Review of Teas Sampled at The Green Tea House in Connecticut
On an unseasonably warm and brilliantly sunny autumn day, I visited The Green Tea House in West Hartford, Connecticut for a sampling of teas that, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, have health benefits for immunity, digestion, and maintaining a healthy weight. With the winter months upon us, bringing big holiday meals, travel, and the inevitable cold and flu season, I was looking forward to chatting with Tea Specialist, Ms. Jo, about teas recommended for these health concerns.
The afternoon of my visit, I was feeling the ‘early warning’ signs of a tummy bug, which I am sure had been brought home by my daughter who had been ill just days before. I hadn’t been able to eat much more than crackers, and sip a weak cup of cranberry tea, all morning. And it had been a long morning—I woke at 05:30 and it was now 1:30 in the afternoon.
Noticing my apparent fatigue, Ms. Jo asked me if I would like a cup of tea while we chatted. I explained that I hadn’t felt well and would love something refreshing and not strong on caffeine. Ms. Jo prepared a cup of mildly chilled Blueberry Silver Needle, a tea she recommended for immunity-boosting and antioxidant properties.
I noticed that she prepared the tea by first steeping it lose in the cup of hot water, whereas we Americans tend to place loose tea in a metal infuser, which we steep in our cup of hot water. Ms. Jo explained that for many teas, steeping without an infuser gives the tea more room to unfold and release additional flavor. After the steeping time (which she used a timer for), she poured the hot tea through a strainer into a new cup with a few ice cubes (at my request for a chilled tea), thus removing the leaves. I sipped slowly, not really expecting much from the tea, while she shared wisdom about teas for immunity, indigestion and healthy weight.
For the Love of Green Tea
“For supporting immunity, Green Tea is ideal. It contains many antioxidants and supports the immune system,” she explained. “Also, it is one of the most
researched teas in United States and other countries.”
Green Tea is the purest of teas; it is the least oxidized of all teas (Black tea is 100% oxidized). It has a clear green color when brewed properly. Depending on where the tea is harvested, it can have many different, natural flavor and aromatic characteristics including hints of honey, wildflower, and grassy undertones. When combined with other natural flavors such as mango or coconut, the flavor and health benefits of the tea can be enhanced.
One of Ms. Jo’s favorite teas for boosting immunity is Coconut Spring Green Tea. This aromatic and savory tea (which I took home with me and have since enjoyed at least a dozen cups) contains Japanese green tea leaves, shredded coconut and natural coconut essence. (Coconut also has antioxidant properties). This is one of my favorite teas from the Green Tea House.
Enjoy Oolong Tea with Your Holiday Meal
If you’re looking for a tea to aid digestion during your holiday meal, or anytime, Ms. Jo suggested Oolong Tea, which is most revered in China and Taiwan. Oolong Tea is unique in its leaf style, color, method of roasting and the degree of oxidation (it is considered fermented tea). There is great diversity in how Oolong teas can be produced, making it one of the more intricate teas in terms of character, aroma and flavor. This yields teas of great taste variety, from fruity to sweet to spicy, woodsy
and flowery. Caffeine levels are typically between that of green and black teas, but oolong has the health benefits that are possessed by both green and black tea.
“Oolong is often complemented with other flavors, such as fruits,” Ms. Jo explained. “Traditional Chinese Medicine uses Oolong Tea when there is digestive discomfort, and also to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and boost metabolism.”
Oolong tea has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, and is rich in both vitamins and polyphenols—micronutrients that play a role in preventing in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. During my visit I tasted (and of course, took home) Mango Oolong Tea. It has a richer flavor and is more amber in color compared to green teas. I enjoy sipping oolong, either hot or iced, anytime of the day.
The last tea we discussed is Pu-erh Tea, which is a Black Tea. “It is actually darker than typical black tea because it is aged for decades before use,” Ms. Jo said. “Also, it can be fermented in different ways. It is a very exotic tea in China, like fine wines in America!”
Pu-erh Tea is grown only in Yunnan Province in southwest China, yet a tea aficionado could have a gallery of only this style of tea as it yields such variety in aroma and flavors. Ms. Jo provided me with a take-home satchel of Strawberry Slim Pu-erh containing rosehips, apples, strawberry and raspberry leaves, and hibiscus.
