Why not tea? Classic beverage can surprise laymen

Photo by Evan Ludes/ The Gateway The Tea Smith, with two locations in Omaha, is the city’s premier source for fine teas.
Photo by Evan Ludes/ The Gateway
The Tea Smith, with two locations in Omaha, is the city’s premier source for fine teas.

By Hannah Gill, Contributor

We are deep in winter now, and with the oppressive cold comes the long struggle. It is fought with hats, gloves, aunts with knitting needles and car heaters. Nothing compares to arriving home in minus 30-degree wind chill, peeling off the seasonal armor and sitting down to a hot drink.

Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, lesser only to water. American’s inauspicious beginning with tea, namely making a harbor’s worth of it, has given way to half the population’s daily habit.

Whether trying tea for the first time or expanding the variety, incorporating this healthy drink into your life is easy.

Why Drink Tea? 

Since its beginnings in ancient China, tea has been recognized for its healing qualities. It aids in digestion, increases mental focus, flushes out toxins and balances the body, according to Babette Donaldson of the “Everything Healthy TeaBook.” Lower cholesterol, a more alert mind, stable blood sugar and hydration are all benefits gained by a glass a day.

Making A Mug

Tea is made of hot water and leaves from the tea plant or herbal mix. While bagged tea is popular for its quick steeping time, the quality is lower. If you have three to five minutes and a strainer, loose-leaf tea is noticeably more flavorful. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want to bring the water to a rolling boil. Small rising bubbles are a sign the water is hot enough, especially with green tea.
Preparing tea takes four simple steps. Heat water to medium boil, put loose tea leaves into the strainer, pour water into a mug, and let sit for three minutes. It’s that simple. Honey, sugar and lemon are popular additives, especially for beginners.
Individual packaging has directions for how much tea should be added, but typically, herbal tea requires a tablespoon and for all other varieties, a teaspoon. It’s very easy to personalize:  if the tea seems weak, add more leaves in the strainer. Leaving it to steep longer will make it bitter, not more flavorful. If you want to purchase a strainer, buy one that has a wide column and sits on the top of the glass, instead of a ball, since the water will flow more effectively over the leaves.
Picking Tea
Tea is commercially available bagged in supermarkets or loose at Asian markets and specialty stores. Loose-leaf lovers in Omaha tend to patronize The Tea Smith or Teavana. If you want to shop local and purchase well-researched speciality varieties, the Tea Smith is an excellent fit. I’ve found it to be equal quality and slightly more affordable, with sample sizes to
try new varieties easily. The tea is packaged in resealable bags, but the directions for each variety are not printed individually on each. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
Teavana has a similarly knowledgeable staff, unique flavors available only through their store and corporate swag. The tea does not reseal as effectively in the bags, but if you are a heavy tea drinker, this isn’t an issue.