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The An(tea)dote

While we are enjoying warmer weather here in the Southern Hemisphere, it turns out that January is #HotTeaMonth. But the heat doesn’t put us off this scrumptious brew – on the contrary, South Africans will brew it cold if we have to! In fact, some of us prefer an iced tea drink no matter the weather: refreshment at its purest, barring water. Anyway, thus began our inves-tea-gation which is when we discovered that tea actually holds the key to a healthier lifestyle. And of course, sharing knowledge is what we do best… so please enjoy some of our findings below. 

Figure 1: "red liquid with ice and plant" by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

Let's start with the heart

Recent studies have shown that coffee might not be as problematic as experts once thought. Nevertheless, research on tea and heart health is growing and some studies have found that there can be as much as a 20 percent reduction in heart attack risk among people who drink up to three cups of regular green tea per day. Light and aromatic tea can lower LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides, which could explain tea's association with reduced risk of death from heart disease and even stroke. The data remains limited but evidence is growing and experts confirm that a few cups a day (everything in moderation) may indeed improve your cardiovascular health.

Tea and your teeth

Say, “Cheese!” or say, “Teas!” because Japanese researchers assert that drinking tea may decrease tooth loss. The pH in your mouth changes when you drink tea which then prevents cavities from forming. In addition, tea does not erode the enamel on your teeth. And tea remains a decent alternative to soft drinks when it comes to your oral (and overall) health!

A kick with less caffeine

Speaking of beverage alternatives, herbal tea blends contain no caffeine at all and more traditional teas tend to have about 50 percent less caffeine than the amount found in coffees. It is advisable to learn more about the characteristics of the different types of teas so that if you start drinking them for their health benefits, you do so with purpose. For instance there is a lot of information out there including highly-acclaimed books on the sorts of teas that one finds, and what they do to your body.  Culinary Herbs & Spices of the World by Ben-Erik van Wyk is a comprehensive guide to natural flavourings from all over the globe which lists the different types of tea that one finds: green tea (or unfermented), oolong tea (which is semi-fermented) and black tea (this tea is fully fermented). Sample them all, research their perks, and drink to cure! 

Figure 2: By Ieva Vizule on Unsplash

Some teas that are specifically considered to be coffee substitutes, like chicory root tea and even chai, taste a lot like coffee and are known to reduce stress and improve gut health – it’s a natural probiotic. This tea tends to give you that kick you need but without caffeine and all its negative side-effects.  

Rooibos is boss

Rooibos tea has plant compounds with cancer-fighting properties. Flavourful and, again, caffeine-free, this tea made with leaves from a Aspalathus linearis shrub grown on South Africa’s western coast, is full of antioxidants and even has anti-diabetic effects.  Rooibos tea contains only about 2 to 4 calories meaning you can enjoy this beverage without packing on any pounds – or accumulating extra kilos – assuming you don’t add too much sweetener (natural or not).  

Lastly, lavender

Margaret Roberts, South Africa’s beloved doyenne of herbs, had “over 300 lavender varieties”, explains her daughter Sandy Roberts.  She grew so much lavender that she ended up creating two of her own Lavender varieties at the Herbal Centre in De Wildt. These are especially suited for the hot South African climate, they flower all year – growing into large bushes that attract bees and butterflies by the dozen – and, if you’re searching, both are simply labelled Margaret Roberts.  

Importantly, tea-lovers will be pleased to learn that lavender tea is used “to soothe stress and cure insomnia,” says Sandy, “not to mention the delicious flavour that lavender adds to baked goods like shortbread – which in turn pairs perfectly with your cup of lavender tea!”  For lavender recipes, consult Roberts’, The Lavender Book and enjoy her ideas, hints and tips detailing all things lavender.  

Figure 3: "person holding flowers" by rocknwool on Unsplash

In her book, Healing Foods, Roberts also summarises that green and black tea contain calcium, magnesium, iron and fluoride;  green tea inhibits growth of cancer cells – particularly breast and prostate cancer – and weak, black tea eases diarrhoea, upset tummies and rumbling indigestion. Ultimately all the sources seem to point towards the same thing: that tea really is the general antidote. 

In sunshine or rain, let tea tackle some of your pain this January and beyond. Besides, New Year is the ideal time to be resolute about making better choices for your body and your overall well-being. Sandy Roberts agrees that you should “start the year with positivi[-tea], inspiration, health, fragrance, flavour and beauty”.  #HotTeaMonth has us all on a natural high and with our pinkies in the air, we feel posh to boot!   


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