5 Spot: What’s Your Cup of Tea?

“Different strokes for different folks,” Sly and the Family Stone are singing in my ears right now. I’m sitting at One World Café, in my easy chair of choice, sipping a cup of my favorite tea. What’s your favorite? Want some inspiration, want to branch out and try something new? Want to find out what tea sipped from someone else’s chair tastes like? Here are five teas, out of a whole rainbow of possibilities, chosen for their healthful, life-affirming vitality.

1.   Black tea: A little history lesson here: There is nothing good about colonialism, but among its many unintended consequences is the now near-global custom of drinking black tea. Like many great traditions, the story of tea begins in China. According to legend, in 2737 BCE, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water. Shen Nung, a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that his servant had accidentally created. The tree was a Camellia sinensis, and the resulting drink was what we now call tea.

2.   Green and White teas are both variants of the drinks made from Camellia sinensis that are processed differently from black tea. Green tea has less caffeine than black, and has become well known for its anti-cancer properties. The polyphenols, a large group of plant chemicals that includes the catechins, are thought to be responsible for the health benefits that have traditionally been attributed to tea, especially green tea.

3.   Rooibos tea, also called red tea or red bush tea, has become quite visible in the United States in the last decade. You may have had a cup or two by now, and may be well acquainted with its taste. But did you know, it’s also loaded with electrolytes and antioxidants (especially in its unfermented, “green rooibos” form). This tea originates in South Africa, and is made from the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis bush. What’s more, it’s the favorite of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency founder, Mma Ramotswe!

4.   Chrysanthemum tea. Used for centuries in China, this herb is in the same family as chamomile. It provides relief for mild colds, and you can make a cool compress of it to apply and soothe tired eyes. The Shennong Bencao Jing, or Chinese Classic Book of Herbal Medicine, says taking chrysanthemum tea long term may “make the body light, slow aging, and prolong life.”

5.   High Tea. We were in Portland for Thanksgiving this year, and as the next day was my birthday, I asked my family to join me at the Heathman Hotel for their Victorian High Tea. We’re a diverse bunch, but as everyone likes a cup of tea and a treat in the late afternoon, my birthday outing turned out to be just the harmonious celebration I wanted. Invite some friends over, put a log on the fire, and have one of your own!

There are so many different kinds of tea, and all of them have merit. There’s one for everyone! Winter is upon us, and it’s only just begun. If you’re feeling the chill, come find me at the Co-op deli, or at One World, grab your favorite cup of tea, and tell me all about it!