Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Green Tea and Your Metabolism

This morning as I sat enjoying my grits with garlic and vegan sausage (hey, I AM from the south, y'all!) and sipping my China Green Tips tea, I came across a brief article about revving up the metabolism and a few ways to achieve this. The article listed about six easy ways to do this, mostly tweaking your diet and, of course, exercise. However it was the part about caffeine that caught my attention.

Mostly about coffee, the article, in a wee mention in that section, casually mentioned that if one was not fond of coffee, a good substitute was green tea. The salient point was this: while green tea has about one-third the caffeine as coffee, other metabolically active substances, called catechins, compound the actions of the caffeine. "Caffeine activates metabolic pathways that release stored body fat from your fat cells into your bloodstream," says Paul Arciero, PhD.

To get the most benefit and the strongest fat burning effects from the caffeine in your green tea, drink when your body doesn't have much caffeine in its system, and without milk or sugar added (they negate the effects). Drink one cup in the morning and one in the afternoon, to get separate spikes. Don't overdo it; your body can build a tolerance after too many cups, and thwarts the calorie burning benefits.

So a nice hot cuppa in the morning, and then another later in the day (afternoon tea, anyone?) will not only soothe your soul, but will additionally help you rev up your metabolism! Win-win!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Means Time To Drink More Tea!

Thank goodness fall has arrived! This summer may have been better than last year, but it was still pretty hot here. We have a few more days of heat yet to come, but knowing that cooler temps are just around the corner makes everything better!

We celebrated the fall equinox with some light fare - salad greens over pumpkin pie spiced cornbread croutons, fruit soup and a cranberry/raspberry sorbet. If you are interested, you can find those recipes here. But more than good food, fall means more hot tea drinking! Summers require iced tea. Fall, winter and spring all cry out for curling up with a cup of hot tea and a good book. In fact, hubby and I were out shopping today and I bought two brand new teas that I can't wait to brew! A chocolate ginger and a hazelnut chai.

Today, however, I began my fall equinox morning with a cup of spiced apple chai in a farm themed mug. Seemed appropriate!

There are so many types of tea out there, and often I get asked to explain the differences. I'll try to explain some of it.

Black tea - mature and fully fermented. Has the highest caffeine content
Oolong tea - fermented half as long as black. Rests in between black and green, caffeine wise.
Green tea - dried, but not fermented. Half the caffeine of black.
White tea - dried but not heated or fermented. Light and delicate and low in caffeine.

Herbal - not really a tea. It's true!

Black, oolong, green and white tea all come from the same plant - Camellia sinensis. When it is picked and how it is treated determines if it is black, oolong, etc. Tea contains catechins, a type of antioxidant.Catechins are highest in concentration in white and green teas, while black tea has substantially fewer due to its oxidative preparation. However, research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has suggested the levels of antioxidants in green and black tea do not differ greatly.

Herbal teas come from flowers and fruits, but not the Camellia tea plant. They typically do not contain any caffeine.

So what the heck is chai tea? Usually a black, but now can be found in green, white and red teas, that is spiced. The most common spices are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper. You may have heard of a chai latte? That's chai tea with milk. I don't care for it myself, but a lot of people do.

And now I've thrown in red tea. What is red tea? It comes from another plant entirely, and contains no caffeine. It is also known as rooibos and redbush tea.

Brewing time can make a difference in how much caffeine you get, as well. A two minute difference can double the amount of caffeine. Brew whites for a shorter period than greens, brew greens for a shorter time than oolong, brew oolongs for a shorter time than blacks - otherwise the tea can develop what I call a *bite* and for some people, that is unpleasant. If you've encountered someone who didn't like the taste of tea, this could be the reason. Herbal teas can brew as long as you like.

Now, go find a new tea to try!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cucumber and Tea - for the face!

The past month has been quite a roller coaster in my house. I'm just so glad things have begun to level off. And I got a new car! Hey, call me shallow, but this car is fun! Hubby learned that yelling at voice activated programs doesn't work. The laughter that came from that revelation was a balm on all the craziness.

Today I was doing my daily reading (I have a handful books I make a point to read from every day this year) and I came across this rinse for the face. It helps to reduce puffiness or blotchiness and just sounds so divine. I plan to whip some up.

Cucumber and Tea Rinse

1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/4 c. hot green tea
1/4 c. hot chamomile tea

Puree the cucumber and strain out the juice. Mix the cucumber juice with the teas and refrigerate for at least half an hour. Pat your face with this cooling mixture, then rinse with cool water. Pat your face dry.

