Most Liberal Product In America – Kombucha

Admittedly, kombucha is still a bit of a mystery to me, the main reason being that I do not drink alcohol.   Once I read that it was a fermented beverage, I just thought, “Nope.”   However, watching some of my coworkers swear by it and seeing all sorts of recipes for SCOBY (the weird culture of bacteria and yeast that looks a bit like an oceanic creature), I decided to at least do a bit of research on it and know what on Earth I am talking about.

Kombucha Tea: Do the Negatives Outweigh the Positives ...

The mystery of kombucha….

For those of you who have lived blissfully unawares, kombucha, dubbed the most liberal product in America as of 2009, is an ancient Chinese tea-based drink (usually green or black tea) that is brewed with a yeast disc, yielding low levels of alcohol.   Now, it is toted as being a huge part of PepsiCo’s portfolio, despite the fact that it had an alcohol regulation scandal only a few years ago.   Health nuts love it, because it states that it contains vitamins, amino acids, and other buzz words healthy people (and the government) associate with health benefits.   This also implies a non-alcoholic base, so kids and adults can enjoy the drink.   It almost developed a cult following, with people expounding upon its properties to do everything from fix what ails ya to even curing AIDS and cancer (helpful note, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center states that kombucha has not been shown to treat cancer nor AIDS in humans).

Kombucha is prepared mostly by placing the SCOBY in sweetened tea and left to ferment at room temperature for 1-3 weeks, then bottled for 1-2 weeks to contain the CO2 that is given off and increase the natural carbonation of the drink.   From there, the drink is stored in the fridge, at which point it is ready to be sold.   The scandal happened because people did not think of the second fermentation cycle that the drink goes through:

“However, the production and distribution of kombucha halted abruptly for two months in 2010 following a Whole Foods inspection  by Maine Department of Agriculture Consumer Protection Inspector Randy Trahan. During a routine bottle audit at the Whole Foods in Portland, Trahan noticed leaking kombucha bottles. Trahan explained, “Some of the Kombucha bottles on the shelf were leaking. Being a public health official, I know that alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation process. I could immediately see that there might be a public safety issue…Kids could get hold of this and get a buzz.””

After Trahan submitted the bottles for testing, they found alcohol levels ranging from a bit over 0.5% to even going as high as over 2.5%, well above the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s regulations.   The drink was pulled from shelves as a result for a bit while the industry gathered itself again to try a second time in the kombucha boom.

The government stepped in and stated that it would regulate any kombucha products that contain 0.5% or more ABV, even after the product was bottled and continued to ferment.   Trade association Kombucha Brewers International was also founded as a way to educate both consumers and retailers about kombucha, as well as promote industry ethics and labeling standards, working with the government to do so.

With new regulations in place, producers went two ways – some decided to comply with the ABV standards through manufacturing changes and de-alcoholizers, while others used their original formulas and labeled their brands as beers instead.   Purists believe the de-alcoholized products stripped away the health benefits of the beverage that made it so popular in the first place.   However, sales continue to climb, estimated to be about $1.8 billion by 2020.

So, while I might try some of the de-alcoholized kombucha, there’s something to be said about its fascinating history, and the current hype surrounding the beverage!

Sit back, enjoy a cuppa, and let me know your thoughts.

More Reasons To Drink Tea – With Science!

Lately, I have had a few people come to me saying, “Hey, look, a scientific article as to why we should be drinking tea!”   Normally, I must admit, I am a bit skeptical about that.   So many articles are based off of non-scientific information and a pop-science culture, that I sort of wave it off.

Well, I personally love following IFLScience.   Their articles, I feel, are hilarious, yet very informative.   After all, how many other places will show you fun things like how much of various substances will kill you, like cherry pits?

My sister-in-law, Amanda, is just as obsessed, if not more so, with IFLScience (especially since she has such a strong science background with her physics degree from Kutztown University).   Recently, she went on my Facebook with a link and a note stating, “We already knew this but it is iflscience…”   I clicked the link and lo and behold, IFLScience posted an article entitled “Five Reasons To Put The Kettle On And Have A Cup Of Tea“.   Awesome!

