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National Tea Day: spilling the tea on the beloved drink

21st April 2019
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Today is National Tea Day. Yes, it's really a thing. When we think of things that are quintessentially ‘British’, there are a few topics that show up by default — The Queen, queuing and of course… tea-drinking.

But there have been some troublesome murmurs through media outlets in recent years that something terrible could be afoot for Britishness as a concept. It seems that in this world gone mad, British people are allegedly drinking less tea than we used to. 

Is it true, and if so, what is to blame for this horror? Brexit? iPhones? Millennials?

Well, it turns out that Britain is not actually in a state of tea-based national emergency. Whilst research shows traditional tea consumption was down by 870 million cups in 2017, the value of tea rose 0.6%. The market is far from dying; so, what is happening to the British cup of tea? 

Image credit: Rawpixel.com, via Pexels

The answer is it is simple. It's getting much more colourful and varied! No longer just a nation of English Breakfast lovers (although you really can't beat a builder's tea) there's a whole new rainbow range of teas available, and they're tapping into a wealth of potential health benefits.

What type of tea drinker are you?

According to the Modern Tea Trends 2019 study, 50% of tea brands identified the 24–35-year-old group as their biggest growing demographic. Perhaps because of this, the view of tea has changed. It’s no longer a milky, warm beverage that sits on a table whilst people discuss problems, though it is still the go-to makeshift remedy for everything from a bad day at work to a broken leg for some.

Now, tea has a whole load of health benefits to its name. It’s more than just a murky brown leaf-water, it’s a bright and colourful variety of health and wellness. 80% of brands are now watching the wellness trend as a key asset for tea. 

Image credit: Joanna Kosinska, via Unsplash

Tea has become much more of an experience than just a go-to beverage. This ties in with the rise of herbal teas over standard black leaf tea — herbal teas come in so many varieties, from all over the world, and often have intricate ceremonies or stories attached to them. These aspects are as much of the ‘sensual’ experience as the tea itself.

Cafés and tea rooms have been using this to their benefit too, offering tea experiences for their customers, such as offering food created to complement the flavour of different herbal teas or brewing the leaves in an antique silver teapot in order to achieve a higher brewing temperature than a normal teapot. The neutrality of silver helps protect the pure taste of the tea (which explains why you often see places using the teapots). The whole experience is catered for the customer’s enjoyment. 

Spilling the tea on the different varieties of tea...

Image credit: Rawpixel.com, via Pexels

Let’s take a look now at some of the health benefits and stories behind a rainbow of tea varieties… 

Hibiscus tea 

Calorie and caffeine-free on its own, this bright red beverage is certainly pleasing to the eye. It has a sweet and tart taste and is popular in North Africa and Southeast Asia. Particularly in Africa, hibiscus tea is said to have many benefits, including helping with a sore throat and high blood pressure. One study has noted that hibiscus tea contributed to the reduction of the systolic blood pressure of its participants. 

Barley tea  

Barley tea is a popular brew over in Korea, China, and Japan, and it is also tied to many claims of health benefits. Served hot or cold depending on the season, this go-to Korean drink is made from whole grain roasted barley and has a mild nutty taste. Like hibiscus tea, it is caffeine-free. 

There are a lot of health claims tied to barley tea, but only few have been proven by scientific study. These range from claims to help with cold symptoms, aiding a sore stomach, clearing complexion, and even weight loss. But, if nothing else, it’s a great caffeine-free alternative to coffee and traditional tea! 

Lemon and honey tea

The beloved remedy of many cold and flu sufferers, lemon and honey tea is uniquely soothing. This golden-coloured tea has the main claim to fame for fighting cold symptoms, but it’s also been said to allegedly help with everything from weight loss to acne

With the vitamin C boost of lemon and the cough-suppressing nature of honey, this is a drink that does have some scientific backing in terms of helping with a cough and sniffles. But the claims of clearing acne and weight loss are unconfirmed by scientific study. Still, it is definitely one to reach for next time cold season comes around.

Green tea

It would probably make for a shorter list to say what health benefit green tea hasn’t been attributed to. You’d be forgiven for thinking green tea was brewed from the Fountain of Youth, for all the attention it has gained in the wellness industry. But are any of the stories true? 

Luckily yes. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and catechins, the latter of which could slow down bacterial growth. The green brew has also been claimed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and boost metabolic rate. 

Butterfly pea flower tea

Now here’s one for Instagram. This blue brew changes colour depending on the pH level of ingredients added to it — for example, a little lemon will turn it purple! Butterfly pea flower tea sounds fancy, looks fancy, but does it bring anything fancy to the table of health benefits? 

The sapphire-hued drink has been used for centuries in Asia, but it’s only started fluttering into the western world of tea in recent years. The tea, like green tea, carries a lot of antioxidants and has been tied to claims of protecting the skin. There are studies that support butterfly pea flower tea’s ability to help reduce internal inflammation. 

Blackcurrant tea

No, this doesn’t mean making Ribena with hot water, though that is a tasty drink in its own right. Herbal blackcurrant tea doesn’t always brew with a purple hue, strictly speaking. But the purple berries that make this tea bring some great potential benefits to your teacup, such as a high vitamin C level, antibacterial properties, and reducing inflammation. 

Purple tea

This violet-shaded drink has a very humble name in ‘purple tea’. But its alternative name, ‘ox-blood’, sounds much more ferocious. It is claimed that purple tea could compete with green tea for the crown of most purported health benefits, such as claims to help protect against cardiovascular diseases and there are even stories of it improving vision. 

GIF via GIPHY

You may have noticed from the above that many herbal teas come with a whole host of claims to help health-wise. But if nothing else, tea does count towards your daily water needs, with the dehydrating claims of tea having been debunked. So, top up that teacup — it’s trendy and healthy! 

 

Lead image credit: Skitterphotos, via Pexels




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