Ever wondered how many websites, globally, are devoted to tea? Unlike politics and religion, tea incites rather acquiescent discussions. Tea conversation remains innocent partly because miscommunication or misrepresentation, if any, seldom rouses indignation. But how is tea knowledge distributed and presented around the world? Could one people’s tea fact be another’s tea myth?
A few months ago, a Chinese journal’s special “Regimen & Beauty” issue re-published another periodical’s article, “10 Biggest Misconceptions about Tea.” Some of these misconceptions seem common knowledge. Rather than new findings, they may be old information rehashed, recurrent discussions, or reminders. My crude translation and thoughts are as follows:
Misconception No. 1: The newer the tea, the better.
The article cites Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) recommendation of allowing a tea to age at least half a month before consumption, for newly processed and packaged products tend to increase human body’s internal heat.
Don’t we all pay more attention to teas’ expiration dates than to their harvest or manufacture dates? Like wines and spirits, some teas such as Pu-erh do require proper aging.
Misconception No. 2: Drink tea immediately after meals.
The article elucidates that tea polyphenols impede the human body’s absorption of nutrients. Hence, tea should be consumed at least half an hour after meals.
Misconception No. 3: Tea is an effective hangover remedy.
Tea will further burden liver and kidney. As we all know, the best hangover cure is rest.
Misconception No. 4: Tea affects sleep.
For reasons that have yet to be identified, Pu-erh seems an exception. Personally I am not persuaded and do not drink tea before bedtime.
Misconception No. 5: Tea leaves should be rinsed and cleansed first.
The first brew of black tea or Oolong tea should be disposed, but not green tea. The article also points out that pesticides used at most tea plantations are not water soluble.
Misconception No. 6: Always use boiled water.
Green tea should not be steeped using water that has just boiled. Pu-erh tea, on the other hand, can actually be cooked.
Misconception No. 7: Cover tea cup with a lid to preserve aroma.
This should not be done with green tea.
Misconception No. 8: Use paper cup or thermal mug.
Paper cups are coated with a layer of wax, which may dissolve and alter beverage flavor.
Though thermal mugs keep drinks at constant high temperature, they make tea leaves turn yellow rather quickly, and may embitter tea flavor. It’s better to wait for the temperature to drop a bit before pouring newly steeped tea into a thermal mug.
Misconception No. 9: Always use boiled tap water.
This depends on the quality and mineral content of tap water. Calcium and magnesium may interact with tea polyphenols; the resulted chemical reactions can exacerbate tea flavor, aroma, even health benefits. Therefore, purified water is preferred.
Misconception No. 10: Chew tea leaves.
Some tea drinkers like to chew and swallow tea leaves, which they consider source of fiber, carotene, and other nutrients. They might have forgotten toxic residue.