One of the reasons, IFLScience, gives for people to drink tea, is the link to survival.   Imagine back in ye olden times, when tea was first discovered.   Things weren’t exactly… sanitary back then.   No running water, no plumbing, it wasn’t know what spread or caused diseases, so it was quite easily to die back then.   Tea, however, requires boiling water in order to drink.   Thus, many water-borne pathogens, like cholera and typhoid, would be killed in the boiling process and tea was safer to drink than, let’s say, just a glass of cool water.

Next, the effects that tea has on the brain.   We tea drinkers know that we are the mellow people of the beverage world.   Now science can support that we are alert up to two hours after drinking, and are calm to boot during the second hour.

I’ve written about the idea of green tea and weight loss, which I still advocate taking with a grain of salt.   IFLScience mentions studies as well.   I do advocate drinking green tea either way, but still say go get some exercise.

Another one that I would recommend taking with a grain of salt but do find interesting is the idea that tea might help with type 2 diabetes.   Those who drank three to four or more cups per day had a 16% lower risk of developing the disease, compared to those who only drank one or none.   While this was only shown in woman and those of Asian ethnicity, it is just interesting to note.   But much like the idea of weight loss and green tea, make sure to practice proper health and not rely on tea for your type 2 diabetes.

And finally, heart disease!   Same thing as above, but science did seem to show that both green tea and black tea significantly reduced blood pressure, and black tea lowered LDL cholesterol and green tea lowered all cholesterol.   Very nice!

I don’t think I need to tell you that, science or no science, I am still reaching for my cuppa and enjoying it regularly.   I hope you do as well!

Back From Sabbatical!

 

 

Hi all!

So, here I am, back from a mini Sabbatical. Turns out, August was a bit of a slow month in the tea world, so I sat back, relaxed a little, and waited for things to speed up again.

First, I want everyone to mark their calendars! On Thursday, October 8th, I will be up at Pequannock Township Public Library, 477 Newark Pompton Turnpike, Pompton Plains, for a Tea Love talk! The talk starts at 7 PM and will take you through a brief introduction on tea, as well as a tea tasting. Bring your own mugs to this, and make sure to get their nice and early to get a good spot! For any questions, contact Debbie Maynard, library director, at (973) 835-7460.

Now, onto the next topic. I have to brag, that when you are sitting down reading this blog, I am sitting at a quaint café overlooking the Seine with my sister-in-law Amanda and our friend Pam, sipping our own cuppa in Paris, France! It’s a trip I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl stealing my brother’s French books in order to learn more about the language and culture, and I am so excited to be going with some great people.

But when we hear about Paris, we often think about coffee. After all, aren’t they more popular for their café du lait than they are for their thè? Non, non, monsieurs et madams! They also have a nice tea culture!

One can stroll along the cafés and find exclusive tea places as well. Blogger Annelies Zjderveld of Mighty Leaf explains that she would often see announcements of salon de thè (tea salons) along with beer and food printed on the store fronts. Stores such as Asian-style tea houses that had long lists of teas, as well as others that were quite literally walled with canisters of tea.

Herbal teas are quite popular in France. Why? Not only are they seen as being good for digestion after a meal, they also do not have the caffeine that can be found in traditional tea. You might see Verbena and tileul teas, as they are native to the South of France. I must admit, I have not tried either of these, though I am excited to now!

Verbena, writes Zjderveld, has a buttery citrus profile. This sounds like it would be nice to sip after having a heavy chocolate dessert, like an éclair or a slice of chocolate cake.

The other, tileul, is made with the dried leaves of the Linden tree and has a woody profile to it.

The Parisians also seem to like their mint tea. Since I like chocolate, I am going to think of a mint tea with some chocolate mousse.

In terms of true teas, Paris seems to enjoy their black teas. You can find the common English Breakfast and Earl Greys there, though sometimes, you can also find the fruited blends, which are also becoming more popular with the youth.

