My morning routine has always been the same for the past five years: get the earliest train to work, clean the desk, and have a cup of tea before starting anything else.
For most people, coffee is the go-to morning drink for that extra kick needed to start the day. Philippine coffee culture dates back to the mid-eighteenth century when the first coffee tree was planted in Batangas. While both coffee and tea contain caffeine, the latter is taken more as a medicinal supplement than a refreshment. We did not have a significant tea culture then as the Philippines is not a major producer of tea, unlike coffee. But in the early part of the decade, milk tea has sparked a buzz among usual coffee and soda drinkers while bottled sweet tea was flying low key in the market.
What is tea?
Tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Other teas classified as fruity or herbal are tisanes—made from leaves, fruits, or flowers not particularly related to Camellia sinensis. Through the process of infusion, which is soaking dried tea in hot water, the drink is made. Tea can be taken hot as it is, but for those who prefer a tinge of sweetness, milk and sugar can be added afterward. For milk tea afficionados, the infusion is cooled first before serving it with your favorite add-ons.
Teas made from Camellia sinensis come in three types: fermented, unfermented, and oolong. Fermented teas are most commonly known as black teas, while green and white teas are unfermented (they are steamed instead). Oolong tea is in between black and green teas as it is only partially fermented.
Types of tea
Unfermented teas, when infused, appear as green to light amber in color. All teas made from Camellia sinensis contain polyphenol, but it is more abundant in fresher, unfermented teas. Catechins and flavonoids found in polyphenol are natural antioxidants. Consumption of unfermented tea, particularly green tea, has been proven through studies to have anticarcinogenic effects and is also linked to preventing degenerative diseases. Other benefits to be gained from consuming tea are the prevention of gastroenteritis or stomach flu due to the drink’s anti-inflammatory effects, and weight control due to catechins called Epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG.
Fermented tea or black tea appear in shades of light to dark amber. It shares most health benefits with green tea, but on a lower scale due to fewer amounts of polyphenol. However, black tea has been correlated to boost mental alertness and lower chances of acquiring heart disease. Additionally, high black tea consumption has been linked to low levels of diabetes prevalence.
When infused, oolong tea produces a light yellow-green color. It also shares health benefits with black and green tea, but its most distinguishing quality is its antibacterial effects wherein oolong tea extract is connected to the prevention of tooth decay.
The difference between tea and tisanes is that the latter does not contain caffeine. Most, if not all, tisanes are consumed purely for their medicinal effects. Tisanes cover a wide range of sources, but some of the most common tisanes are chamomile, ginseng, ginger (salabat), peppermint, and turmeric. Chamomile and peppermint have antispasmodic or calming properties, which help in aiding digestion and lowering stress levels. For root-based tisanes like ginseng, ginger, and turmeric: the first helps clear respiratory issues, the second prevents nausea and sore throat, and the third is related in preventing joint pain.
Despite the numerous benefits associated with drinking tea and tisanes, there is always a caveat involved. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Teas are natural diuretics, which means that they help in relieving fluids from the body. While taking tea in moderation does not have negative effects, not replenishing your water intake after copious amounts of tea can lead to dehydration.
Add-ons to tea like sugar can also affect how you absorb its nutrients. While tea has effects that lower the chances of acquiring diabetes and heart disease, these add-ons may prove to be more harmful than helpful due to the risk of high blood sugar levels. Try taking tea on its own, but if you’re craving for something sweet, use healthy sugar alternatives like stevia.
As for my morning routine, it’s black English breakfast tea or bust.