Companions for Cold Season

While you may not have had to fight off a cold quite yet, the signs advertising flu shots are everywhere, marking the advent of the season. Opinions about how well these shots actually work vary, but one thing we do recommend is fortifying your cupboard with a few items that will help to both prevent colds and nourish you back to health. Take a minute to look over this list.

 

Tea 

Why would we recommend anything less for the number one slot? The simple warmth of hot tea going down your throat to your stomach will soothe and break up mucus. Besides that, it is full of helpful antioxidants to jumpstart your immune system.  Brew up a cup of Dragon Well or Organic Sencha when you start to feel a tickle in your throat. It will ease a sore throat as well.

Ginger 

Ginger is a natural anti-virus and can help heat up the body to induce fever, and according to Doctor Oz, fever is the body’s way to naturally fight against a cold or flu. Stock your cupboards with Ginger Puerh or Ginger Sweet Orange this time of year.

Cinnamon and Honey 

Both are excellent additives to your cup of tea. Cinnamon and honey both contain antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Together they work well as powerful immunity boosters.

Vitamin C 

This one is almost a given, but make sure you keep it as a regular part of your diet. It works best to help your body prevent getting a cold or flu in the first place. Vitamin C has been used to build up immune systems, speed healing and improve general health for many years. Foods that are most rich in Vitamin C include lemons, oranges, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes and broccoli. Try a slice of lemon or orange in your next cup of tea. Ceylon Star tastes great with both!

Garlic 

Sounds like a terrible thing to add to your cup of tea, right? However, you may be surprised to know that garlic along with salt is an age-old addition to a cup of tea if you are from Thailand. If you are brave enough to try it, let us know how it tastes. In any case, keep garlic on hand for cold and flu season. It will stimulate the immune system and help fight the virus. Add it to your chicken soup instead.

So raise a glass to cold and flu prevention this season and keep drinking tea!

Add comment October 16th, 2014

Chai It!

This time of year, we start to crave the warmth of a cup of tea in our hands and the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger. The rich addition of a dash of milk and a sweet spoon of honey or sugar make for one of the most savory and sweet drinks you can imagine – chai! Ever wonder what exactly goes in to a cup of chai? There are many variations right here at The Tea Smith as well as other suggestions on how you can experiment.

Special Calcutta Chai.jpg

Basic Chai

Travel outside of the States and you may have trouble ordering the sweet and spicy drink we know of as chai. In many countries, including Russia, the word “chai” is the word for “tea,” plain and simple. In other countries it is pronounced in a slightly different way, but sounds very close to our word for chai. You might be very disappointed to receive a cup of straight black tea.

However, what we know of as chai, is the spicy and sweet drink that originated in India. It most often consists of a black tea with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and sometimes black pepper. The blend is brewed right along with milk as it heats over the stove, which makes it extremely flavorful with rich and sweet notes from the added milk.

Try cooking up our Traditional Masala Chai this way. Then, if you need a little more spice, cook up our Organic Calcutta Chai with milk. Keep the ratios as you would for brewing a normal cup of tea – 1 teaspoon of tea to every 8 ounces of milk. Stir it as it heats on the stovetop and add your sweetner of choice as it heats.

Other Takes on Chai

Now that we’ve got the basic idea of what chai tea is, let your imagination run wild. You might like to try our Coconut Chai or throw in a few of your own ideas like dried apple bits and extra cinnamon or a dash of vanilla. Make sure you stock up on enough chai to experiment with your drink to get it flavored just the way you like it.

You can also try making your chai with different liquids instead of milk. Try soy, almond or coconut milk for example. The higher the fat content, the better your milk (or whatever) will foam.

Finally, since this is the season of all things pumpkin, give this Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte a try. It’s well worth the time and ingredients. Let us know what you think!

Add comment October 9th, 2014

Get Balanced with This Herbal Infusion

As seasons change, schedules often change as well. Rushing here and there, busy with this or that, no time to stop and think, much less take some time to yourself – does this describe you? Well, here is the invitation you have been waiting for: take a moment to slow down with a cup of something delicious and regain a healthy balance in your life and body.

Perfect Balance Herbal InfusionThis invitation comes in the form of one new herbal blend that happens to be called Perfect Balance. Of course it can’t re-evaluate your busy life or make hands on the clock slow down, but it can help restore that balance in your body. The combination of herbs and spices make for a flavorful cup that does so much more than delight your taste buds.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is known to help improve blood flow as well as help regulate blood sugar levels. It can also help stop the growth of bacteria. Take a whiff as you brew up a cup. Even the scent can help boost your brain’s function.

Ginger

The sweet and fiery taste of ginger has a long list of health benefits as well. Among them are gastrointestinal relief including stopping nasuea, anti-inflamatory properties, and help combating motion sickness, if this is something you regularly experience.

Fennel Seed

Fennel contains antioxidants, as well as vitamin C. The seed also holds potassium, fiber and folate to promote both cardiovascular and colon health. Those who have a history of cardaic problems or colon cancer may want to consider fennel.

Chamomile

The addition of this sweet, soothing flower to Perfect Balance herbal blend will bring you into relaxation mode. Chamomile has also been known to ease an upset stomach, nausea and vomiting, and reduce heartburn as well.