“Health benefits that may come from Pu-erh Tea,” stated Ms. Jo, “include detoxifying, facilitates fat burning, reducing the risk of stroke, and helping to lower blood pressure and sugar.” Personally, I find Pu-erh Teas, like some wines, to be an acquired taste. Because there is so much variety in flavor and aroma, you have to continue to dry different types of Pu-erh as you may easily like one more than another, and some may not appeal to you at all.
With my teas in hand, and still feeling under the weather, I thanked Ms. Jo for her time and wisdom, and got back on the road with my nearly full cup of Blueberry Silver Needle (an organic White Tea). It wasn’t until I got home and read the literature I received from Ms. Jo (and did a little extra research) that it became clear to me why she made this particular tea for me.
Blueberry Silver Needle not only contains organic White Tea leaves, it also South African Rooibos, blueberry, schisandra berry and hibiscus. Like all tea, White Tea is rich in antioxidants and has properties that boost immunity. Schisandra is known as a medicinal berry and possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help maintain healthy cells throughout the body. It is considered one of the most highly protected of all medicinal plants. The Chinese name for the plant, wu-wei-zu, means “5 taste fruit” and is associated with sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, and salty flavors. Salty and sour tastes were believed to have effects on the liver and testicles, while the bitter and astringent properties were beneficial to the heart and lungs. The sweet component had effects on the stomach. Rooibos is recognized for anti-allergen and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also known for having a calming effect on the digestive system.
Twenty minutes after leaving The Green Tea House and arriving at my home, I no longer had stomach cramps. My appetite returned and I felt energetic enough to work for an hour before picking up my children from school and running for afterschool activities. Of all the teas I’ve sipped for health benefits, this was the first to so quickly have an effect on my specific symptoms. Even better…the germs that had caused my daughter to be ill for two days, never got the best of me. Within the next 24 hours, I was back to my usual work and exercise routine.
Ah, the flavor, the aroma, the power of tea. Thank you, Jo, and The Green Tea House!
The Green Tea House story begins with the owners, Wei Luo and Ting Chaponis, a brother and sister team who became enamored with their own family’s time-honored Chinese tradition of drinking fresh loose-leaf tea. Raised in China where their family owns several tea shops, the duo aspired to share their heritage and rich knowledge of fine tea. Recognizing Americans’ growing appreciation for the health benefits of tea, they ventured to the Western world. The Green Tea House offers an authentic Chinese Tea Ceremony experience, beautiful tea accessories, and hundreds of varieties of organic loose tea, to nourish body, mind and spirit. Teas are available online for shipment around the world.
Review by Karen M. Rider, M.A.
Karen is a contributing editor with Medicine Talk Pro. She has a decade of experience writing about holistic health, wellness, and integrative medicine. Karen holds degrees in kinesiology and health psychology and has training in wellness coaching, yoga and health research. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Association for Health Care Journalists. When she isn’t writing, Karen enjoys biking and kayaking with her family and relaxing with a home-brewed cup of organic tea. Learn More about Karen
There is a wealth of fascinating information about tea and Traditional Chinese Medicine available online and in health and medical journals. The following resources can help you begin your tea education.
Role of Tea in Traditional Chinese Medicine. http://www.tcm.org/tcm-guide/vital-role-tea-tcm.html
Overview of Research on the Health Benefits of Tea. http://www.teausa.com/teausa/images/TeaCouncil-ResearchDocR5_-_FINAL.pdf
T Ching: a community that advocates for the one smallest health change anyone can make in their life: drinking tea. Founded by health practitioners with a love for tea. http://www.tching.com/about-us/
The Art of Chinese Tea: http://www.traditionalstudies.org/the-art-of-chinese-tea
Polyphenols: food sources and bioavailability. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/727.full
Tea and Health: Human Studies http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055352/
Serafini M, Del Rio D, Yao DN, et al. Health Benefits of Tea. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; 2011. Chapter 12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92768/ – ch12_sec11 (chapter from a medical text).
Panossian A, Wikman G. Pharmacology of Schisandra chinensis Bail.: an overview of Russian research and uses in medicine. J Ethnopharmacol . 2008;118(2):183-212.