea with a splash of milk. No sound evidence suggests adding milk inactivates the powerful antioxidants in tea. Below is a unique blueberry tea recipe, served hot or cold, for a sweetness boost and additional antioxidant power from the blueberries.Warm up this month and celebrate hot tea month with a delicious cup of tea.

Blueberry Tea

Makes 2 cups

2 Green tea bags

2 cups boiling water

¼ c. blueberry syrup mixture (see below)

Blueberry Syrup Mix

Makes ½ cup

1 cup fresh blueberries

½ cup white granulated sugar

1 cup water

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Directions

  1. Prepare the blueberry syrup mixture by combining water in sugar in a medium saucepan until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Rinse blueberries, and add to berries to sugar-water mixture in saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and pour blueberry mixture through a sieve or colander with a bowl underneath to separate juice from pulp. Press out as much juice as possible through colander. Toss pulp.
  4. Measure out ¼ cup of juice and store the remainder in a closed container in the refrigerator.
  5. Boil two cups of water. Remove from heat and add ¼ cup of blueberry syrup mixture with two green tea bags. Steep 15 minutes.
  6. Remove tea bags and serve hot or cold.

*Tip:

Add remainder of blueberry syrup to tea as desired. 1 tsp. per cup of tea is suggested for a touch of sweetness.

Nutrition Facts per cup: 30 calories, 10 mg. sodium, 9 g. total carbohydrates, 45 mg. caffeine


Accidentally Spill Your Tea? University of Illinois Extension has a solution! Check it out: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/stain/staindetail.cfm?ID=55

Sources:

"2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines: Answers to Your Questions."Choose MyPlate. USDA, 07 Jan. 2016.

Chin JM, Merves ML, Goldberger BA, Sampson-Cone A, Cone EJ. Caffeine content of brewed teas. J Anal Toxicol. 2008;32(8):702-704

Duyff, Roberta Larson.American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 4th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2012.

The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial
Andrew Steptoe, E. Leigh Gibson, Raisa Vounonvirta, Emily D. Williams, Mark Hamer, Jane A. Rycroft, Jorge D. Erusalimsky and Jane Wardle PsychopharmacologyDOI 10.1007/s00213-006-0573-2

Higdon, Jane. "Tea."Linus Pauling Institute. Oregon State University, 03 Jan. 2017.