Monday, June 11, 2012

Guest Post: Tea time with May King Tea

As you all know, I'm a big fan of tea. I even hang out with some other crazy tea ladies sometimes.. We tend to somehow find each other. It turns out there are more than a few of us that just can't get enough of the precious-as-can-be liquid. Really, it's elementary. Tea is just so perfect for any occasion, whether to warm up or calm down, or just because you need a minute to sit and ponder this crazy thing called life.

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 I'm actually a herbal infusions enthusiast rather than a black tea kinda gal but I've always been intrigued about all things tea and asked tea expert May King Tsang (otherwise known as May King Tea - v. cool name May King- it's almost fate...) to write a guest post for G.G. on anything tea.


May King has been drinking loose leaf tea for many years and when redundancy finally caught up with her in 2009, May King was able to turn her tea passion into a business. May King became the UK’s first graduate of the Speciality Tea Institute in January of this year so she is the perfect lady to dispel some caffeine myths and gives some interesting info below on herbal infusions.

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"Caffeine has a bad reputation because of the way it can affect people in certain beverages so I thought I would write a little blog post about the truth about caffeine in tea and talk about herbal infusions. Thanks Gastronomy Gal for giving me the opportuni-tea to write to your readers:

I’m going to be rather controversial here and say YES to caffeine. Why? Well the effect of the stimulant in caffeinated beverages is quite different to the way caffeine affects us in tea. The reason being (and here comes the science-y bit) as well as caffeine, tea also contains an amino acid called L-
theanine. This amino acid has a calming effect on our bodies and so whilst the caffeine stimulates the mind, the L-theanine helps to keep our bodies calm. Caffeine and L-theanine in my humble opinion, is the Yin and Yang of tea.

Buddhist Monks need to be able to meditate for hours and the green tea they drink helps them to keep mentally active (caffeine) whilst at the same time, the body is able to remain calm for meditation (L-theanine). Did you know that caffeine also helps to improve cognitive function?

I’m a BBC (British Born Chinese) and us Brits always make a cup of tea in the event of a crisis. The ritual of making the tea takes us away from the crisis for a few moments and when you sip the tea, the caffeine helps us to refocus whilst the L-theanine helps us to remain calm. So the next time you
sit down to a nice cup of tea, be comforted by the thought that (most) teas will not make you feel on edge or jittery due to the calming amino acid, L-theanine.

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Now I know some of you readers out there may be caffeine sensitive and I’ve come across many people who simply drink tea in the morning and switch to caffeine-free alternatives in the afternoon. Smart thinking people! Now I like to differentiate between tea and herbal infusions and here’s why.

Tea is the agricultural product of the Camellia Sinensis plant from which a beverage is derived. Just like wine, a grape may be grown in two different countries and due to the soils, the conditions, the terroir, the wine produced will taste different in the two countries. This is the same with tea. All tea (and there are different categories: white, green, oolong, black and pu’erh) comes from the camellia sinensis bush. It’s the different processing techniques that determine the different tea types. Health benefits of tea are very similar and despite the media that implies that green tea is
great for health, or oolong is great for slimming (don’t believe the hype!), the fact of the matter is, all tea as long as it is from the camellia sinensis bush is good for you. (For more details about the health benefits of tea, click here).

Beverages that do not come from the camellia sinensis bush ought to be referred to as herbal infusions or to use the French term, tisane. Beverages such as peppermint, camomile, hibiscus, sage etc are not “tea” in the true sense of the word. The reason I differentiate between them is because all herbal infusions have their own unique health properties so for example, peppermint is good to ease stomach pains, camomile helps us to sleep, hibiscus is said to help lower cholesterol etc. So all teas have the same health benefits – it doesn’t matter if it’s green tea or a black tea – whereas some herbals are good for one thing and other tisanes are good for other reasons. This is the reason why
I make that distinction between tea and herbals. What is common for all herbal infusions though is that they are all caffeine-free."

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May King will be speaking about tea at The Green Edge in Enoggera on Saturday 16th June. For more details or to purchase a ticket, visit: http://www.greenedgeonline.com.au/acatalog/Specials.html . You can also check out May King's blog or catch her on twitter @MayKingTea


If, like me, you are intrigued about tea and have any questions, post below and May King may even check back to answer a couple!

So, tell me readers: What is your ultimate blend?

4 fabulous comments:

Kylie Weber said...

thanks for the great read - I'm a tea & coffee drinker.. but strictly tea at night time. Straight up black please :)

Clanskye said...

I'm a herbal infusion fan, but my main love is chai :)

SOL's view said...

I'm a strictly black tea kinda girl, but I drink it with milk.

Arctic fire, Assam, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, English Breakfast are my faves.

Nothing like a cup of sweet tea when I'm feeling off colour.

Anonymous said...

I recently visited Fortnum and Mason's Tea rooms where they have the largest tea menu I have ever seen - almost 100 blends - with detailed descriptions of each tea to help you decide. It truly is a tea lovers paradise! There are a few herbal options too. An extremely interesting guest post!

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