So for now, I am going to say au revoir, relax, and enjoy my time in Paris. Enjoy your Sunday, and happy sippings!

 

Fairy Water – Making Water “Sexy”

So, recently, I just heard about a drink people are making called “fairy water“.   This was featured on the Ellen Show with TV personality guest Padma Lakshmi.   The goal?   Make water “sexy”.   Looking at the recipe, it seems like they are pretty much making a tea!   She even calls for tea to be added to the water!

Some of the ingredients I have been seeing people using are:

  • Edible dried rose petals
  • Lemon and/or lime sliced in rings
  • Star anise
  • Dried jasmine flowers
  • Rosemary
  • Cucumber
  • Bay leaves
  • Easy Exotic Blooming Green Tea
  • Apple slices
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Mixed berries
  • Strawberries

Have you caught onto this “new” (well, I see this as being infused water with tea, so not necessarily new, but well branded!) water?   What kind of ingredients do you like in yours?

Doing Good With A Cuppa

I adore my philanthropy work.   I work at a job where I feel like I am making a difference in people’s lives, I constantly assist at my church (maybe to a fault!), and am constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to better the world around me, especially for the homeless population and those that suffer from hunger.

I also adore my tea.   A nice cuppa after a crazy day at work is relaxing and gets my mind away from any evil thoughts that might infiltrate, ranging from depressing, lonely thoughts to, “Did I remember to do that thing I wanted to do today?” thought.   While I drink coffee, that revs me up and keeps me moving, while tea rocks me gently into a certain bliss.

Mix the two together, and I am in love.   On Saturday, April 25th, for example, I am going to be heading up to Ringwood Library, 30 Cannici Drive, Ringwood, New Jersey 07456 for a high tea fundraiser.   There, I will be explaining all about high teas and offering samples.   Tickets are $20 for Friends of the Library members and $25 for non-members.   For more information, you can visit the website or contact Elise Bedder at (973) 962-6256, ext. 15, or email her at bedder@ringwoodlibrary.org.   All proceeds benefit the library.

Another good thing to think about with your tea is Fair Trade.   GOOD Magazine wrote a news article on the whole idea of being Fair Trade.   Being that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world and the sixth most consumed in the US, everyone should do their part to give tea growers a good life.   Thankfully, Americans are doing just that.   Tea consumption is on the rise and per Fair Trade USA, between 2012 and 2013, Fair Trade Certified teas (produced by cooperatives and farms) imports jumped by 26%!   Given that tea consumption in the US has quadrupled since 1990, that is HUGE.

But what does it mean to be Fair Trade?

To get Fair Trade Certified, a company must ensure that the farmers receive safe working conditions as well as sustainable wages and fair capital.   The capital is determined by the prices set for the products.   Workers also get a premium (the extra price that a consumer pays for a product that a consumer pays for a product that goes back to the farm source), which they can choose to invest back into the farm or the community.

The work is very strenuous and is often done by working mothers, many of whom tend the fields with their babies still on their back.   In some circumstances where companies are not Fair Trade certified, these women are getting paid $1.35 a day, not enough to feed their families.   Some even have to resort to human trafficking and sending children to bigger cities for the possibilities of better work opportunities.   However, Fair Trade certified companies do not have that.

When a company becomes Fair Trade certified, the farmers democratically decide how their Fair Trade premiums.   In India, this often goes into college scholarships or retirement funds.   In China?   This goes to building school dorms, building roads, installing gas stoves, or building sanitation facilities.

While being organic is not required, many companies go this route.   All the same, Fair Trade certification enforces environmental standards to help maintain healthy living conditions and working conditions, such as restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers, banning GMOs, and protecting water resources.

So do yourself, farmers, and the world a favor.   Buy Fair Trade.   Help the farmers, help the earth, and make your heart smile.

Battling Illnesses With A Cuppa? Hold On There!

We all do it.   It’s something that we’ve probably grown up hearing that we should do, as a matter of fact.

