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Day #12 - All About Tea

Picara Vassallo

Day #12 - All About Tea

I've loved tea for years and been drinking it since childhood.  Herbal tea, black tea, green tea, white tea, fermented tea, aged tea... you name it, I've tried it.  And so through the years, I've gotten pretty particular about my tea.  I'm no connoisseur, I just know what I like.   

Caffeinated or not, the afternoon or before bed is when I love to drink a nice warm cup of tea (even in the summer!)  During this diet, herbal tea has been a real life saver.  I often drink it after dinner to help me get past a sugar craving.  It’s a soothing and peaceful ritual which is also why I enjoy it in the middle of a busy afternoon. 

As usual, I have standards for my tea.  First, they need to be organic or at least come from a reputable source.  What I mean by this is that some teas aren’t labeled organic for a number of reasons, but I trust the company or purveyor of the product and their standards and the quality of the tea speaks for itself.  

One of my favorite new tea shops is a very authentic Chinese tea shop called Tea Drunk.  It’s owned and operated by the most adorable woman, Shunan, who has sourced all of her teas herself.  Her knowledge and standards are very high and her teas are of fantastic quality. When I want a good Oolong, Pu-eh, or Red tea (or black tea as we Americans call it), I go see her.  I’m not sure her teas are labeled “organic” but it doesn’t seem to matter.  Tea with pesticides will taste poor to a tea expert.  They can actually sense the chemicals and it ruins the tea.  A competent source will know the difference and choose the best quality tea to serve to their customers.  And they'll talk your ear off if you ask them about their teas. 

If I want tea from other parts of the world, I will stop by Harney and Sons.  They are locally here in Soho and have a tasting bar for you to test out a tea of your choice.  But, they also have online ordering options for those of you outside of the city.  Their menu of teas is extensive and since they are master tea blenders, they put together combinations of teas in creative ways that can be really fun and exciting.  Their hot cinnamon black tea is super warm and inviting and is a favorite in the winter.  Their green tea with coconut, ginger, and vanilla is a summer favorite, which is also good iced. Their thick mache is also pretty wonderful too.  Having been in touch with one of the owners, I can say that they are still constantly searching for great teas around the world.  

As for herbal teas, there are lots of mainstream brands out there but some of them are adding sweetners, preservatives and more.  I recommend going with a company that is choosing simple herbs for ingredientTraditional Medicinals is a brand that focuses on single herb teas like raspberry leaf, dandelion, and licorice and they are very transparent about their products, providing a lot of information on their website about where the herbs come from and sustainability practices.  Research Celestial Seasonings or Teavana and see what you come up with.  You might be surprised.

Also, It’s wise to realize that herbals teas can have medicinal properties.  Simple google searches can help you learn more about the properties of herbs.  For example, raspberry leaf is great for women’s uterus, dandelion is detoxing and helps the large intestine do it’s job, and licorice can be very soothing for a sore throat or upset stomach but it also slightly raises blood pressure.  For the most part, most herbal teas are mild and you can drink them daily without much concern.  But, if you are on medications or have a serious health condition, make sure you are aware of any potential interactions. 

You never know where you might find a great tea! My friend Gina gave me some lovely herbal tea from “t by Sarah” and I liked it so much, I ordered their "Be Well" blend and their "Ginger Twist" tea right off their website.  You can see the quality of the herbs and the taste is clean and soothing. 

Okay, you might be saying that tea is pretty great but what about coffee?  Don’t worry... as a former barista, I’m no coffee hater but I’ve got pretty tough standards for my coffee.  That post is coming up next.  Meanwhile, why don’t you go make some tea and watch the winter weather. :-)