A bit of a frivolous post, as I take a teatime break, and muse at the science of everyday. Milk first? Milk at all? Sugar? How long should I leave the tea-bag in for? Green or black or red or white? Herbal – does that still class as tea? The science of tea is clearly important to our everyday lives. However you take your tea, the evidence points in favour of the humble tea break!
There’s something almost ritualistic to the act of making a cup of tea. Boil the kettle, take a deep breath… By the time you’ve made your cup of tea, you’re already starting to relax. There must be something magical about it. Certainly the early Chinese monks thought so – they deemed it an elixir of life, as it helped to rejuvenate them and keep them awake for prayers. And science supports the idea that tea may help us to de-stress: deprive adult males of tea for a few weeks and they are significantly more stressed than their tea-drinking counterparts. Part of the relaxing effect of tea, of course, must be due to other factors – simply taking a break and gaining some perspective. But that’s one point in favour of the tea break.
An intriguing study shows that if you are holding a hot drink and you are introduced to someone, you are more likely to think they are a warm person. Maybe this is why we offer people tea or coffee when they come to our homes – or why we bond over a cup of tea at just about any social gathering.
Of course when you bring a whole bunch of different people together and offer them tea, there comes the inevitable question – how do you take your tea? This is often followed by a debate of how you should make it!
The million dollar question: how should you make it?
The short answer to this question – it’s up to you. The long answer… Well, bring it up with your friends, and see. The Royal Society of Chemistry even wrote a news release on the topic!!
Milk first? Possibly. It is thought that perhaps adding the milk second may cause the proteins to break down – thus changing the taste. But in practice, when you put your milk in probably depends on your culture and personal preferences.
Milk at all? Milk is used to neutralise tannins, and give a milder taste to your tea. A study in the European Heart Journal suggests that adding milk to your tea may reduce the benefits it has for your heart. But, of course, the effect this has is pretty small compared to that of other lifestyle choices such as exercise, and balanced diet.
Sugar? Again down to choice, though moderation is probably advisable! If you’re planning to lose weight and drink a lot of tea, this could be one to think about.
How long should I leave the tea-bag in for? My one granny sort of dips her tea bag in briefly, and pulls it out again hurriedly. The other granny leaves it to steep. We all have our preferences. If you want to get the maximum level of antioxidants and other good compounds out of your tea, a study on green tea suggests 15minutes for tea-bags, and 30 minutes for loose-leaf. But I won’t vouch for how tasty that would be! 3 – 5 minutes is the accepted standard, and will give you about 60% of the good stuff. And you’re probably more likely to want to drink it all too!
The tea debate could go on forever, and indeed it does… But sadly I’ve come to the end of my tea break. So with that, au revoir, and happy tea drinking!