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Anytime is for tea, in every flavour

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Joy Mutero | Nov 23rd 2014 | 4 min read
By Joy Mutero | November 23rd 2014
SUNDAY MAGAZINE

The tea aisle in the supermarket has truly become a place of fantasy. It is nothing like the days of yore when Camellia sinensis, the good old chai that grew in our highland zones, ruled.

Remember when the most exciting a cuppa could get was if one added ground ginger, mixed spice or, later, tea masala to the pot brewing on the stove?

How different things are today, with the advent of the tea bag having done for tea consumption what the slicing machine did for bread.

A literal explosion of awareness is delightfully evident as brands proliferate, and more and more entrepreneurs throw their hats in the ring to cash in on a raging thirst for brews both exotic and traditional among consumers.

The supermarket is a veritable paradise for tea-lovers.

Shoppers are spoilt for choice in their contemplation of the endless varieties of flavour, aroma, colour — and the promise of the kind of comfort only a cup of tea can bring.

Some spend more time in the tea aisle than anywhere else, merely browsing and imagining what a certain blend might taste like.

IMPORTED BRANDS

You will know the tea connoisseur by her (yes, it is usually females who obsess over tea!) intense concentration, eyes scanning the shelves top to bottom, picking up one box then returning it in favour of another, constrained only by the price tag the myriad brands command.

Both local and imported brands can cost anywhere up to Sh 400 for a 20-sachet box.

One specialist international brand that is not marketed via conventional retail outlets costs Sh 3000 for a box containing 25 sachets — and lots of people are buying.

Our local big players, Ketepa and Kericho Gold, have gone to town with quality and range of flavours, and are managing to hold their own against imported brands of herbal, spice and fruit teas.

The word tea strictly refers to Camellia sinensis, the other varieties being infusions, tisanes or decoctions; the resulting beverage generally denotes a caffeine-free — and usually milk-free — brew made by steeping dried leaves, petals, fruits, herbs, bark or other plant material in freshly boiled hot water for five to 20 minutes depending on the strength desired.

Strain and sweeten, if you need to, with honey, stevia or a touch of sugar.

Now that the “weather is blowing hot and cold,” households can also enjoy an array of iced teas as a substitute to carbonated beverages or boxed juices.

Home entertaining has never had so much potential for panache and elegance, with no shortage of delicious flavours.

How about mango and strawberry (my latest discovery), apple and cinnamon, vanilla, orange spice, mint, lemon and ginger, hibiscus, chamomile...this page would not be enough to exhaust the list of what you can enjoy. And more good news: tea is not just about pleasing the taste buds.

There are dozens of documented health benefits from drinking the various infusions and decoctions.

When Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, he should have included drink, too.

For instance, regularly drinking tea made of powdered turmeric has been proven to reduce inflammation in the body.

Chronic inflammation commonly leads to degenerative conditions and is also linked to cancer.

C(h)amomile is a guaranteed soothing agent and will bring about relaxation and sleep in the most agitated person. Conversely, an infusion of lemon grass is invigorating and promotes mental clarity.

ENERGY

The antioxidant properties of green tea are well known. It protects cells in the body from the effects of free radicals.

Other powerful health benefits are fat loss, improved brain function, as well as reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Clove tea has antimicrobial properties and boosts the body’s ability to resist toxicity from environmental pollutants. It is also a famous remedy for coughs, toothache and bad breath. Neem tea should be avoided in pregnancy due to its potency. It is used to treat constipation, malaria and to purify and cleanse the blood, improving liver function.

It is also believed to have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties in addition to helping maintain oral hygiene.

Moringa tea is an energy booster and an antioxidant. It is believed to increase breast milk production among other remarkable benefits.

Stinging nettle tea relieves the symptoms of arthritis and menopause in addition to curing the common cold.

Rooibos tea is used to treat headache, insomnia, stomach cramps, certain types of cancer and premature ageing. Known to relieve stress, it lowers blood pressure in addition to reducing bad cholesterol.

GREAT DETOX TEAS

Ginger and lemon are great detox teas after overindulgence in rich food. Some brands use granules that you dissolve in hot water to make a cup.

Tailor your consumption of different infusions to the specific need at certain times of the day.

You obviously should avoid drinking c(h)amomile tea just before going in for an important meeting. Similarly, do not brew a cup of lemon grass tea just before bed.

Many non-conventional teas are an acquired taste, and can cause allergic reactions, so do not overdo consumption of a particular type.

Start off with a weak infusion until you study the effects on your system.

Be your own alchemist and come up with various blends to suit your mood — you can never go wrong with adding a dash of lemon juice to your favourite infusion.

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