Tea Up for Well-Being
As the evenings turn cooler, our beverage choices also shift to warmer temperatures and more comfort and health-oriented drinks. Tea is the most popular beverage in the world, second only to water, and has a range of flavors, benefits, and culinary applications.
Tea has a simple recipe – water and some form of the leaves of the Camelia Sinensis bush, it is most often made with hot or warm water, but can be made with cool water, such as “sun tea”. That simplicity earns it a spot on the list of whole foods, or more accurately, whole food-derived drinks. Interesting to note that America is the primary country where tea is enjoyed cold – the demand for functional beverages that are portable and personal has created a unique opportunity for tea as a grab-and-go beverage. Approximately 75 – 80% of tea consumed in America is iced. ¹
The first written records of tea as a medicinal beverage were found in China, around the 3rd century A.D. Modern research has been able to identify specific compounds that may have health benefits, including polyphenols such as flavonoids, theaflavins and catechins, all antioxidants. Observation studies connect 2 -3 cups of tea per day to reduced risk of premature death, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. More research must be done to define intake and specific health impact, but tea has a place on the table for traditional teetotalers and health seekers alike.
Generally, caffeine content of a cup of tea is 50 mg or less, half the content of an 8 oz cup of coffee. ² Time brewing and form of tea also impact caffeine content. Tea assists with hydration, and contains the amino acid theanine, which research hints supports brain health. This makes it a perfect beverage for that afternoon energy-seeker, busy parents recharging between work and evening family activities, or an end-of-day stress soother.
Tea is also riding the innovation wave as more functional beverages that include nootropics, ingredients that enhance energy, focus, and relaxation, or added vitamins and minerals. Culinary innovations include using flavored teas (such as green tea with lemon) as a poaching liquid for seafood or chicken, or macha (green) tea powder as an ingredient in baked or dessert items. Tea is even in barbeque sauce!
I had the opportunity to see a tea plantation and enjoy a tea ceremony in Japan. The evergreen shrubs were beautiful and carefully tended. Tea grows at higher elevations in many Asian countries – it was a beautiful landscape and is where I was first introduced to green tea.
Tea flavors are shaped by the terroir or soil/climate/altitude of the place it is grown. ³ They are also defined by the part of the plant that it is made from, and the types of processing those plant elements are subjected to. Finally, they may be enhanced by essential oils, or combinations with other plants, such as herbs or spices (such as Chai, a tea spiced with cardamom and cinnamon). Tea truth – beverages made with herbs, spices, flowers and other plants that do not include the Camelia Sinensis leaves are not teas – they are tisanes. That term is more technical – “herbal tea” is a more consumer-friendly description and has become the more common term used for those brewed beverages.
Take some time to explore the amazing world of tea with the many varieties and flavors you can find in stores. You will find yourself in good company – 159 million Americans enjoy tea each day! ⁴
²IFIC, accessed 9/7/22, https://foodinsight.org/coffee-and-tea-can-hydrate-too/
³Tea Aroma Formation https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221345301500018X
Citrus to the Max!
Winter brings fresh citrus to the store and to your table – during the cold and sometimes gloomy days of winter, the bright smell of lemon or orange can add energy to your day and your recipes! As we also keep an eye on budgets and value, taking advantage of the seasonal abundance of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, tangerines, clementines, mandarins and more, check out these culinary and climate-smart hacks and tips to take your citrus to the max!
Get a smart start – take advantage of seasonal citrus sales, then store them well. Most citrus is fine on the cool kitchen counter for about 5 days, but you risk losing what isn’t used up as it dries out and loses quality much beyond that. Some tips to make the most of what is fresh and fabulous:
- Wash citrus before prepping or storing. Store in the refrigerator for best shelf life.
- Use a zester or micro plane to capture the flavor and fiber benefits of fruit zest. There are so many ways to use it:
- Add a teaspoon or two of zest to a small jar of salt or sugar – sprinkle on anything you are looking for a little burst of flavor – liven up leftovers and zip up sweet treats.
- Zest and juice fruits and freeze them together in ice cube trays. Once frozen, you can add the juice and zest cubes to water, soups, teas and cocktails anytime.
- Freeze whole fruits for zesting and juicing later – store in a freezer bag with as much air as possible removed.
- Keep citrus peels from snacks/recipes and let them dry out on a counter or windowsill – they make great fresheners for the sink disposal – last thing you do before you finish cleaning the kitchen!
- Slice and dehydrate citrus in an air fryer (check appliance directions) or your regular oven – lay uniform thin slices 1 inch apart on a foil-lined sheet pan, lightly sprayed with oil. Oven temperature should be about 200 °F, time will be 2 – 6 hours, depending on size of fruit. Check out more how-to’s and ideas at The National Center for Home Food Preservation.
- Beyond the plate – dried citrus fruit and zest is also great to use for decorating, such as festive dried fruit garlands and potpourri.
- How about a homemade citrus cleaner? Check out this easy-make method from US Citrus.
- Preserved or pickled, easy freezer jams, jellies and spreads -add a dash of the Mediterranean to seafood or poultry recipes with preserved lemons with thyme or oregano, or explore a rosy, luscious Cara Cara orange curd for a special cake, or a beautiful tart decorated with ruby-kissed dried orange slices.
- Treat yourself – one of my favorite recipes – overnight oats with fresh or frozen fruit, chia seeds, PICS Greek yogurt and lemon curd.
So many ways to enjoy the winter bounty of citrus our Produce Team has worked to source and bring to your local store – enjoy!