Feel better?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

National Blueberry Month

There is something delectable about blueberries. Small, portable, fit well in the palm of your hand. Perfect for popping into your mouth. No peeling, no cutting, just washing first. I love those little blue gems! So why aren't you celebrating National Blueberry Month?

It is no wonder, then, that blueberry teas are my favorite. I have several varieties. Like this blueberry green tea, for instance.

Blueberries are loaded with Vitamin C and fiber, are a good source of manganese and contain antioxidants. A win all around! I am sipping my delightful blueberry tea right now while I indulge myself with a delicious blueberry melon salad.

Join me?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Have Some Tea and a Smile!

It is very easy to smile when you are drinking a chocolate mint black tea from a whimsical mug!

Even more to smile about when you consider research from the University of Illinois at Chicago states that polyphenols in tea reduce levels of cavity causing acids and prevent plaque from sticking to your teeth and gums. Polyphenols are what's known as *super antioxidants*. Some other benefits of those beautiful tea polyphenols include protection against cancer and heart disease. John H. Weisburger, PhD, of the American Health Foundation has said that five cups of tea has the antioxidant equivalence of two servings of vegetables.

As a vegan, of course, I don't recommend replacing your veggies with tea, but instead having both! Talk about awesome!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tea and Tranquility

As I sat sipping my Lotus tea - a green tea with lotus flowers - I was admiring my tea mug. It is Degas' Woman in a Bath Sponging Her Leg. I was thinking how very much I enjoy not only taking long, hot, leisurely baths, but that it seems to be the perfect place for me to meditate.

I discovered that many people who drink tea also meditate. Considering how peaceful and soothing sipping a delicious hot cup of tea can be, it seems a logical connection. Do they go hand in hand? Well, yes, but that doesn't mean everyone who drinks tea also meditates (but they should!) I have difficulty imagining a stodgy upper crust Brit sitting in a lotus position chanting om. Actually, the very image makes me giggle.

But back to meditating and tea.

I've read how some who do meditate and drink tea find the process of making tea after meditating another meditation in itself. I am reminded of the rice washing meditation that many Zen Buddhists practice. "When you wash the rice, wash the rice," is the saying, which tells us to be mindful in all we do, to be present to the moment in our daily actions, and not letting our mind wander all over the place. This makes sense when you consider how difficult it is for many to meditate. They suffer from what is called "monkey mind", the problem with trying to quiet the mind and being bombarded with a variety of distracting thoughts.

Many tea drinkers have also noted that they seem to be able to detect flavors better in their tea after meditating. Many people simply load their tea with sugar and lemon and don't even realize the subleties they are missing out on. Perhaps a bit of mindfulness is in order. Close your eyes and breathe in the scent of your tea. Take a sip of your tea and don't immediately swallow, but let it sit on your tongue. Let it flow over your tongue and around your teeth. Feel the warmth, try to pick out the different flavors. Swallow and wait a moment before your next sip. Continue to feel the warmth and decide if there are any other flavors you can now detect that you didn't notice until after you swallowed. Open your eyes and consider what just happened. Repeat. Did you become more aware of the treat you have allowed yourself? I bet you did.

Now try doing that with the food you eat and open yourself up to a whole new world! Welcome to mindful meditation.

Did you get that? You just meditated and didn't even realize it. By focusing on that sip of tea, you were present only to that experience. And you didn't even have to get into a painful sitting position.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tea, with Cucumbers

I admit it, I haven't been drinking tea much. Not even my beloved ice tea. It's just been so hot outside, I've been drinking mostly water. Yes, yes, very good for me, but I miss my tea. That round of deprivation has ended. I brewed a pot of tea this morning and sat down with a nice cuppa and read.

As I sipped my white tea, blended with cucumber (yes, cucumber!) and lime peel, I thought about, well, what else, cucumber tea sandwiches.

It was Anna Maria Stanhope, seventh Duchess of Bedford, that began the tradition of afternoon tea. It was designed to be a light meal to bridge the gap between luncheon and dinner, which wasn't served until 8 P.M. Sandwiches were intended to be small and just enough filling to prevent overindulgence in the sweet teatime treats, like scones and other pastries.

But cucumber? In a sandwich? According to Wikipedia:

"Cucumber sandwiches contain little protein and so are generally not considered sustaining enough to take a place at a full meal. This is deliberate; cucumber sandwiches have historically been associated with the Victorian era upper classes of the United Kingdom, whose members were largely at leisure and who could therefore, afford to consume foods with little nutritive value. Cucumber sandwiches formed an integral part of the stereotypical afternoon tea affair. (By contrast, people of the era's lower working classes were thought to prefer a coarser but more satisfying protein-filled sandwich, in a "meat tea" that might substitute for supper.)

