Tea is healthy for you, an admirable quality in a beverage that so many tea lovers find enjoyable for its aroma, flavor, and visual appeal. The health benefits of tea allow us to drink tea as a pleasure, not a “guilty” pleasure. Even the general public seems to have caught on and for some, these healthy properties are the prime motivation to turn to tea, away from less healthy beverage choices. Yet, for all this tea drinking, there are times we look around our tea community and don’t always see shining examples of health and good cheer. Have we developed too strong of an epicurean appreciation of tea, indulging in its luxurious flavors, hopeful that its inherent goodness will bestow us with a healthy body and sound mind merely by the act of lifting a cup?
Within the history of tea there is precedent for this refined, more sedentary point of view. The mere act of boiling water to prepare tea ensured the safety of the water, a major health improvement even before the first tea leaves unfurled in the cup. In Europe, centuries ago, tea was first sold in apothecary shops to help remedy a host of ailments. Today, arguable health claims aside, the mere act of drinking freshly made tea, instead of sugar-laden bottled teas, is a simple first step in the right direction toward minimizing the consumption of empty calories.
“Mens sana in corpore sano” – the advice of the Ancient Greeks to try and achieve a “sound mind in a sound body” might well apply to tea drinkers who pursue one, but ignore the other. A spate of articles warning that too much sitting can contribute to an early demise tarnishes the allure of spending long afternoons lounging around a tea house with a pot of tea. Grudgingly, we may have to admit that drinking tea alone cannot compensate for an unwillingness to just get out the door and be more active.
Frequently, drinking and eating combined with exercising a little more creates a pattern of reinforcement. The feel-good glow after a workout encourages reaching for the right food and beverages that support all that physical effort. It’s not an accident that some of the cities and regions across the country with the most active populations also seem to be home to higher concentrations of tea shops. This mutually supportive relationship between a more active, outdoor lifestyle in tune with nature and tea is one aspect of tea’s surging popularity. Uniquely, without any added ingredients, tea is a natural “functional” beverage with a host of healthy components to support a sound body.
A few of our favorite teas and tisanes that support higher levels of physical activity include green teas, especially matcha, for their high antioxidant levels and support of bone health; pu-erh teas for their positive influence on blood circulation; ginger turmeric tea with its pain / inflammation soothing properties; hibiscus tea as a vitamin C powerhouse; and mulberry leaf tea for its concentration of green leafy minerals and vitamins. The moderate caffeine in teas in general makes them easier to digest than many “energy” drinks and can help push through a more demanding workout indoors or outdoors. Being less than two blocks away from the popular Capital Crescent Trail that runs through Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, we can attest to the numbers of walkers, runners, and bicyclists who recover and refuel at our shop, specifically seeking out healthy tea options.
If you need the inspiration to become a little more active, think the Olympic Games in London, which will be upon us in a couple of months. But why sit around until then? Put the health benefits of tea to a more rigorous test and use your tea drinking habit to help you move towards a more “sound body” today.