A day to celebrate tea
Tea is the most popular drink in the world after water, and in the UK, we drink 165 million cups a day! That’s 60 billion cups a year. It helps to wake us up and provides a moment in the day to pop the kettle on and take a break.
Friday 21 April is National Day to celebrate tea across the UK with events to share our love of tea. This year’s date was chosen to mark Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, with cafes across the country creating cakes in the image of some of HM’s hats to celebrate the day.
Tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis. Each type of tea is determined by the conditions where it is grown. Infusions such as camomile and mint are not technically ‘tea’, but they are grown from a wide variety of other plants and harvested in a comparable way.
Are there any health benefits to drinking tea?
Tea is a good source of dietary flavonoids which have a range of health benefits including anti-infallmatory, antioxidant, antiviral, and anticancer effects. Black and green tea also have therapeutic effects on high blood pressure (hypertension). It’s thought that compounds in tea relax blood vessels by activating proteins that live in the smooth muscle that line blood vessels.
Flavonoids are also thought to have some protective effects on cardiovascular and neurological health. There is evidence that tea drinking regularly can contribute to brain structure during the ageing process, suggesting a protective effect in age related neurological decline.
Green tea has been reported to have inhibitory effects against several types of cancer, such as breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancer. It has an antioxidant that may increase a natural protein which helps repair DNA damage and destroy cancerous cells the body is trying to get rid of (apoptosis). Drinking green tea has also been associated with a lower risk of developing cognitive disorders.
Are there any health risks to bear in mind?
It’s hard to imagine that one tea bag could release as many as 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics particles into a single cup of tea, but this was the finding of one study.
Plastic such as polypropylene is added to tea bags, including paper ones, to heat seal them in the manufacturing process to ensure they don’t split open. Some manufacturers are switching to Polylactic Acid (PLA), a plant-based plastics which is thought to be a safer alternative.
Tea bags are a convenient way to make a quick cuppa, but if you’d like to reduce your exposure to microplastic particles, it’s better to avoid them and brew loose leaf tea instead.
Growing tea involves pesticides
Tea is grown in a monculture meaning that it needs an environment where no other crop is grown. This creates favourable conditions for pests to thrive, so many growers spray tea crops with pesticides. Tea is technically organic only when it has been grown without using pesticides, but this doesn’t fully reflect the local growing conditions, such as the quality of the water, soil, or air.
Greenpeace carried out a review of residues of pesticides in Indian tea samples and found that 59% of the samples had ‘cocktails’ of more than 10 different pesticides, with one sample that had residues of 20 different pesticides. A Canadian study found that half of tea samples tested had pesticide residues above the allowable limits. In another study the levels detected were quite low.
The best advice is err on the side of caution and drink organic tea when possible. Look for certified organic loose leaf tea and brew it in a stainless-steel infuser using filtered water to lower exposure to pollutants. If you love a favourite brand and don’t want to switch, drink less to reduce exposure levels.
Join us on Friday by sharing pictures of your favourite cup of tea using the tags #BritishNationalTeaDay and #NationalTeaDay
More information on the health benefits of tea.
Join in with National Tea Day and follow it on Twitter @Nationalteaday
For more information about tea bags this is an interesting blog.
UK Tea and Infusion Association guide to making the perfect cup of tea.