As evidence of the potent health benefits of tea continues to mount, those of us in the industry are aware that the media coverage of the scientific research reporting these benefits is one of the main drivers of the tea market.

As a result, more and more people are gulping down green tea solely to derive the health benefits they keep reading about. I often come across quotations in articles and blogs from someone who states that green tea tastes terrible (“you might as well go outside and grab a handful of grass from your lawn and put it in a cup of hot water and drink that”), but he drinks it every day just in case all of the research reports about its health benefits are true.

As someone who publishes an online tea blog and has an online tea shop, I must admit that I am guilty myself of assertively promoting the many health benefits of tea. Having spent over 20 years in the health care field, I read as much of the research on tea as I possibly can so that I may accurately report the results. I am, without a doubt, convinced of the profound health benefits of tea and am very pleased to see and hear that more people are drinking tea. That being said, I am concerned that all of those people out there drinking tea solely for its health benefits are not able to see the forest for the trees. They are missing something important: Tea is much more than just the health-promoting phytochemicals contained within.

Here are some thoughts and suggestions I have for those people who see tea as some sort of super-powered liquid vegetable that they have to hold their noses to ingest.

  1. If you have to force your tea down, this suggests to me that you are most likely drinking low-quality tea or preparing your tea improperly. Do yourself a favor and don’t think of tea as a medicine. Think of it as a fine wine and buy the best whole leaf tea you can afford and make sure you learn how best to prepare it. Your tea should be robustly flavorful and enjoyable and, if you choose carefully, it can even be transformative.
  2. For all of us tea vendors and educators out there, I think we are doing a disservice to the consumer if we are only promoting tea from the perspective of its physiological health benefits because that is what people are responding to. I highly recommend that we make sure we present a balanced view of all that tea and tea culture can provide in a person’s life.
  3. It is important for people to understand that the health benefits of tea extend well beyond the ingestion of health-promoting phytochemical constituents; there are tremendous health benefits derived from the beauty, peacefulness, and ritual preparation of tea. Taking time out to prepare a cup of tea mindfully, while enjoying the natural beauty of the tea leaves, pots, and utensils as well as the aroma and taste of the tea, creates a natural state of relaxation that is highly health promoting. Drinking tea in this manner gives you a double whammy of health benefits by providing both the chemical and mental/spiritual components of tea.
  4. Finally, I ask all of us in the industry to consider whether this renaissance of tea can be sustainable if it is solely based on ingesting it for its potential health benefits, if people don’t really enjoy it.