Food Facts : Magic Tea

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (October 2015)

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The Hype

A foreign princess is responsible for the Brits’ love of tea – in the 17th century, Catherine of Braganza, in Portugal, brought her tea-drinking custom to the English court, as the queen of Charles II.

Today, we drink 165 millions cups of tea every day in the UK (compared with 70 million cups of coffee), and the number of different varieties of tea, from rooibos to camomile and lapsang to matcha, has risen by 82 per cent in the last 10 years.  When once you just had to choose between milk or sugar with your cuppa, today, the myriad herbal, flower, fruit, black, white and green options has meant that supermarkets now dedicate half an aisle to tea.

The ancient Chinese proverb attests that it is ‘better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one’.

The Facts:

  1. ‘All tea starts its life as a leaf from the same plant: the Camelia sinensis’, say Krisi and Mike, founders of Bluebird Tea Co. ‘The type of tea those leaves eventually end up as (black, green, white) is influenced by which part of the plant they are picked from, and what treatment they have been through once they are picked.  This also influences the caffeine content.  The amount of caffeine that actually ends up in your body is on a wide varying scale with many influencing factors such as age of leaf, water, temperature, steeping time and so on.’
  2. ‘Green and white tea is usually steeped at a lower temperature and for a shorter time, which gives the caffeine less chance to dissolve into the water.  This doesn’t mean the original tea had less caffeine, just that less of it was released into the water,’ say Krisi and Mike.  If you’re looking to avoid caffeine, it’s best to choose a naturally caffeine-free tea such as rooibos, which still contains catechins and polyphenols – potent antioxidants that mop up free radicals and help boost health.
  3. For the latter benefits however, it’s the new breed of ‘superteas’ that are really causing a stir.  Matcha is a 100 per cent green tea that has been ground to form a very fine powder.  Doing so concentrates the potency of the leaves, giving matcha its vivid green hue.  As the whole leaf is ingested, matcha is a far more potent source of nutrients than it’s steeped counterparts.  It also contains a naturally occurring amino acid called L-theanine which, together with caffeine, appears to increase alertness.

TeaThe Verdict

  • A study in 2011 also showed that decaffeinated tea hydrates you just as efficiently as water – with the added benefits of those antioxidants, too.
  • Fluoride is important for dental health and tea is one of the best sources of fluoride in the diet.  Research presented by Dr Carrie Ruxton to the UK Nutrition Society shows that the current average intake of tea falls short of the European fluoride recommendation, suggesting that tea intake should increase to access the benefits of fluoride for dental health.
  • Both black and green tea have been linked with improved cognitive function, according to a new study.  Commenting on the new research, Dr Tim Bond from the Tea Advisory Panel notes, ‘Tea has been associated with many mental health benefits such as improved mental attention, clarity of mind and relaxation.’
  • The polyphenols and flavonoids in camomile tea have been proven to protect against thyroid cancer, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Public Health.  Researchers found that camomile tea consumed two to six times a week reduced the risk of thyroid cancer by 700 per cent and benign thyroid disease by 84 per cent.
  • Matcha contains a unique polyphenol called EGCG which has been shown to boost metabolism and slow or halt the growth of cancer cells.
  • The evidence is clear; our ancestors were on to something.  Drink tea for its abundant health benefits – just be sure not to consume too much of the caffeinated variety.

 

Food Focus : Mushy for Peas

Courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (August 2019)

Peas

The bright garden hue and punchy sweet flavour of garden peas win favours with even the most veg-phobic people.  Indeed, peas will happily be consumed and even relished when other veggies fail to make the cut.  Fresh green peas invoke a sense of cheeriness in their appearance and within the pod there is much to rave about.

Garden peas are part of the legume family, which means they have some of the same benefits as green beans.  They provide a decent serving of plant-based protein, as well as fibre, which helps support energy, blood sugar levels and gut health.  Peas are also bursting with vitamins C and A – important for immunity and skin as well as providing protective antioxidant benefits.  They contain vitamin K and B vitamins that can support a healthy heart and, since they are a good source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, they also have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Peas are considered environmentally friendly, given that they essentially give back to the soil in which they are grown, which helps with the rotation of other crops.  Impressive nutritional stats and generous, given their small, or petits, size.

Peas are encased in pods and need to be shelled before eating and, while best fresh, frozen peas can also be enjoyed in which case I urge you to have petits pois for more flavour and less starch.  When peas are in season, from late spring to the end of autumn, you can often find them at farmers’ markets.

The ways in which to enjoy peas are myriad and marvellous.  Simply prepared – lightly steamed and served with fresh mint, butter and black pepper – peas are a game-changing veggie side dish.  Add them to an omelette with feta for a delicious quick meal or chuck them into stir-fries for a pop of sweetness.  You can even turn them into fun and flavoursome desserts.  (Pea mousse, anyone?)  Like peas in a pod, the saying goes …. I, for one, want to be in that gang!

Cook:
If cooking, your peas from frozen, opt for petits pois and add at the last moment – frozen peas thaw quickly and you will want to maximise their delicious flavour in your dish.

Create:
Poisfection!   There is a recipe for Pea and Mint Ice Lollies with Chocolate from The Art of Eating Well by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley. Everyone will be licking their lips!

Drink:
Try: Seedlip Garden 108 Non-alcoholic Spirit, which highlights hand-picked peas as one of the key ingredients. Serve with tonic for a refreshing and uplifting summer drink.

Article by Nutrition editor: Eve Kalinik evekalinik.com; @evekalinik

Mulled Wine

IMG_1651It’s the perfect drink for chilly festive evenings and, with just a splash of brandy, it makes a great addition to a cocktail party menu.

For the best flavour, use a slightly fruity red wine.  While red wine and apple cider are the most traditional of the spiced winter warmers, you can also use cranberry juice or white wine to add some variation.  Just don’t let the mixture boil as this will evaporate the alcohol.

How to make …

Step One : Combine a bottle of red wine, a 10cm x 0.5cm (4 in x 1/4 in) slice of orange zest with the white pith removed, 3 orange slices, a thin slice of fresh ginger, 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 2 cardamom pods, 2 cinnamon sticks and 4 whole cloves in a large saucepan.

Step Two : Bring the mixture to just under a simmer over a low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Do not allow the wine to boil.

Step Three : The mulled wine is hot enough when the sugar has dissolved and lifting a spoon from the wine brings up steam.  To serve, add 1-2 teaspoons of brandy to a cup or mug and ladle the mulled wine over it.  Serves 6.

Keep the wine warm in a Mulled Wine Pot Warmer