Is tea good for you?
Tea has always symbolised a taste of home for Nina, the founder of Hope & Glory: the soothing scent of her father’s masala chai wafting through her childhood home. But more than that, it’s about helping revive tea’s role in making Britain – and the world – a healthier, happier place.
‘People nowadays are so busy and stressed. Of course, we don’t want to go completely backwards and give up our access to technology, but hyper-connectivity has its drawbacks. Many of us realise the need to regain a sense of proportion so we’re not overwhelmed by the minutiae of life. It’s about being able to stop and enjoy the really good things in life. A great cup of tea enables us to do that, but it’s also an end in itself,’ says Nina.
Co-founder Bharat, , adds, ‘Tea not only refreshes our senses, but it’s generally accepted that tea is good for health and well-being. You can now find medical research to prove that tea actually helps reduce stress and anxiety, not just psychologically but physiologically.’
Certain teas as well as tisanes (otherwise known as herbal teas, such as chamomile, which are made from fruit or flower infusions) have long been considered beneficial to our system, from assisting weight loss to sharpening concentration to keeping serious disease at bay. However, only tea in the real sense of the word – that is, what is produced from the leaves of the camellia sinensis bush – is definitely known to contain antioxidants. From this single bush, first discovered in China, all four ‘real tea’ varieties originate: black, green tea, white and oolong teas.
These varieties contain antioxidants or flavonoids from polyphenol, a plant-based compound or micro-nutrient known to help prevent and fight diseases in some form or other. The amount of antioxidants depends on how long the leaves are processed.
‘Green tea is considered extremely healthy because it undergoes the least processing,’ Bharat explains. ‘It retains catechin, a polyphenol not found in other, more processed teas. Now catechin is a very powerful antioxidant. Green tea is associated with a multitude of health benefits, including strengthening our bones, stimulating our metabolism so we store less fat and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is probably why green tea has been able to cultivate a whole new generation of tea drinkers. Along with herbal and flavoured teas, green tea has stimulated real growth in the tea market. Among millennials, it’s probably the wellness tea.’
‘There is also a rise in sleep-related issues, probably linked as well to our unhealthy attachment to technology,’ says Nina. ‘So decaffeinated green tea, peppermint tea and some caffeine-free herbal teas should be popular among those of us who long for a relaxing, good night’s sleep.’
Bharat and Nina stress that they are neither nutritionists nor dieticians or even wellness coaches. They simply do their best to keep themselves informed. They listen to the on-going debates surrounding caffeine in tea, or how the brew may be used to combat diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
However, they point out that research has shown that black teas, when drunk in moderation, are indeed healthy. ‘Black teas, such as Hope & Glory’s Assam, Darjeeling and Earl Grey, are also rich in antioxidants. So they may help to relieve stress, improve oral health, and even lower the risk of diabetes.’
As ‘devoteas’ they are convinced that whole leaf and organic tea– free of chemicals, pesticides, and processed as naturally as possible — is far better than ‘ordinary’ teas.
‘The larger the leaf, as opposed to the small dustings or fannings you find in ordinary tea, the more it has of the stuff that’s good for you. It’s as simple as that,’ says Bharat.
Nina adds, ‘And when we drink organic tea, we’re not only valuing what we put in our bodies, but also helping to sustain the natural environment. Pesticides destroy nature but they also threaten the health of those who work in the farms that use them. It’s important to look beyond our own wellness to the welfare of others. At Hope & Glory, we only work with suppliers that are members of the Ethical Tea Partnership.’
It’s a sentiment that resounds with a complex generation for whom personal happiness, health and well-being is balanced by a deep concern for the wider good.
Says Nina, ‘It’s all about the total experience, isn’t it? Even when it comes to the tea we drink, it’s got to mean something more.’
Written by Gina McAdam, 22nd June, 2018