Move over, java: Change may be brewing. Tea made the Specialty Food Association’s top 10 list of food trends for 2015 as scientists and consumers alike grow curious about its potential health benefits.
Researchers have been investigating a link between drinking green tea regularly and a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease and for type 2 diabetes, and green tea is being studied for a potential connection to blood glucose levels. The key to tea’s possible benefits may be related to its flavonoid content; tea contains a naturally occurring flavonoid called quercetin. Flavonoids work as antioxidants – helping to protect cells in the body from damage.
As the research on tea will no doubt continue, more than half of Americans are estimated to drink it on any given day. Here are some tips to help brew the perfect cup. (Talk to your diabetes care team before making any changes to your meal plan, especially if caffeine consumption is a concern.)
A rainbow of variety
Green, white and black tea all come from the same evergreen plant called Camellia sinensis. The degree of processing makes each individual tea’s taste, color, brewing temperature and the brewing time unique. The darker the leaf, the higher the brewing temperature and longer the brewing time.
(Red tea is the exception. It is made from a South African plant called Rooibos and is categorized as “herbal” tea.)
For better-tasting black tea, allow the water to reach a rolling boil at 212℉, and pour it over the tea bag in the bottom of the cup. Let the bag infuse for 3 to 5 minutes, without stirring or squeezing. Herbal teas should be brewed for 5 to 6 minutes at 208℉.
Green and white tea require a more gentle approach for the perfect cup. Just as with black tea, heat the water until it boils, but then let it rest for a few minutes until the temperature drops – 140 to 185℉ for green tea or 175℉ for white tea. For a full-bodied green tea, pour the water over the tea bag and brew for 1 to 2 minutes. White tea should brew for 4 to 5 minutes.
For a stronger cup, add more tea, not more brewing time, which can give the beverage a bitter taste.
Like coffee, tea can be served hot or iced. Making iced tea is easy. Simply pour 4 cups of boiling water over 2 tea bags in a heat-proof pitcher. Let it brew for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and stir in 6 cups of ice cubes until melted, or use 4 cups of cold water. To boost the flavor in unsweetened iced tea, add in fresh lemon or lime slices, fresh mint leaves or ginger.
Making iced tea may be more healthful than buying powdered mixes or bottled iced tea, as you can decide on the type and amount of sweetener to add, if any. In fact, homemade unsweetened iced tea has virtually no calories. If you do consume powdered mixes or bottled iced tea, check the label, as they may easily bankrupt a carb and calorie budget with added sugar.
Loose or bagged?
Many tea lovers prefer loose leaf over tea bags. That’s because there are differences between the two that have a significant impact on the quality, flavor and longevity of the tea. Loose-leaf teas are made from the buds, whole tea leaves and large pieces of leaves – producing a higher-quality, fresh, full-flavored beverage. Tea bags are filled with smaller pieces of tea leaves or tea fannings – also known as dust, which makes a lower-quality tea with an inferior flavor.
All tea should be kept away from heat, light, air and moisture. The best way to ensure its freshness is to store it at room temperature in an airtight tea canister.
Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE*, CDN – an award-winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes. Learn more about her work at constancebrownriggs.com and follow her @eatingsoulfully. Brown-Riggs is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience