It’s hard to remember when my love affair with tea began. I’ve never liked coffee, so it’s always been a natural choice. For some, it might just be the next best thing, but for me, tea reigns supreme. I suppose my consumption reached its peak when I studied abroad in London and was offered a minimum six “cuppas” a day, to which I gladly obliged. (Everything you’ve heard about the British and their love for the stuff is true.) In grad school, it became a regular part of my self-care routine. When I told friends I didn’t crave cappuccinos, lattes, mochas and frappes like children do candy, they just stared. After the initial shock wore off, they usually asked what got me through long days and late nights, perplexed by my ability to function without a steady stream of caffeine.
Tea makes my mornings sweeter and even the longest of winters seem shorter. It soothes my soul when I’m stressed and has accompanied many a good read, leisurely stroll and heart to heart. In short, it’s always there for me when I need it, like a well-worn sweater or a favorite film. In the eternal words of C.S. Lewis, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
Tea also can alleviate a multitude of ills from the emotional to the physical – no prescription required. So whether you drink it purely for the taste or are looking for a more personalized pick-me-up, there’s a tea for you. And if you’re trying to curb your caffeine cravings, there’s a tea for that, too.
Let’s start with green tea, one of the healthiest drinks that can fill your cup. This antioxidant-rich, cancer-kicking, metabolism-boosting liquid packs a serious nutrient punch. Green tea is loaded with natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other important benefits like reducing the formation of free radicals in the body that contribute to aging and disease. It may even lower your risk for certain types of cancer. Drinking green tea is also known to boost metabolism and in conjunction with cutting back on calories, can help with weight loss.
Tip: the lower your brewing temperature, the sweeter and less bitter your green tea will taste.
Aches, pains, cold or flu? Then ginger tea’s for you. One of my all-time favorites, there are few tea parties that ginger can’t join. From ginger peach to lemon ginger, this powerful root tastes great solo or as part of a blend. If you’re battling a stomach bug or fighting a cold, ginger tea can help combat nausea and relieve congestion. It’s also known to aid with digestion and blood circulation and reduce inflammation.
Some friendships are built on mutual connections or shared hobbies; others are built on a shared love of tea. When a friend introduced me to rooibos tea in college, I knew we were kindred spirits. A naturally caffeine-free herbal tea from South Africa loaded with antioxidants, rooibos (also known as red tea) gives green tea a run for its money. In addition to its disease- and cancer-fighting properties, rooibos tea supports heart health by lowering high blood pressure and increasing circulation. It may also lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol in those at risk for heart disease. If you’re still not convinced, rooibos tea contains alpha hydroxy acid, which helps improve the appearance of skin by reducing fine lines, redness and wrinkles.
Flavor profile: nutty and sweet with notes of vanilla and caramel
If you haven’t introduced chamomile tea into your daily routine yet, now’s the time. This popular choice boasts so many benefits, it’s hard to know where to start! Hailed for its relaxation effects, drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed may help you sleep better, and here’s a bonus: instead of throwing away your used tea bag, keep it and stick it in the refrigerator. You can use the chilled tea bag over your eyes to lighten the undereye area and reduce puffiness. Additionally, known for its sedative effects, chamomile tea can stave off stress and has even been found to lower symptoms of depression in postpartum women.
Yerba Mate & Matcha tea
Looking to cut back on your caffeine consumption? Look no further than yerba mate tea. Made from the leaves of the Argentinian yerba mate tree, this tea contains more caffeine than most others, but less than coffee. Another good option? Matcha tea. This antioxidant powerhouse is brewed by grinding young green tea leaves into a fine powder, and contains more caffeine than traditionally brewed green tea, but less than black tea or coffee.
Tip: Read your labels. Due to its strong earthy flavor, many matcha tea drinks have high amounts of added sugar. Read your labels carefully and avoid the coffeehouse concoctions.
Say so long to bad breath with a cup of mint tea. Its cooling scent helps keeps your breath fresh while antibacterial properties work to fight off germs and bacteria. Like ginger tea, mint tea also helps to tackle cold and flu symptoms but that’s not all: menthol, one of its main ingredients, has been shown to help lower fevers, with the added benefit of being a muscle relaxant, helping to alleviate any accompanying aches and pains.
So what’ll it be: Sweet or savory? Milk or honey? The next time you’re faced with a grueling day at the office or feel a cold coming on, before you turn to the medicine cabinet, reach for your favorite mug and treat yourself to a cup of tea.