Kitchen Essentials – Trendy, Healthy, Delicious Tea
“Coffee is not my cup of tea.” – Samuel Goldwyn
This quote is often credited to famed Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn, and if it was an indication that tea was his preferred hot drink, it’s another example of the many ways he was ahead of his time. The United States is now the fourth largest tea market in the world, and sales are still climbing.
Tea Fact No. 1: A general rule of thumb is that tea bags are good for about six months, and loose tea for about two years if kept away from light and moisture. How popular is tea these days? Just pop into your local Starbucks, that bastion of all things java, and you’ll note that its menu offers a variety of hot teas, iced teas and tea lattes (whatever those are). Why the growing popularity in tea drinking? For one, it’s healthy. Harvard University-led studies have found that tea drinkers, along with coffee fans, are at lower risk for diabetes and possibly cardiovascular disease, though the lab-coat folks aren’t exactly sure why. Plus drinking tea is relatively inexpensive. A cup of tea is a bargain compared to a Super Platinum Diamond Latte. OK, there is no such drink, but you get the idea.
Tea Fact No. 2: Americans didn’t invent tea drinking. But tea bags? That’s our doing. Back in 1908, a merchant named Thomas Sullivan reportedly came up with idea of making small silk bags filled with tea samples for customers. Some folks thought the tea should stay in the bags, and the idea stuck. Two more reasons why tea drinking is all the rage, even here in the Merrimack Valley: the ceremony and the “stuff.” Making a good cup of tea from scratch requires a certain consistent process that can be strangely soothing and comforting, whether you use tea bags or loose tea in a strainer or infuser. And that’s where the “stuff” comes in. For the gadget-driven, there has never been a better time to be a tea drinker. The variety of infusers available alone makes tea drinking fun. There are sloths, robots and my personal favorite at the moment, a mini Loch Ness Monster infuser (OtotoDesign.com). Teapots, tea cozies, teakettles, tea timers — you can immerse yourself in the paraphernalia to any extent. But you can also make a decent cup of tea by keeping things simple and economical.
Tea Fact No. 3: Iced tea? Yeah, that’s ours, too. The first recipe for iced tea was published in 1877 in “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” by Marion Cabell Tyree. Ready to get started? Here’s the fun part: Tea “stuff” is everywhere. Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Sears —they all carry the basics and beyond. One item that serious brew enthusiasts often recommend is an electric teakettle with various settings. You can pay a lot or a little. Just pick your brand and store. Target, for example, has an Oster digital electric teakettle with 11 settings for less than $40. But for one-stop shopping, there is no topping the Teavana chain. Local outlets can be found in the Rockingham Park, Pheasant Lane and Burlington malls. Wander in and look, touch, listen and sample. Just be aware that the delicious tea samples at the entrances to each store often contain plenty of sugar, which makes any tea taste better, and also a little less healthy.
Tea Fact No. 4: There are four major tea types — black, white, green and oolong — but they all come from the same plant. Care to sample some exotic teas in a casual, relaxed setting other than your home? Then you’ll want to drop by Life Alive at 194 Middle St. in downtown Lowell, where nearly two dozen varieties of tea from around the world are always waiting to tickle your taste buds. So, drink tea because it’s soothing, it’s refreshing, and it’s affordable. It’s even good for you, especially if you don’t add any sugar.
Life Alive: Lowell, Mass / (978) 453-1311 / LifeAlive.com
( Editor’s note: “Tea Facts” are from the website TeaAnswers.com. )