“If you’re sick, grab a cup of tea and stay in bed.”

After all, we know about all the antioxidants and polyphenols that tea contains.   It would make sense that if our immune systems are battling the dark unknown, we should give it a boost of healthy supplements to get our T cells to win the war against our colds, flus, and general illnesses.

But, what if I told you that this is not necessarily the case?

“But Catherine, you write a whole blog dedicated to tea!   Surely you believe that tea has health benefits, which have been proven by scientific study after scientific study!”

Well, yes and no.

Just like I say at my Tea Love talks, I am NOT a doctor and would never dream of giving out medical advice.   However, as my talks became more popular, more and more people were asking about the health benefits of tea, and rightfully so.   Tea is proving to become more and more popular in the United States and is usually promoted for weight loss, dental health, cancer prevention (though the National Cancer Institute does not recommend for or against the use of tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer due to inconclusive studies), and even diabetes management.   So in response, yes, I do touch upon a few medical studies that have been performed with tea, though never advocating for any particular use.

Global News reporter Rachel Lau recently published an article addressing the question if drinking tea really does help you when you are sick.

First, make sure that what you are drinking is healthy for you.   For example, those who might have certain mental illnesses might have to watch their caffeine intake.   All forms of tea, unless it specifies caffeine free (NOT decaffeinated, which does still contain trace amounts of caffeine), do contain caffeine.   By drinking without regarding the caffeine intake, you could be doing anything from packing on the caffeine right before bed to causing more serious health issues.

Second, never self-diagnose (I am terrible at this, so do not follow my example!).   If you think that drinking a certain tea might be beneficial, talk to your doctor first.   Some plants that you might use in your teas can cause more harm than good.

Third, be wary of the studies.   While yes, there are numerous studies for everything ranging from green tea to herbal teas, they are all new studies and some do not have the greatest controls.   So while, as the National Cancer Institute says, there are studies, most are new and some do not have the support of the medical community.

Overall?   Drink tea!   Love tea!   Worship tea!   But make sure you are drinking it for enjoyment or if you are cutting down on sugars and subbing tea instead, rather than drinking it to cure an illness like cancer.

Tea Review – Red Rose English Breakfast Tea

Hi all!

So, life has been busy, busy, busy!   First off, GREAT news regarding my recent health issues.   I finally got everything resolved.   Cysts have disappeared, kidney is non-existent but not a bad thing, and my low iron has been resolved.   Even better?   Ever since taking my iron pills, I have had more energy, I feel less depressed, and I have even started going to the gym again, this time with my mommy in tow and soon, my boyfriend will be joining on Saturday!

Very excited about all of that 🙂

I also got word that I will be doing another Tea Love talk!   This one will be in February, details to follow.

Now, as some of you might already know, I received a package from Red Rose Tea again, this time asking to review their Keurig cups.   Though I must admit, I am not the biggest fan of K-cups, I decided to give it a whirl.   Last time, I reviewed the original K-cup.   Now, I moved on to…

English Breakfast From Red Rose Tea!

English Breakfast From Red Rose Tea!

English Breakfast!

So, I brewed it and, as you can see here, it has its signature red flavor to the tea, almost like burnt cinnamon.   Truly, if I could, I would put some of this tea in resin and wear that as a necklace or ring, it looks so pretty.

Unfortunately though, in terms of taste and scent, it doesn’t quite meet standards.   I do not taste any outstanding flavors to it, nor do I smell any.   To smell anything, I have to quite literally stick my nose deep into my cup and even then, I get a slight smell of black tea.   As for taste, it is a good black tea, mind you, but I would not want to use it to wash down a hearty breakfast of eggs and sausage.   It is more mild, better for some light sandwiches.

I know that my aunt likes to dress up her Red Rose Tea with a little bit of orange juice, so I might give that a shot, but this is more of just a pleasant tea, nothing too outstanding about it.

Sorry, Red Rose!   I do like your products, but this one, I would recommend an improvement on.

Next week, I will review the final one, the naturally decaffeinated tea.