Healthy Tea Challenge: The Bottle vs. The Brew

Boxing Gloves

The newswires have been all a flutter this week, reporting that you may not be getting healthy tea if your tea consumption comes in bottled form.

Last Monday, when the details of the research study were released, I watched the stream of tweets on my Twitter account fly by as tweeters warned their followers to be cautious of the troubles lurking in their bottled brew.

In all honesty, I really didn’t pay much attention to all the hubbub because I’ve never been one to drink tea with the expectation of receiving health benefits. I drink tea simply because I like it.

But, as the week progressed, I got curious.

I started by reading several online articles that detailed some of the major findings of the research study, but I wanted to view the research for myself.

So, I headed over to the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) web site where I found the original report by typing “tea” into the search bar.

Here are my thoughts about the results the scientists presented at the national ACS meeting, plus some of the original data from the report.

Let the battle of “The Bottle” and “The Brew” begin!

Healthy Tea Challenge Round 1:

Fancy Footwork

The Bottle: The researchers found evidence, that half of the bottled teas they sampled had extremely low levels of antioxidants or polyphenols. So low in fact, that they stated one would need to drink 20 bottles of the stuff to achieve the same health benefit as a single cup of home brewed tea.

But, hang on. There’s more.

I do want to point out that the researchers only sampled six bottles of tea. That means that three of those bottles had small amounts of polyphenols, or little to no health benefit. The other three had a healthy amount of antioxidants.

Here are the actual results: The six teas analyzed contained 81, 43, 40, 13, 4, and 3 milligrams (mg) of polyphenols per 16-ounce bottle.

The Brew: The average cup of home-brewed green or black tea contains about 50 to 150 mg of polyphenols.

Round One Results: As you can see from these results, more research is needed in order to firmly state that bottled teas contain little to no antioxidants. In fact, some bottled teas may well be just as healthy as a cup of steeped tea.

I think the title of the ACS article sums up the study rather nicely: Bottled tea beverages may contain fewer polyphenols than brewed tea. Note my emphasis on the word “may” because that is really the keyword here.

In my opinion, round one was just a lot of fancy footwork that is great for oohing and aahing the crowd, but leaves us wanting more.

Healthy Tea Challenge Round 2:

The Bottle Takes a Bruising

The Bottle: Another interesting piece of information that the scientists presented, was that some manufactures do mention the level of polyphenols on the bottle label.

However, this can be deceiving for there are no industry standards or governmental guidelines for calculating and listing the polyphenol content on the label. Therefore, the amount listed may possibly be incorrect.

In addition, the polyphenol level may be influenced by slight changes in the manufacturing process, such as the amount of tea used, the quality of the tea, as well as the brewing time and temperature.

The Brew: Similar to bottled tea, the processing of the leaf itself, take for example green tea verses black tea, can result in varying degrees of polyphenol content.

For instance, using boiling water and a longer steeping time tends to increase the amount of polyphenols in your teacup.

Round Two Results: Based on the labeling information alone, I would be most wary of any polyphenol claims on all processed consumable products, not only tea. That is until there are some stringent guidelines put in place for quantifying and labeling the amount of antioxidants in consumable products.

With that being said, The Bottle and The Brew have similar challenges when it comes to nailing down exact numbers for polyphenol content. In fact, it can’t be done. There are simply too many factors that can influence the final polyphenol count; from tea quality to water temperature.

This round goes to the The Brew for not using clever marketing gimmicks to trick its opponent.

Healthy Tea Challenge Round 3:

The Bottle Takes a Hit Right to the Kisser

The Bottle: In their presentation, the researchers also made a statement that bottled teas might contain substances other than tea. Substances, like sugar that health-conscious consumers would ideally want to avoid.

This begs the question whether bottled tea has any redeeming qualities other than taste and convenience for the average shopper.

Adding fuel to the fire, I do have to say that I’ve personally tasted some of these off-the-shelf teas from my local grocery store and they barely resemble tea in my opinion. They tend to taste like sugared water with flavoring. Although, there are some brands that do resemble “real tea.” However, they are usually not mainstream brands.

Overall, I would have to say that not all bottled teas are created equal.

While we’re on the topic of sugar and artificial sweeteners. As you may know from previous posts, I try to steer clear of artificial sweeteners, which this study didn’t touch on.

But, one does have to wonder if even a high polyphenol content can outweigh the potential harm we do by ingesting sugar substitutes, or even a high doses of sugar for that matter.

Both of this types of sweeteners, tend to be key ingredients in typical bottled teas.

The Brew: Unless we add it ourselves (e.g., sweetner) tea is tea. Enough said.

Round Three Results: The Bottle really takes a beating here, especially those bottles filled with potions with potentially harmful ingredients.

