Sunday, 3 November 2013

Teas to Drink When You're Tired

     Long work days, sleepless nights, college exams, high school stress; whatever the case, we all have an excuse to be tired. Whoever says that they never have a morning where they just can't seem to wiggle out from under the covers is a filthy liar. Everybody needs a quick stimulator once and a while. And of you're like me, someone who is turned off by the harsh taste of coffee or the jittery effects of energy drinks, tea is always a safe alternative.
     The question to ask however, is which tea to drink? Not all teas are caffeinated, and the ones that are might not have enough to do the trick. And if you are someone who is trying to cut down on their caffeine intake, it can be hard to find something that can still energise you on those few sluggish days. 
     I'm going to be straight with you, there is no simple answer when it comes to caffeine in teas. There are so many different factors involved in this particular subject, and half of those are based on the actual growth of the plant in which the leaves are taken from. Things such as the amount of sunlight, the richness of the soil, and the time of harvest can affect the percentage of caffeine in the leaves, which is tough for production companies to have control over. Steeping times and preservation methods can also influence this ratio. But there are some general standards, that you can use when selecting which tea to put in your morning travel mug.
      In the four main tea categories, typically, black tea contains the most caffeine, followed by oolong tea, which has more than green tea, with white tea containing the least concentrated amount. Nonetheless, these are just guidelines and can vary significantly. For instance, loose leaf black tea can consist of anywhere from 15-110mg of caffeine per 8oz cup of tea; with oolong ranging from 10-50mg, green 5-40mg, and white 5-25mg. 
      Herbal tisanes are almost always entirely caffeine-free; with the exception of Yerba Mate. This Argentinian tisane, Yerba Mate (also known as simply 'Mate') is famous for its incredibly high caffeine content, anywhere from 85-150mg per cup. Some Mate teas can even have more caffeine in it than certain brands of coffee. Along with the caffeine benefits, this drink is also a great source of antioxidants, so on top of keeping you awake, it just makes you feel better. 
        Matcha is also a great picker-upper. Jam-packed with antioxidants and vitamins, this heroic green tea can do wonders for morning moral. It as well has a substantial caffeine amount, around 70mg per cup,  which is around 75% of the amount in an average cup of coffee. 
        Now if you are not looking for anything containing a lot of caffeine, I would suggest a white tea or some rooibos. Both contain great amounts of vitamins and nutrients which can help to keep you perky throughout the day. If you are feeling drained of energy, try and find something with walnuts, pecans or any other tasty nuts for that extra burst of protein. A cool minty flavour also has magical uplifting qualities so a nice peppermint herbal tea might help. And if none of these suggestions are doing the trick exactly, try putting them over ice! Cooler temperatures are very effective in stimulating and essentially waking up the brain. 
        Play around with these different options and find a tea that works for you. Most morning I go for a simple cup of Earl Grey, but sometimes I like to branch out with a tropical mate or spicy oolong, it just depends on the days I suppose. What do you use to get you through the day? 


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Summer Tea

     School's out, pools are open, sunglasses are on and ice cream is running down the side of your hand. Summer's here. Now with the sun beating down and temperatures climbing,  hot tea might not have the same appeal as it did during flu season. But even if you're not in the mood for a steaming mug of tea, there's still a way to get some of that beautiful liquid and enjoy it!
     Iced Tea is all the rage right now. Cool, crisp and delicious. Now Iced Tea can mean something different to you as it does to me, there are countless interpretations of it. Sweet Tea, Sun Tea, Bottled Tea, "Real" Tea. It doesn't really matter how you spin it, all are great to have next to you on a gorgeous summer afternoon.
     Ice Tea has a unique definition in all parts of the world. Here in Canada if you ask for Ice Tea at a restaurant, odds are you'll get a dark brown fountain drink that has more sugar and artificial flavors in it than actual tea. If you ask for it in Belgium you'll get a refreshing carbonated beverage. In some southern states in the U.S. , you'll get heavily sweetened black tea mixed with added flavoring like mint and lemon.
     However in specialty tea stores Iced Tea can usually mean loose leaf tea, over ice. In stores like Teavana and David's Tea you pick a flavor of tea leaves off the shelf, pick a sweetening ingredient and in a few minutes you'll have a nice refreshing cup of natural Iced Tea. When you do it this way, steeping instructions are slightly different to that of hot tea. Quantity of leaves and steeping time is doubled, sweetening is also heavily recommended due to the bitter aftertaste that might occur.
     In other tea stores however, this procedure might not be offered. At a store I went to recently I naively asked for a certain tea off the wall iced and the employee simply told me that is not possible. If I wanted Iced Tea I must choose from their pre-steeped selections. After explaining it to me further she told me that the store picks five popular teas and steeps them at low temperatures in pitchers overnight. This way there is no risk of the leaves burning, which causes the slight bitter taste in the previous method. This particular Ice Tea production is commonly known as Refrigerator Tea or Sun Tea, and can be practiced simply enough at home by either steeping in hot water in the fridge, or cold water in the sun.
     Homemade Iced Tea is easy to make and equally delicious using any method or recipe. Search online for different ways to experiment. Add carbonated water, add lemonade, add milk! Create the perfect cup of tea specifically for you. I love steeping a floral green tea, adding vanilla agave syrup and pouring it over a tall glass of ice, shaken not stirred! Quick and yummy.
     But if you can't be bothered to make your own, there are also great manufactures that sell commercialized Iced Tea in all types of fun flavors. Common brands like Lipton, Nestle, Snapple, AriZona, and Tazo. And when you get a chance, try a bottle of Iced Green Tea, it's better for you than original but tastes just as great!
      Whether it's homemade, canned, steeped or mixed, Ice Tea in all forms is the perfect Summer drink. If you have any special recipes for a great cup of Iced Tea, feel free to let me know in the comments. Enjoy!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Give Chai A Try

     Recently I was traveling in Southern Ontario with my competitive basketball team and needed a place for to eat for lunch. We were about to go to yet another Tim Hortons, but we drove by a vibrant green sign that read William's Fresh Cafe. My teammate immediately advised us to stop.
   Now for those who do not know what William's Fresh Cafe is, it is a chain of quaint little coffee shops spanning Southern Ontario. They have fresh sandwiches, soups, salads and a wide selection of baked goods. Not to mention an amazing variety of coffee and teas. It was at this trendy little cafe, that I had my first Chai Milkshake.
    Chai is a very popular flavor of tea, being known for its famous notes of strong spices and delicate sweeteners; being made from essences such as cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, brown sugar, star anise and cloves. And because of its strong taste, it can also be balanced out by being steeped directly into milk. Originally coming from South Asia, the popularity of Chai tea (or Maslala Chai) has been growing rapidly in all parts of the world. I even own a tube of chai flavored lip balm. As well, I touched on the topic of the beloved Chai latte in my Tea latte post from February.
      But back to this milkshake. It was absolutely incredible. Sweet, spicy, creamy, tea-y. Everything you need in a beverage. There are various easy recipes you can try at home that can be found online. And as for the purchase of a Chai Milkshake, William's is the only place that I am aware of currently that sells them but I'm sure there are many more places (If you know somewhere feel free to let me know in the comments!)
      So whether it be straight up, steeped in milk, in a latte or from a blender, Chai is definetley a tea that you need to try for yourself if you haven't yet. Chai also has a high caffeine content for long grueling work days and it's a great tea for tea newbies as well! I've heard it described as tasting like Christmas. Happy sipping!