Some writers have attempted to draw out an association between the daintiness of the sandwich and the perceived effeteness of the British aristocracy. Cucumber sandwiches are often used as a kind of shorthand in novels and films to identify upper class people, occasionally in a derogatory manner. In the first act of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest (1895), cucumber sandwiches that have expressly been ordered and prepared for Lady Bracknell's expected visit are all voraciously eaten beforehand by her nephew and host, Algernon Moncrieff; consequently he is forced to tell a little lie, with his butler's connivance: namely that "there were no cucumbers in the market this morning... not even for ready money". In addition, the sandwiches were once considered appropriate delicacies to offer to visiting clergy, in times when such visits were still a common feature of English middle class life.

The popularity of the cucumber sandwich reached its upper-class zenith in the Edwardian era, when cheap labor and plentiful coal enabled cucumbers to be produced in hotbeds under glass through most of the year. With the declining popularity of tea as a meal in the United Kingdom, there was a corresponding decline in the popularity of cucumber sandwiches, but they are still frequently served at teas, luncheons, and gatherings. They are now increasingly popular in the UK due to the hotter and longer summers, and the range of variants of accompaniments from take-away sources (e.g. supermarkets) is large; hence they are a popular lunchtime snack for workers. Most English cricket clubs supply malt vinegar and ground pepper to dash inside the sandwich, and this is the simplest form commonly used in England."

Okay, so that explains how cucumbers came to used in dainty, little tea sandwiches.

I have several tea sandwich recipes, a handful that involve cucumbers. I will be making several of them in the next coming days, and will share the recipes and my thoughts on them.

Until then, happy sipping!

Monday, June 11, 2012

June is National Iced Tea Month

Now how awesome is that? An entire month dedicated to the drinking of such a thirst quenching - and good for you! - beverage!

Growing up in the south, tea was pretty much a staple, and the sweeter the better. We used to tease my sister when she made the tea about how much sugar she added. Would you like a little tea with your sugar, dear? Add a squeeze of lemon and you could hear the contented sighs.

Well, I still live in the sort-of-south, and I still drink plenty of iced tea. Just no longer sweetened. It's weird, but I always lightly sweeten a cup of hot tea, but I prefer my iced tea unsweetened.

Each morning I make a pot of tea. Into my mug, along with the delicious flavored teas I prefer, I add a teaspoon of stevia. I sit back, close my eyes and sip, savoring the taste and smell of whatever tea I chose for that morning. A piece of toast or some other savory type breakfast dish and I can face the day. Never anything sweet to eat with my tea.

When I am done enjoying the first cuppa, I do something some might consider odd. I pour the leftover tea from the pot into a pitcher and fill the rest of the pitcher up with filtered water. Then for the rest of the day, I pour this into a glass filled with ice and continue to enjoy my tea, this time as an unsweetened iced tea!

Honestly, I had never considered doing this before, and lamented how there would be days I found myself pouring out half a pot of tea after it had gotten cold (and I'm not hip on microwaving it to warm it up!) What a waste, I would think! Then one day I hit upon the idea of just adding it to a pitcher with more water and voila! Flavored iced tea was born. Okay, flavored iced teas are not original, but why I never considered doing this before I have no idea. I've consumed flavored iced teas at restaurants and thought nothing about it. At home, however, I would always fall back on the traditional orange pekoe bags to make the iced tea I grew up with.

Now I get to enjoy my tea all day long and no longer cringe watching a favorite morning drink swirl down the drain, wasted.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Morning Detox

I recently started a new little morning ritual - that of drinking detox teas. I realized I had five different types of detox teas, and in a rare lightbulb moment, figured what the heck? I could sip a different one each week day.

Do I think these store bought pre-packaged teas are ridding my body of bad things? Uncertain. What I do know is they have a pleasant taste, do me no harm, may actually be heathful, and seem a nice way to start the day.

The one I am drinking today, for example, is a green tea with lime, fennel, cumin, turmeric, rosemary, oregano and coriander (cilantro for you Texans!). Most detox teas tend more toward the herbal side, so this one is decidedly different in that respect.

So I sit today on my bed, reading, sipping, and feeling the sweet purr of my baby kitty on my lap as she naps. Later today I will finish up the cross stitch piece I am working on and start a new one. This new piece I'm about to start is tea related. Go figure.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tea and Bone (China)

My daughter knows me so well. For my birthday last week she bought me a bottle of lotion in my absolutely favorite scent - patchouli - and a beautiful bone china tea mug that so exemplifies who I am.