And The Winner Is…

I think it is fair to say that the surefire winner of the Healthy Tea Challenge is The Brew. Of course, with 5,000 years training, this contender has staying power.

However, I wouldn’t be too quick to underestimate The Bottle.

The Bottle may have a few bruises, but isn’t out for the count. And of course, with billions of dollars at stake, this challenger is likely to come back swinging.

Final Thoughts:

I think we are all looking for that magic something that will guarantee us a long and healthy life.

Ever since scientists discovered that antioxidants, including polyphenol, have potential health benefits, we’ve been running after the latest and greatest “antioxidant rich” product.

Yet, right under our noses lays a bounty of antioxidants. In our gardens, farmer’s markets and supermarket produce isles we can find all the antioxidants we need. And yes, they can be found in other plant-based products too like coco, olive oil, wine, and tea.

Tea can certainly be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, but we’ve got to make good decisions as consumers.

A bottled brew now and again can be a special treat. But if we are really serious about wanting “healthy tea” then perhaps we should stick with the good ‘ole home-brewed stuff and save our money.

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

Amy

Photo Credit: arriba – via Flickr CC Attribution License

[box] What are your thoughts about bottled tea?[/box]

My English Tea Store Order Arrived!

Tea Plantation

I just wanted to do a quick post because my first online order of loose leaf teas from the English Tea Store arrived today.

I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to tear open the box!

Inside I found my samples of Chinese and Estate teas.

Here’s the list:

  1. Jasmine with Flowers
  2. Keemun Panda
  3. Lapsang Souchong
  4. Pinhead Gunpowder
  5. Darjeeling Mim (Estate)
  6. Kambaa Estate (Estate)
  7. Oolong Orange Blossom (Estate)
  8. Nonsuch Estate (Estate)
  9. Formosa Oolong (Estate)
  10. Assam TGFOP (Estate)

I think I’ll start with #10 and drink my way down the list of teas. My plan is to do a full-fledged review for each tea sample.

Oh, I also purchased some T-Sacs, which is a brand name for paper tea filters made in Germany. I can’t wait to give them a try too!

Soon, I will no longer be a loose leaf tea virgin. I hope it will be worth the wait.

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: No

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

Amy

Photo Credit: Jakob Montrasio – via Flickr CC Attribution License

[box] Do you remember when you lost your loose leaf tea virginity?[/box]

Oolong Tea Review: Stash Coconut Mango Wuyi Oolong

Stash Coconut Mango Wuyi Oolong

Company/Brand Name: Stash

Name: Coconut Mango Wuyi Oolong

Category: Oolong Tea, Flavored

Form: Tea Bag (Paper)

Origin of the Leaf: Fujian, China

The Leaves: Not applicable because the leaves are finely ground and hidden inside the typical tea bag exterior

Additions: Orange Peel, Pineapple, Coconut Flavor, Mango Flavor

Flavor: A sweet and fruity blend with coconut leading the way

Overall: A taste of the tropics will greet you when sipping this tea. I hope you love coconut! Oh, and don’t forget to bring a flower lei with you!

Tea Review:

The aroma of this brew is simply beguiling. A delightful scent of sweet coconut breezes through the air, reminding me of tropical fruit and suntan lotion.

The first sip is a bit weak, especially after experiencing such a strong fragrance from the steeping tea leaves. But, the more sips I take, the more prominent the taste becomes.

Even though orange peel is second on the ingredients list, I really didn’t taste orange in my cup. Coconut is the primary flavor and steals the show.

To round off the overall flavor, there is a delightful creaminess to this oolong tea that creates a nearly perfect finish.

This tea is a great pick-me-up when feeling a bit tired. Visions of tall palm trees, white sandy beaches, and bare feet liberated from synthetic pantyhose, take me away for a moment to some exotic getaway.

Packaging:

This oolong tea comes in a cardboard box and each individual tea bag is encased in a foil packet.

Preparation Tips:

The brewing directions on the box state: “To savor the full flavor of our teas, bring fresh water to a rolling boil. Pour hot water directly over the tea bag in a pre-heated pot or cup. Brew 3-5 minutes or to desired taste.”

I found that I preferred to use water just under the boiling point when steeping this tea, it tended to enhance the flavor.

Additional Notes:

Dessert Tea – This tea would make a wonderful dessert tea because of its sweet-coconut flavor.

Iced Tea – The flavor seems to really to express itself as the brew cools. In fact, I tried this tea chilled and the flavor was almost as intense as the initial aroma.

I Want This Tea!

If you’d like to purchase this tea from Amazon.com just click the link below. Enjoy!

