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Second only to water, coffee and tea are the most popular beverages consumed throughout the world.
I started drinking coffee in college (not because I liked it necessarily but because it made me more alert), and I’ve since grown to enjoy it. But because I’ve considered myself a “coffee drinker” for most of my adult life, I had never really given tea a chance. The few times I had tried it, I either couldn’t bring myself to finish it or felt nauseous afterward.
What I’ve discovered since then is that a) the quality of the tea makes all the difference, and b) there are many variations of tea that I never knew existed.
Many bagged teas available in stores or restaurants are stale, and although foil packets may keep the tea fresh a little longer, I have a problem with the amount of waste they generate. (At least I can compost the paper wrappers.) I knew that whole leaf teas existed, but I had no idea what to do with them. How much should I use? How long should it steep? And perhaps most importantly, what kind did I even like?
That’s where I lucked out: It turns out that tea is a lot like wine. With so many varieties and blends, it was a safe bet that I’d be able to find something I liked.
I stumbled across Experience Tea in Issaquah, WA a year or so ago, and late last year I attended a class that helped me better understand tea, as well as my own personal affinities. Roberta, who owns the shop, is so friendly and knowledgeable that’s it’s nearly impossible not to want to at least experiment with tea. I’ve discovered that I like black and oolong the best, and the green varieties will need to grow on me.
I still enjoy coffee, but tea is a treat with a completely different profile of health benefits. Polyphenols found in tea have anti-inflammatory properties that have been linked to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, and some research has shown promising results with cancer prevention–though the FDA has still not approved related claims.
Aside from the systemic health benefits of tea, slowing down to enjoy a cup of tea is a self-care practice in and of itself.