I am sitting here loving the mug and enjoying a green tea with kiwi and pear. And what would go so well with this tea but a lovely fruit salad to start my day.

Fruit Salad

1/2 cantaloupe in 1/2-inch chunks
One kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 c. red seedless grapes
Zest of one small lime and 1 t. its juice
1 T. fresh mint leaves, minced
1 T. agave nectar
2 sprigs mint

Place cantaloupe, kiwi and grapes in bowl. Sprinkle lime zest, lime juice, and mint leaves over fruit and toss well. Add agave nectar. Divide into servings bowls and top with mint sprigs.

And speaking of bone china, I was reading today how drinking tea may help me keep strong bones. A report in the Archives of Internal Medicine stated how study participants who consumed one cup of tea - black, green or oolong - a week for at least ten years had higher bone density in all areas of the body than those who rarely drank tea. It is believed that the compounds in tea leaves, like fluoride and phytoestrogens, provide the beneficial bone boost.

One cup? A week? Oh my. With as much tea as I drink I think I'd be more like Wolverine and his adamantium skeleton! Probably not. But it is nice to know that not only is drinking tea a sublime experience, it is also a healthy one!

Okay, so it's not Wolverine, but Hugh Jackman, and he's drinking bottled (yuck!) tea. But it's Hugh Jackman! And he's drinking tea!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Zen and Peace, All Together Now!

I am singular in my family, in that I do not like coffee. Not just the taste; I can't even stand the smell. My husband laughs at me because every time he opens a new container of coffee, he can count on me coming into the kitchen to ask what is burning. Really. It's weird, but that's how my nose and brain always interpret it.

And I am surrounded by coffee snobs.

My husband is totally okay with nearly any brand of coffee, but my children refuse to drink anything that is not a superior coffee. Don't even ask me what that means, I have no clue.

So here I am, me, myself and I, an avid tea drinker. Hot, iced, black, green, white, herbal, I love it all. I simply cannot enter a grocery store without at some point walking down the tea aisle to see if there is anything new. God help me if there is, because I will buy it. I'm like a kid in a candy store.

I don't know when I began collecting tea mugs. Dainty cups and saucers are all well and good (and I have a few of those!), but a good sturdy mug tends to hold more. Maybe that's why I prefer them. I see mugs in a shop, I head straight for them. But not just any will do. They have to speak to me. I'm sad if one breaks, because I'm certain I won't be able to replace it, easily or at all. I have taken to gluing those sad, injured mugs back together and using them to hold utensils or pens or something.

The obsession with all things tea does not end with my large variety of teas or mugs. It has extended now to teapots and other tea accoutrements. I have a teapot clock, a teapot lamp and my sister found adorable boxes decorated with teapots and cups and saucers. These boxes hold my selection of tea scented candles and tarts. (I am still very sad that Yankee Candle stopped making their tea scented candles!). I even have picture frames with teapots on them.

I finally designated my dining room as my tea room. It contains all of my tea related collections. It is a work in progress.

Anyway, my fascination with tea has not escaped the notice of my friend, Susan. She has been gently pushing me to start a blog about tea. I had thus far managed to skip and dance merrily around her ministrations, until last week. It was my birthday, and a package arrived in the mail for me. Upon opening it I laughed giddily at the mug inside. After unwrapping it, inside at the bottom of the mug she had taped a handwritten note. Two words. Mug blog (her term for her not so subtle subliminal messages). So, I am dedicating this blog to you, Susan. Susan believes I have a year's worth of mugs. I'm pretty sure I don't, but I'm also not so sure I want to test that theory. My husband teases I have a lifetime supply of tea. Also not sure I want to test that theory.

But I do love tea and I want to share my love of tea, even if no one but Susan ever reads my blog. To start things off, this is the mug Susan sent me:

I don't even know if she realizes how absolutely perfect it is. The word *peace* has been my mantra for awhile now. I try to keep it, I try to be it. Having a visual helps. I even created a small peace altar in my home.

The tea in this mug right now is Zen. A green tea blended with lemon verbena, spearmint, lemongrass and more. I can't think of a better way to start off my day. Zen tea in a peace mug. The weather outside is warm, but it is cool in my air conditioned home sitting in front of an oscillating fan. (I live in the south; don't judge me!) I get to sip a delightful tea in my new mug and cross stitch. The piece is a wizard with fluffy bunny slippers. He amuses me.

Sydney Smith, in A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith said it best, “Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”