Coconut Mango Wuyi Oolong

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: Yes

Photo Credit: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

 

Green Tea Review: Lipton Green Tea Superfruit White Mangosteen and Peach

Lipton Green Tea Superfruit

Company/Brand Name: Lipton

Name: Green Tea Superfruit White Mangosteen and Peach

Category: Green Tea, Flavored

Form: Tea Bag (Paper)

Origin of the Leaf: Unknown

The Leaves: Not applicable because the leaves are finely ground and hidden inside the typical tea bag exterior

Additions: Natural Flavor, Soy Lecithin, Sunflower Lecithin, Peach Juice Solids, Concentrated Mangosteen Juice

Flavor: A sweet-fruity tea, with just a touch of bitter, vegetal taste

Overall: I have to admit, that I haven’t had the best taste experiences when it comes to Lipton tea. But, when a friend told me how much she liked this tea and gave me a sample, I thought what the heck; I’ll give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised. I actually liked the flavor of this green tea, especially when it is iced, and ended up purchasing a box for myself.

Tea Review:

Lipton Green Tea Superfruit Iced

As the tea brewed, it filled my kitchen with a fruity-sweet bouquet; this increased my expectation for a positive taste encounter.

I was not disappointed; the first sip is flavorful and sweet. I found the fruitiness to be slightly “fakey” tasting, but not so much as to ruin the overall flavor.

I wasn’t able to discern the flavors of mangosteen or peach in my cup.

Of course, I’ve never tried a mangosteen fruit, so I have nothing to compare it to. However, I do know what peach tastes like. Occasionally, a somewhat peachy flavor did make an appearance, but it was quite elusive and certainly not a strong contender in my brew.

Then, to round out the cup, there is a hint of vegetal, or “green tea” taste, which at times even takes on a slight maltiness.

Packaging:

Lipton Green Tea Superfruit Packaging

The Lipton Green Tea Superfruit comes in a colorful rectangular box which contains 20 tea bags. Each tea bag is individually wrapped in a paper envelope.

Preparation Tips:

The package directions say to: “Bring cold water to a boil and pour over tea bag. Brew 1 to 1 ½ minutes or to desired strength.” However, I found that if I let the water cool to about 170 to 180F and then steep the tea bag for about 2 minutes, I had a better tasting brew.

Additional Notes:

Iced Tea – When I sampled this tea over ice, it took on a very pleasing malty taste, like beer. I quite enjoyed the Green Tea Superfruit White Mangosteen and Peach chilled much more so than when drinking it hot.

I Want This Tea!

If you’d like to purchase this tea from Amazon.com just click the link below. Enjoy!

Green Tea Superfruit White Mangosteen and Peach

Vendor Provided Sample: No

Affiliate Links: Yes

Photo Credit: A Girl With Tea

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea.

 

Tea Stain Removal: How To Conceal A Dirty Little Secret

© Andrea Berger – Fotolia.com

I’ve got a dirty little secret. Do you want to know what it is? I thought you might.

Well, lean in a little closer and I’ll tell you what it is: I reuse my dirty teacups.

Yep, I’m talking about taking a grimy cup I used for tea earlier that day, or even the night before and reusing it for more tea. In fact, I sometimes don’t even rinse it out first.

Now, before you start making all kinds of judgments about my character and personal hygiene habits, let me tell you that I have a perfectly good explanation. Okay. Okay. You got me, I’m just lazy.  And in all honesty, the girl in me is like, “Eww! You did not just do that!”

But, then the practical side of me counters with, “Hey, I’m trying to conserve water here, so bugger off.”

I’ve Tried Everything to Remove the Tea Stains:

All excuses aside, the reality is that I have a cupboard filled with terribly tea-stained dishware.

I’ve tried scrubbing my cups with a dish brush. It doesn’t work, just leaves white streaks through the tea stain.

I’ve tried using a scouring pad. It works, but requires a lot, and I mean a lot, of elbow grease.

Dirty Teacup

And as a last resort, I’ve pulled out the good ‘ole Brillo pad. It works, but these little suckers make a fine mess and frankly, they’re pricey.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my money on more tea, rather than over-priced steel wool impregnated with blue soap.

Could It Really Be That Simple?

Then one day whilst pondering my dilemma, I opened the kitchen cabinet and a familiar gold colored box caught my eye.Could it really be that simple?” I asked myself.

Understandably, I was skeptical. Because if my tea stains where so stubborn as to require a scrubbing of steel wool to remove them, how was this simple white powder going to do the trick?

Yet my fear of having to abandon my light colored mug collection for a more depressing Goth assortment, led me to give my new discovery a chance.

And you know what? That little golden box’s contents worked like a charm. I could barely believe my eyes. With very little effort, I had teacups sparkling as if they were new.

Do you want to know how I was effectively able to conceal my dirty little secret? If so, here is my hush-hush tea stain removal secret. Are you ready? It’s baking soda!

And the great news is that this white powdered dynamo, not only made my teacups shine like a bedazzled t-shirt glimmering in the summer sun, but it’s eco-friendly too!