This herbal is loaded with even more ingredients that are great for your overall well-being. These ingredients are also tempting to your palate. Rooibos, raspberry leaves, cardamom, clove, black pepper, juniper berries and dandelion each add to the careful balance of good health as well as good taste. Have you heard enough to stop and take time to brew yourself a cup?

Be good to your body and mind. Turn off you phone or your tablet and let your mind rest while you treat yourself to a restorative cup of Perfect Balance. Where could your life use a little more balance? Know anyone else you could invite to share a pot of this delicious herbal blend?

Add comment October 2nd, 2014

Exploring Pu-erh Teas

If you are relatively new to enjoying tea or haven’t ventured far past one or two varieties of tea that you truly love, then you have more to explore. A whole class of teas called pu-erh (pronounced just as you would sound these letters out) awaits you. Read on and you may just be tempted to give them a try.

What is Pu-erh?

Pu-erh is a variety of tea that is closest to what we know of as a black tea, but in China it is known as a red tea. The tea leaves that make a pu-erh are typically from the Yunnan province of China and are fermented and aged. Though it may look like a black tea, one sip will tell you that it has a much more rich and earthy taste to it. The leaves undergo a system much like composting to arrive at this taste. They are then left as loose leaf teas or pressed into a form such as cakes or (as we have in our stores) tuochas, meaning nest shapes. To arrive at their unique taste, pu-erh teas undergo a process of aging that involves fungal and bacterial fermentation ranging from half to a whole year or more, in an atmosphere of controlled humidity. Some of the highest prized teas in China are aged to 35 years.

Tempted to try a cup?

Although the process may not sound very appealing to your palate, consider other foods that undergo a fermentation process or require a bacterial component. Sour dough breads, yogurts, cheeses, sauerkraut, ketchup, soy sauce, miso and many more undergo some sort of fermentation. These types of foods are also rich in probiotics, vitamins and minerals, but before we get too off the topic of good tasting tea, take a whiff of a pu-erh tea. You may just be tempted to taste it.

Pu-erh’s Ancient History

Dating back nearly 5,000 years tea was such a prized trade item, that it was sometimes used as currency. As a result, it was packed and shaped to endure long journeys to trade with ethnic groups bordering China. Tibetans were especially fond of the rich, bitter and sweet taste of pu-erh and its aid to digestion. They were known to trade horses for cakes of pu-erh. The trade-route road even took on the name of the prized drink. It was dubbed the “Ancient Tea-Horse Road,” and first appeared from 618-907 (during the Tang Dynasty), winding through the Yunnan province of China.

A tea this enduring and prized is at least worth a try. Next time you are in an adventurous mood at tea time, choose from our selection of pu-erh teas. Let us know what you think.

Add comment September 25th, 2014

5 Tea Myths Unfurled

Tea is a drink that has been enjoyed some 4,000 years. It’s no surprise that the consumption of it has picked up a lot of rituals, traditions and even myths along the way. Take a minute to read about a few of them. You may be surprised in what you learn.

1.Herbal tea is tea.black-tea.jpg

There is one plant we get tea from — Camillia sinensis. Other herbs, spices or fruits are often blended with leaves from the Camillia sinensis plant, but herbal drinks are very often void of tea. Rooibos, chamomile, mint, hibiscus are just a few herbal blends that are commonly brewed by themselves without a trace of tea. What we know of as green, white, oolong or black teas all come from the Camillia sinenses plant and only differ in the way they are processed.

2.You can take the caffeine out of tea.

Not by yourself. Tea leaves naturally contain caffeine, but some believe that it can be removed by brewing the leaves once, throwing out the water and brewing again. The actual process of decaffeinating tea is much more of a chemistry project and uses a chemical CO2 wash. You merely succeed in washing away many of the healthful catechins and flavonoids when you steep and dump.

3. Adding things to your cup of tea masks the health benefits.

Not necessarily. Adding a slice of lemon or orange to your cuppa will actually help preserve the flavonoids (those compounds responsible for much of tea’s health benefits). And adding a dash of milk to your cup is still under debate. Only one study has shown that the proteins in milk bonded to the flavonoids in tea and it hasn’t been replicated. Meanwhile, another recent study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that roughly the same amount of antioxidants were absorbed from a plain cup of tea as from a cup with milk added.

4. Tea doesn’t go bad.

Not true. Althoug it may retain some of its flavor when brewed after 6 months to a year, tea starts to lose some of its antioxidants over time. The best way to preserve it is to store it in a cool, dark cupboard in a sealed container. If it’s not consumed in a year’s time, throw it out.

5. Tea will make you lose weight.

Not in and of itself. If you are replacing your afternoon pick-me-up soda with a cup of tea instead, then you have certainly made the healthier choice. Tea has no calories if you don’t add milk or sugar and can give you the extra energy that you need to finish the day. It can even be used to replace a snack – choose a cup of Refreshing Raspberry instead of a kolache or Almond Biscotti Tea instead of a cookie to cut down on calories. As with most healthy choices though, drinking tea is an important part of a holistic, healthy lifestyle.

Get started brewing your own cup and put these myths to rest. What other tales have you heard about tea?

 

Add comment September 18th, 2014

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