Hardly a day goes by that we aren’t asked, “Which is the healthiest tea – green, white, or black?”  So, what is your answer?  Ours is that all teas are loaded with antioxidants and have much less caffeine than coffee, but studies are conflicting on which level of oxidation makes for the “most” health benefits.  Cop out?  Consumers seem somewhat content with that answer, and it is a truthful one we believe, one that keeps us from more intensive questions, which we feel inadequate and uncomfortable answering.

One thing is becoming clear: Consumers are eagerly listening to people in the media regarding tea (like Dr. Oz or Dr. Weil) and googling, checking out or buying books, and digging into information on the leaf we love.  That’s a good thing and yet it does pose a dilemma for tea shop owners.  We are not qualified at OUR shop to give any kind of medical advice or prescribe anything for specific medical problems.  Yet, because of their own research and what they are hearing in the media, customers ARE asking about specific teas or herbs for specific medical problems…some which we’ve never even heard of.  However, apparently some tea shop owners are giving advice, based on what customers visiting from other areas are telling us.

So, how are you handling this situation in your store?  Are you walking the tightrope and giving out advice, or are you deferring to the more general “all tea is healthy” axiom?  Another thing we often do is talk about, anecdotally, how much better another customer is feeling since switching from coffee to tea.

We also have a small sheet of general health benefits hanging on one of our tea displays that we package with customers’ purchases.

Our plans are to offer classes/discussions on a regular basis during which we can share more in-depth information on tea, including explanations of how tea is grown and picked, oxidized, classified, and so on, what herbals/tisanes are and how they differ from tea, and a Q&A session.  This seems essential now that the largest coffee chain in the world is offering “full-leaf teas” and people are becoming aware of differences in grades and quality.

This burgeoning public interest in the many facets of tea also brings up the need for all of us in the business to continually upgrade our own knowledge.  Nothing is worse than customers who know more about your product than you!  We’ve met a few and they are awesome.  In fact, there are tea forums in which people not yet out of high school are presented as “tea scholars.”  They make “coffee snobs” look like amateurs!

I am hoping that more contributors here at T Ching address the subject of tea and health.  Studies come and studies go, but tea continues to prove itself, in a daily and practical way, to make many feel so much better than they ever did drinking other beverages…regardless of how oxidized the tea may be!