Katherine Burnett Ph.D., Founder, and Director of the U.C. Davis Global Tea Initiative hosted the 7th Annual Colloquium this past week on January 13. Each year her program has featured areas of interest for all tea lovers. The program brings together leaders in the tea business community with world-recognized academics to share insights into tea drinking that are meaningful for all tea lovers.
This year her focus shifted to include a little two areas of interest that are particularly relevant to these times of dealing with the Covid pandemic. In addition to considering the question of whether or not Camellia sinensis can be valuable in managing viral loads for Covid and other respiratory diseases, she infused the day with consideration of other herbals that, brewed and consumed as a “tea”, are showing ways to support health and well-being in ways that are relevant to the challenges of the day.
The presenters and discussions were largely fresh, new voices to most of us. Resources like the UCD Global Tea Initiative Colloquiums offer great value to all tea lovers. So it is worth featuring these scientists and tea entrepreneurs who helped create this year’s platform.
Does tea help manage Covid and other respiratory infections?
Perhaps the most anticipated area was “Tea and Covid”. Two presentations considered this question from different perspectives that came to similar conclusions. Both doctors spoke to how scientific research is being developed and what we have to look forward to in the future.
Dr. Mary Muchiri of the Tea Institute of Karatina University, Kenya offered perspectives on how tea can be one of the tools used to manage symptoms of Covid and other respiratory diseases. She made the point that teas, Camellia sinensis, and other herbal tea infusions are not cures but, when people have a limited number of options, it becomes even more meaningful.
Dr. Hiroshi Yamado, has served on multiple research projects that look at how drinking tea may or may not help with upper respiratory illnesses and extrapolates how this may have similar relevance to Covid. He did offer the results of a study that he conducted with various demographics, testing to see if gargling with green tea reduced the amount of virus in the throat. While there was a slight decline in virus present after gargling, it was not enough to be statistically relevant.
Both speakers emphasized the way in which drinking tea supports health in many different ways and that the limited amount of evidence being considered at this time is inspiring more research.
One other speaker, Adam Siegel, Librarian at U.C. Davis provided another historical perspective about the importance of Camellia sinensis as a medicinal plant in Eastern Europe. He shared some of the lore that surrounded tea drinking habits there.
Herbal Teas as “Functional” Wellness Beverages
The remaining six presentations were fascinating topics on various herbs that are used as tea and how they are becoming increasingly popular, providing tea lovers with ways in which to choose beverages that are not only tasty but also healthy.
Dr. Nada Milosavljevic on the faculty of Harvard Medical School spoke about, “The Popularization of Food as Medicine and its Impact on Tea”. As Hippocrates is credited, Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food, Dr. Nada looked at how our culture is perhaps appreciating this more in relation to tea and other herbal beverages. Her emphasis was on using teas as prevention and maintaining daily health. Her work is not only academic, she has also developed a line of wellness teas, Sage Tonic, blending some of the most beneficial herbs with camellia sinensis.
Culturally Historic North American Herbs With Caffeine
With increased interest in native herbal lore, GTI introduced us to two women with expertise in herbs that contain caffeine like Camellia sinensis. In fact, during the Revolutionary War when colonists rejected tea, Yaupon (Ilex – also known as Yaupon Holly) was one of the plants that Native Americans recommended as a substitute. On the panel, “Wellness Teas”, Abianne Falla, founder of the Yaupon farm, CatSpring Yaupon introduced us to the nuances and benefits of using it as a tea.
Dr. Christine Folch, Ph.D. in cultural anthropology gave an extensive presentation on how Yaupon was used ceremonially and spiritually. Some of her personal investigation of Yaupon has been posted on her website along with a how-to pick and process the fresh leaves and then prepare and enjoy the infusion.
“Improving Anxiety and Well-Being with a Tea Meditation”
In a fascinating panel discussion, Eric Fausak, MSLIS, MA, RVT, RLAT of UCD Veterinary Medicine organized a diverse panel to speak to ways in which businesses are beginning to use simple tea meditation practices to help workers manage on-the-job stress that leads to burn-out and frustration in the workplace. He is currently offering weekly virtual tea meditations. (U.C. Davis Mindfulness Tea Meditation Website)
The final panel came together to tie the day together with voices from the industry who have observed changes over recent years. Along with Abianne Falla of CatSpring Yaupon was Manik Jayakumar of QTrade Tea, Paul Harney of Harney & Sons Fine Teas and Amy Driscoll of Bears Fruit Kombucha. They reviewed how interest in the health benefits of Camellia sinensis and other herbals used as tea has grown and how this growth has and will change the tea industry.