I would put tea in the centre of the plate if I were the health minister," said Gurmeet Singh, tea friend and scientist. His statement was not a mere declaration of love for tea, given that he spent two decades researching tea at Unilever, and now works with medicinal plants at the Centre for Ayurveda Biology and Holistic Nutrition, The University of Trans Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology, Bengaluru.

In the old—really old—days, because tea demanded boiled water, it helped reduce disease via water contamination. From making water safe to drink to ranking as a superfood, tea has come a long way.

Green tea is considered healthy, thanks to numerous strategic marketing campaigns to position it that way. But, is it true? For one, it lets you stay hydrated. As a tea drunk plain, it doesn’t contain sugar. It has flavonoids, which are a natural antioxidant. There is research to show that these are beneficial but much of it is still under way.

Another tea popular for its supposed health benefits is the matcha. In Japan, it’s a ceremonial drink. About 10 years ago, it became trendy for its rich antioxidant properties, and spawned an entire genre of foods and drink, from latte to muffins. Is matcha a miracle drink? Not really, although it’s a great morning tea with a nice caffeine hit that also offers antioxidant benefits.

Many wellness and detox teas are effectively tisanes, not tea. Chamomile tea’s antioxidant properties induce calm and aid sleep, just like lavender. Peppermint helps in digestion. A green tea-peppermint blend can be refreshing, with added antioxidant benefits. Hibiscus is another hot favourite as a tisane, working well in tea blends too. When it comes to tisanes, make sure you choose natural and not artificial flavouring.

And don’t diss chai. If you believe that natural antioxidants are essential for your well-being, chai made with a high grade Assam CTC should be your tea of choice. Our kitchens have traditionally produced spiced chai and herbal teas for comfort and succour. Whether ginger for cold, ajwain (carom seeds) for indigestion, turmeric for cough, their natural chemicals are harnessed to fight our ailments.

Interestingly, white tea is often overlooked in conversations on health and wellness. The concentration of antioxidants in white tea is comparable to that of green. White tea tends to be more expensive, but it’s flavourful and as healthy as a green tea.

Do include tea in your journey towards better health. It’s not a cure-all, but certainly makes room for wellness.

TEA TAKES

Infusions of Goodness (Iogtea.com) is Dr Gurmeet Singh’s monthly tea subscription that includes botanical blends. Most tea brands, including Chado, Teabox, Vahdam and Assamica Agro, offer natural wellness blends and tisanes.

Tea Nanny is a weekly series steeped in the world of tea. Aravinda Anantharaman is a Bengaluru-based tea blogger and writer who reports on the tea industry.

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