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What's Cooking?: A Cup of Tea

We’ve all had those hectic days that never seem to end.  Sometimes you just need to get off that carousel of life for a breather and get back on again.  Whenever I feel this way, I reach out for a soothing cup of tea to calm me, creating a temporary oasis.  There is something about slowly sipping that hot cup of tea that seems to unwind the tensions.  Besides its relaxing effect, taking the time to drink it provides a needed moment to be quiet, be centered, and clear your head so you can regroup to face the obstacles before you.

Originated in China during the Shang Dynasty (1500 BC-1046 BC), tea “cha” was used as a medicinal drink.  It is well known for its many health benefits, especially green tea.  Green tea's antioxidants, called catechins, are antibacterial and antiviral agents that are effective for treating diseases such as influenzas, cancer, dental conditions, and throat infections.  In my household, whoever suffered from a cold could not escape the strong tasting medicinal tea I’ve prepared for them.  This natural cold remedy relieves the congestion but my children would rather suffer with their colds than drink this tea.  It is fortunate for them their mother has the upper hand.  An added alternative is the classic tea with honey and lemon.  Studies have also shown that tea lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and regulate glucose levels in diabetes.  There is tea for weight loss due to the polyphenol found in green tea that increases metabolism.  Black tea contains alkylamine antigens which help boost the immune system.  Theanine, an amino acid, found in tea leaves is thought to have the tranquilizing effect that provides me the serenity I seek.  China has long used tea to aid in digestion.  The tannins in tea have therapeutic effect on gastrointestinal disorders by decreasing the intestinal activity and relieving intestinal inflammation.  It also has an antidiarrheal effect.   When I was a child, my parents always brewed a pot of Pu-erh cha (type of black tea) after dinner to prevent indigestion.  We continue to have this tea most days especially after a very rich meal or indulging ourselves with greasy fried foods.  It settles my stomach and calmis me.

By now you must be convinced by its many benefits but tea is simply to be enjoyed.  The four common varieties of tea found in the market are black, green, oolong, and white.  Depending on the leaves and flowers selected, it can abound with such sweet fragrances especially the flower and fruit teas.   Jasmine tea is a favorite of mine as well as chrysanthemum tea with rock sugar added to enhance its essence.  I am never tired from drinking Genmaicha (roasted brown rice) tea and the familiar Earl Grey and English Breakfast.  A staple in our home is Gunpowder Green tea whose leaves are rolled into tiny round pellets, resembling gunpowder. This tight roll helps to retain flavor and aroma longer than other green teas.  Look for a delicate shine on the pellets to indicate the tea is fresh.  The highest quality is rolled by hand and the smaller the pellet, the better quality it is.  The blueberry and peach teas are so refreshing, hot or cold.  We all have our favorites and with so many varieties and flavors, we can choose the type of tea to match our moods and needs.  Tea is my favorite beverage and so sublime with cookies, biscuits, and bite-sized pastries patiently waiting to be daintily devoured.   With the wonderful spread of pastries and petite sandwiches, afternoon teas and tea parties create a special milieu in really appreciating the culture of “having tea”.

Tea Bliss: Infuse Your Life with Health, Wisdom, and Contentment by Theresa Cheung

London’s Afternoon Teas:  A Guide to London’s Most Stylish and Exquisite Tea Venues by Susan Cohen

Tiny food party! : Bite-size Recipes for Miniature Meals by Teri Lyn Fisher

Alice’s Tea Cup: Delectable Recipes for Scones, Cakes, Sandwiches by Haley Fox

Gale Gand’s Just a Bite by Gale Gand and Julia Moskin

The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss

Dessert Canapés: Bite- Sized Sweets for Easy Entertaining by Kim Henderson

The Great Tea Rooms of America by Bruce Richardson

Tea Party: 20 Themed Tea Parties with Recipes for Every Occasion by Tracy Stern

Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties by Jonathan Racine

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