Butter Tea: The National Drink of Tibet

A creamy cup of butter tea - CC

Butter tea, or po cha, is considered by many the national drink of Tibet. This unique combination of black tea, yak butter, and salt give it a flavor that is closer to a soup than tea.

Origin

Butter tea is a drink that is common among the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas. It was invented sometime around the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty of China. The princess of China at the time married the king of Tibet. Soon after, trade routes were established that brought tea from China into Tibet. Tibetans use yak butter for a number of purposes so it is not surprising that it ended up being added to tea.

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Zavarka Brewing: How to Make Tea Russian Style

Tea is one of the more popular beverages in Russia with the average person drinking over 3 pounds a year! Russians consider it customary to always offer guests tea, and it is polite to accept tea if offered. They even have a saying — having a “sit by the samovar” — to describe tea served with a bit of food or a light meal.
 
If you’re just interested in how to brew tea Russian style, skip to preparation.

Russian samovar
Russian Samovar by Shou-Hui Wang – CC
The traditional process of preparing Russian style tea starts with heating water in a metal container called a samovar. When the water is boiling, some of it is transferred into a teacup that sits on top of the Samovar. The water in the teacup is mixed with a large quantity of tea and brewed for an extended period of time. This creates what is referred to as the zavarka tea concentrate.
 

Gyokuro: Shade-Grown Japanese Green Tea

Bright jade colored tea

The tea I’m going to be reviewing today is called Gyokuro (pronounced Gee-yo-ku-row), a green tea grown in Japan. The name means jade dew in Japanese which refers to the color of the tea after brewing. Most of the tea produced in Japan is green tea. There are three main types of Japanese green tea: Sencha, Gyokuro, and Matcha. They differ not in the variety of tea plant they’re grown from, but in the method of growing and post-production.

Sencha

Sencha is grown like most other green teas and is exposed to the sun up to the point of harvest. The first harvest of Sencha is called Shincha. During the winter, the tea plant stores it’s nutrients in the plant and this first harvest contains these concentrated nutrients. These young leaves result in a tea low in caffeine and catechins, and high in amino acids. Low grade Sencha leaves that are the last to be picked off the plant are called Bancha. This variety is a good daily tea that doesn’t break the bank.

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Best Teas for Anxiety and Stress Relief: Herbal Teas Backed by Science

Steam from tea brewing

Anxiety sucks. It makes you feel like the world is moving too fast and you just want everything to stop. I get it from time to time, but it’s better than it used to be. In the past I tried SSRI anti-anxiety drugs, and I have several family members that still use them, but in my case they don’t do a whole lot and they aren’t worth the side effects. For some people they work great, and if that’s you, keep using them.

What works best for me is a balanced lifestyle. So before I dive into the article, let me mention that tea cannot replace proper sleeping habits, a consistent exercise routine, and good nutrition. Tea is good for relieving mild anxiety and helping you de-stress after a chaotic day at work. However, if you are suffering from consistent acute anxiety or panic attacks, please consult your doctor.

Ok, now onto the tea. There are basically two routes you can go with this: traditional caffeinated tea, or herbal teas. Avoid the caffeinated tea if it’s late at night or if you’re sensitive to caffeine. However, some herbal teas, such as a number of the sleepy time blends contain natural sedatives that may not be desirable during the day.

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Best Teas to Cure Your Cold or Flu

Box of tissues and tea

Disclaimer: The author of this article is not a doctor and this article does not replace professional medical advice. Please see your doctor if you are experiencing the symptoms of a cold, flu, or sore throat, and especially if the conditions are worsening or last over a week. Consult your doctor before beginning any health regimen.

Self-care can be a challenge when you are suffering from a cold, flu, or sore throat. While drinking tea does not confer any formal curative benefits recognized by the Food and Drug Administration, a cup of tea during a cold can boost your immunity and provide a feel-good boost. Also, because it is important to stay hydrated when fighting a cold or flu, drinking caffeine-free teas can add an additional advantage to kick that cold to the curb. There are a number of cold-busting homemade tea recipes available online made with a variety of ingredients, but who has the energy for cooking complicated recipes when they are feeling under the weather? (Of course, you should seek professional medical attention if you have symptoms that last more than one week or are getting worse.) Here are the best types of tea to drink as a natural cold, flu, or sore throat remedy. You can find these teas online or look for them at your grocery store to keep on hand for the next time you feel a cold coming on. Most healthy people can drink several cups of tea a day with no adverse effects; however, if you have existing health problems or are taking certain medications, the compounds in various teas can affect your condition. Therefore, ask a doctor before picking up a cup of tea.

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Tea vs. Coffee: Which is Better for Your Health?

Tea and Coffee Poster Quotes

Tea has been enjoyed across the world for centuries, starting in Asia and moving it’s way west. Coffee is newer to the scene. Originally an Arab drink, it became popular in Europe sometime around the 17th century. Everyone has their favorite, and many are quick to defend their choice, but which beverage really holds the upper hand from a health perspective?

In order to gain some insight, let’s break down a few key components of each drink.

Caffeine Content

Coffee has more caffeine than tea hands down. At around 100 to 150 mg per 8 oz. cup, coffee can provide that well needed energy boost in the morning. Caffeine is one of the main reasons people drink coffee, because of it’s ability to lift mood and increase focus. It acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system, improving reaction times and increasing mental clarity. About 15 minutes after consumption, the caffeine in a drink makes its way into your blood. Caffeine is able to easily cross the blood brain barrier because its chemical structure closely resembles the neurotransmitter adenosine. This resemblance also has the consequence of allowing caffeine to bind to adenosine. Since one of the jobs of adenosine is to control human sleep-wake cycles, this binding prevents activation of adenosine receptors. With more of these unbound receptors sitting around, dopamine uptake increases. As you probably know, dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that affects mood, motivation, and cognition. This is what causes the feel good sensation during a caffeine rush. 

For tea, caffeine content varies wildly by tea type, brand and brewing method. Brewed black tea generally contains about 45 mg caffeine, followed by oolong tea (~40 mg),  green tea (~30 mg), and white tea (~25 mg). You’ll still get an energy boost from tea, but it will be much more subtle. This can be perfect for people more sensitive to caffeine.

The caffeine in tea has a slightly different effect on the body than coffee because tea contains an amino acid compound called L-theanine. In animal models, L-theanine works by increasing seratonin, dopamine, and GABA levels in the brain. GABA is actually an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces activity of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, the primary agent responsible for anxiety. This is why a large class of anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines, which include drugs like Xanax, Adivan, and Valium, work by enhancing the effect of GABA. It’s pretty cool that tea does this as well, and may be the reason why sipping a cup of tea is associated with relaxation. There is still research to be done on the subject, but several studies have come out indicating that L-theanine can help mitigate many of the negative side effects associated with caffeine and create a combined effect that improves focus even further.

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