The world may be waking up to the benefits of tea, but the beverage seems to have fallen out of favour in India. The recent Brooke Bond Tea Study, sponsored by Hindustan Unilever and undertaken by ACNielsen, found that the beverage, one of the world’s top 10 superfoods, is considered “unhealthy” by a majority of Indians—77% of 1,122 respondents (565 of them youth) from 12 cities in India believe tea is an unhealthy drink.
The study, released on 22 October, shows a shift towards beverages such as coffee and fruit juice. It found youth in the 18-25 age group are more likely to reject tea, considering it to be a “beverage for an older generation”. Only 27% per cent from this age group recommended tea. Twelve per cent of all those surveyed were unaware that there were any health benefits to drinking tea.
Some of the common perceptions about tea: Black and green tea cause acidity and/or nausea, reduce bone density, darken your complexion, and cause insomnia.
However, tea has several health benefits—green and black tea contain antioxidant compounds or flavonoids (plant pigments), which are known to prevent heart disease, says Gautam Banerjee, Hindustan Unilever Research Centre scientist. Tea is, in fact one of the richest sources of flavonoids, followed closely by dark chocolate and wine. L-theanine, an amino acid found almost exclusively in green and black tea, helps in weight management, increases immunity and improves oral health. Tea flavonoids can reduce formation of blood clots and the probability of cancer and stroke.
While cafés the world over are serving up chai-latte and herbal teas, in India people are switching to drinks such as coffee. Delhi-based nutritionist Ishi Khosla, one of the members of the Brooke Bond Tea Council, strongly recommends tea for people of all ages in moderate amounts, adding that the caffeine content in tea is a third of that in coffee. “Vitamins C and E usually contained in tea are great antioxidants for the body, in a greater amount than even fruits. Besides, tea provides iodine and fluoride (preventing tooth decay). Even as little as 10g tea leaves can help meet the daily fluoride requirement of the body,” says Banerjee.
To brew the perfect cup, Banerjee advises steeping black or green tea leaves in boiling water (which has been taken off the fire) and covering it for approximately 5 minutes. While most polyphenols tend to dissolve in warm water, they tend to oxidize if the tea leaves are boiled in water. If you’re using tea bags, immerse the tea bag in a cup of boiled water for a maximum of 2 minutes, since L-theanine takes about half a minute to be extracted.
Make sure you select loose leaf teas of high quality and not packaged tea (since processed black teas lose their nutrients).
While Banerjee believes you can have up to eight cups of tea in a day, Khosla says one must avoid having more than three cups. Each cup of black tea has 130mg of flavonoids and 300mg of caffeine, which Khosla says is the recommended daily intake. Having up to three cups a day gives you all the flavonoids you need (an adult needs about 415mg flavonoids a day).
A note of caution: Don’t drink an exceedingly hot cup of tea. A study published in the British Medical Journal (April 2009) found this might just raise the risk of developing throat cancer.
• Adding milk to black tea is harmful.
Gautam Banerjee says that without milk, a black tea brew takes 10 minutes to activate the body’s metabolism. The process takes 20 minutes more—30 minutes in all—if you add milk.
• Children should stay away from tea.
Ishi Khosla insists that even infants, anywhere upwards of one year, can be given tea and benefit from it.
• Tea reduces the chances of chronic degenerative diseases.
Banerjee says catechin in tea helps fight obesity and can reduce the probability of cancer and heart diseases. Flavonoids have an anti-bacterial effect on the body.
•Tea causes acidity.
Khosla explains that tea by itself is not an acidic beverage. But when you add milk to black tea and have it on an empty stomach, chances are that you may develop acidity