Here is exactly what I did to make my treasured tea mugs come back to life.

How to Remove those Stubborn Tea Stains:

Clean Teacup

1. Rinse out the cup with water
2. Place about a half tablespoon of baking soda
in the cup; may need a little more for really stubborn stains
3. Wet a paper towel just until damp (Warning: Don’t use your favorite dish cloth for this because some of the tea will be transferred to the cloth and then you’ll have a whole different tea stain removal problem!)
4. Over the sink, so as not to get baking soda everywhere, place the damp paper towel in the cup  and swirl around the baking soda until the stain is gone. You shouldn’t need to use too much elbow grease here, just let the baking soda do the work for you.
5. Once the stain appears to be wiped away, simply rinse and dry.

Well, that’s it! See how easy that was.

Now no one will be the wiser if you have a dirty little secret like mine 🙂

Vendor Provided Sample: NA

Affiliate Links: Yes

Additional Photo Credits: A Girl With Tea (before/after pics)

This is “a girl with tea” signing off once again.

Remember to live, laugh, love and drink plenty of tea (and not to take anything too seriously).

 

 

P.S. If you’d like to purchase baking soda in bulk, you might want to check-out Amazon.com

What Is Your Tea Story?

MzScarlett – via Flickr CC Attribution License

I can’t remember when I first started drinking tea…

Tea Memories:

Perhaps it started in my teen-age years. My mom would keep a jar of instant, unsweetened tea in the cupboard for warm summer days. Sometimes, when desperate and out of soda, I would screw off the lid on the instant tea jar and make myself a glass of iced-tea. Knowing me, I probably added a ton of sugar to my drink! I had a big sweet-tooth back then, as I do today.

When I went away to college, I found myself drinking instant tea with flavoring like lemon, raspberry and peach. Because I was more weight conscious in college, I went for the artificial sweeteners.

My next memory of tea is when I attended grad school down south—Arkansas to be exact—where sweet tea is a staple beverage on restaurant menus.

When ordering iced tea in a restaurant I learned to always add “unsweetened” to my request; because in the South, simply asking for tea means you want sweet tea. The funny thing is, that once my unsweetened iced-tea was brought to the table, I would add two packets of Sweet-N-Low! Boy, I was a weird-o!

My next clear tea memory is when I was working at a university. My boss, at the time, introduced me to an interesting twist on iced-tea. She would take whatever tea bags she had on hand, mainly a lot of fruit teas, and she would brew them all together. The resulting concoction was quite yummy and no artificial sweeteners required.

My walk down memory lane has made me realize that: Not only have I gone from instant tea to tea bags but, I’ve also given up soda and coffee along the way.

Giving Up Soda and Coffee:

All my life, until the last 6 years, I had been a huge pop drinker. I was literally drinking gallons of diet soda per week. Then one day, I decided to stop. I was concerned about the consequences of continuing to load my body with chemicals.

At this time I decided give up coffee too and only drink tea or water.

I found it pretty easy to give up coffee, because I had never been a big coffee drinker. I didn’t even own a coffee machine. If I was in the mood for coffee, I would drink it at the office or order it at the local coffee shop. Plus, coffee started to make me feel anxious and jittery. It seemed like a no-brainer to just stop drinking the stuff. Not to mention, I had discoverd Tazo Awake tea. This tea was a welcome replacement for coffee.

It was a little harder to give up soda because I had been drinking it for so many years. I would say that it took me a good year to wean myself off of the diet pop.

All this time, I was drinking a limited selection of tea bags but, they did help me kick my soda and coffee habits!

Next Steps:

As I had mentioned above, for the past six years my main source of liquid intake has been water or tea. Yet, I’ve never ventured outside the tea bag.

My Limited Tea Drinking Experience

The picture to your right is an example of my limited range of tea drinking experiences. As you can see by the sad assortment of tea packets, I am no tea connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination!

Now it’s time to take the next step. Get out of my comfort zone of drinking the same off-the-shelf brands of tea and start exploring the wide range of exotic loose teas available.

Just from the little bit of time I’ve spent trolling the internet for anything tea related, I’ve discovered that the world of tea is huge, a bit overwhelming in fact.

Therefore, I plan to take this journey slow and easy. I want to relish each moment and each sip.

If you’ve never tried tea or would like to investigate different types of teas, I hope you’ll join me.

Perhaps we’ll discover something pretty cool together along the way.

This is “a girl with tea” signing off for now. Wishing you peace and happiness

Amy

P.S. Thanks for reading my first blog post! I’m looking forward to reading your comments, and commenting back.

Photo Credit: MzScarlett – via Flickr CC Attribution License and A Girl With Tea (tea packets)

What is your tea story? When did you have your first tea drinking experience? What do you love about tea? What types of teas have you always wanted to try?