Hot, healthy, and delicious
Trendy teas, steeped in history, are growing in popularity! Try some matcha, kombucha, rooibos, pu-erh, or chai.
Is there anything more soothing on a cold day than a warm cup of tea? Beloved for its flavour and health benefits, this beverage has been brewed for thousands of years. Tea is now trendy as well as traditional, with the average Canadian drinking 300 cups per year.
Change is brewing
Tea consumption in Canada has come a long way since the beverage was introduced here in 1716. Besides everyday Earl Grey, health food stores now sell exotic teas from around the world. Steeped in history, teas such as matcha and chai are emerging as fan favourites.
A holistic nutritionist, tea sommelier, and owner of an online store called beTeas, Michelle Pierce Hamilton has observed the increasing popularity of tea first-hand. “One major reason is the shift toward healthier food choices and away from sugary, processed drinks and juices,” she says.
From lattes to smoothies, matcha-based beverages are hot, hot, hot.
Prior to its superfood status, matcha played a starring role in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Beginning in the 12th century, skilled experts prepared and served it in a serene setting. Tea ceremonies were influenced by Zen Buddhism and are considered an art form.
Because matcha is powdered, we consume the entire leaf when we drink it. This makes matcha higher in disease-fighting antioxidants than other types of green tea. One of these antioxidants, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, has been widely researched for its cancer-protective properties. An 11-year Japanese study of more than 40,000 adults also linked green tea consumption with longevity and a reduced risk of heart disease.
When shopping for matcha, ask questions about the tea’s quality. “Matcha comes in three grades: cooking, premium, and ceremonial,” says Hamilton. “Cooking grade is great for making cookies or smoothies but would be rather bitter to drink. Ceremonial grades have a distinct vegetal sweetness.”
If preparing tea at home, you may want to purchase a matcha bowl and whisk. Use 1 tsp (5 mL) of matcha powder per cup of hot—not boiling—water.
A highly valued tea with a smooth, earthy flavour, pu-erh is just starting to make waves overseas.
Although it’s often classified as a black tea, pu-erh is actually a dark tea of Chinese origin. Unlike most teas, dark varieties such as pu-erh are fermented for up to 50 years. “Traditional pu-erh is steamed, pressed into cakes, and aged naturally, gradually developing complexity and value over a period of years, much like fine scotch,” says Hamilton.
The fermentation process equips pu-erh with healthy probiotics. Consumed daily, a cup of pu-erh may help us maintain a healthy weight. Preliminary studies have also promoted pu-erh for helping to lower blood sugar and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Known for its fizzy, tart taste, this fermented favourite has been popularized by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow.
Kombucha might seem like the latest foodie fad, but its reputation as a cure-all elixir dates back to ancient China. Mystical properties aside, kombucha production is quite simple: sweetened tea is fermented with a culture of yeasts and bacteria, creating a carbonated beverage with vinegar, B vitamins, caffeine, sugar, and a small amount of alcohol.
Kombucha is still consumed in hopes of boosting the immune system, slowing aging, and treating a range of ailments. Although more research is needed to back up these claims, kombucha can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Fans of the caffeinated tea report feeling energized after drinking it. Like other fermented foods, kombucha contains healthy bacteria that may aid digestion.
Seek guidance from a knowledgeable expert before brewing your own kombucha. Homemade brews may be unsanitary and contaminated with toxins.
Fortunately, you can find kombucha ready made in health food stores. Don’t shy away from trying different flavours—many brewers delight in coming up with new ones by adding fruit, herbs, and spices.
Sometimes called red tea, rooibos is a sweet, nutty herbal infusion.
Rooibos was first discovered almost 300 years ago in a remote region of Cape Town, South Africa. “People of South Africa have been drinking rooibos for centuries as a healthy tonic long before it caught on elsewhere,” Hamilton points out. “And science has proven what they’ve felt all along.”
Rooibos is renowned as a relaxing, heart-healthy tea. “It’s naturally caffeine free and rich in antioxidants and vitamins,” says Hamilton. “This makes rooibos a perfect evening tea for when the body is stressed.”
Like matcha, this spicy tea is a darling of health food stores and coffee shops alike.
In its native India, chai is a cultural staple that’s more popular than coffee. Families and street vendors prepare it with black tea, milk, and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper.
Consuming warm, spicy drinks such as chai may help us feel satiated. Like other black teas, chai can act as a pick-me-up thanks to its relatively high caffeine content. Working together, chai spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and pepper may stimulate healthy digestion, relieve aches and pains, and promote weight management.
Try out different types of tea to find ones that strike your fancy. Hamilton also urges us to enjoy the soothing benefits of drinking tea: “relax, sip slowly, and savour … take a moment to just be.”
Tips for steeping success
Want to brew tea like a pro? Use these must-have tools of the trade.
185 F (80 C)
2 to 5 minutes
185 F (80 C)
1 to 3 minutes
185 F (80 C)
2 to 3 minutes
212 F (100 C)
212 F (100 C)
3 to 6 minutes