The cup that gets you up!

Rain or shine, old or young—tea is the irreplaceable favourite beverage

It is perhaps one of the few things that unite the whole country, other than cricket and films. It is ever popular, irrespective of age, gender, seasons, or location. Savoured across sections of society, it is in the pipeline for being accorded the status of the national drink of India. The favourite since and across generations—a steaming cup of chai.

A constant companion to delicacies ranging from homely biscuits and rusks, to sandwiches and cookies, to even street-food favourites like hot pakoras and samosas, the humble cup of tea has travelled throughout the country to gain a permanent and cosy place in the hearts of Indians. As an inseparable part of tradition, it welcomes guests at homes; it is the instant energiser for many an office-goer who reaches out to it desperately in the much-needed breaks; the bond over which several friendships have been founded—tea is an inextricable part of our daily lives.

Yet, just as India is a nation of diversity, the way we have chai also differs from place to place, and person to person. It is difficult to say if there is a perfect recipe to tea, but what is certain is that India prefers it with milk, as opposed to its black variety that Westerners love; or the green form that finds favour in the East. Here, the popular types of tea include Assam Tea, Darjeeling Tea, Nilgiri Tea, Masala Tea, Almond Tea, and Ginger Tea. However, the recent times have witnessed an increase in the use of green and herbal teas too, which are gaining popularity because of their added health benefits.

Source of health

Tea has been the favourite beverage of people for thousands of years. And the research over the past couple of decades has earned tea a reputation for being healthy too. Indeed, the antioxidant content of tea has made it a bit hit among health enthusiasts. No wonder, tea is now being embraced by those looking for various health benefits such as weight loss, stress reduction and even osteoporosis prevention.

Let’s look at how a hot cup of tea can refresh you mentally and physically:

  • Tea contains flavanoids and polyphenols, which are natural antioxidants, known to reverse the damage done by free radicals to our cells and tissues.
  • Tea is the natural source of many important vitamins—vitamin C, carotene,  vitamin B1, vitamin B6  and folic acid
  • Tea is a good source of minerals like manganese [good for bone growth and development], potassium [for a healthy heart] and fluoride [helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease].
  • The amino acid theanine that is found in tea eases mental and physical stress.
  • Being free of cholesterol, green teas are your best bet in reducing fat. They also boost up your metabolism, and give that perfect kick to prepare you before a work-out session
  • The caffeine in tea improves alertness and attention, especially when the workload is high.

Does adding milk then reduce its benefits?

Researchers concede that when milk is added, the flavanols in tea combine with the milk proteins, thereby making it difficult for the body to absorb its good properties. Besides, adding milk also inhibits metabolism that green tea aids in. Also, the sugar added in milk tea does more harm than good. The kind of milk added to the tea also makes a significant difference, as milk with high fat and cream content is detrimental to health.

Nonetheless, the benefits of milk tea also cannot be discounted for the calcium it provides to improve bone and mineral density. As it takes more time to get absorbed, it also mitigates the impact of caffeine and other components of tea upon the stomach. Milk tea has a calming effect as it reduces stress, normalises the urinary system, stimulates the flow of bile, and has a mild laxative effect.

High Tea

The concept of High Tea originates in Industrial England. The original custom was of the ‘Afternoon tea’, which acted as the break between lunch and dinner. For the upper classes, the Afternoon Tea consisted of a cup of English tea to go with sandwiches and cakes. However, for the working class, the industrial worker required a bit more to satiate his famished self after he returned home weary in the evening. The ‘Afternoon tea’ then transformed into the ‘High tea’ for this section of the population, for whom it became a mini-meal in itself, which included hearty portions of meat, pies, and potatoes. It is believed that the term ‘High’ came about due to the serving of the high tea on the workers’ tables, as opposed to the Afternoon teas which were served on low stools and parlour tables to be savoured while relaxing in the gardens.

This was first published in the January 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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