It’s spring time in Victoria and beautiful sunny afternoons are spent on the patio with friends and a nice cold drink in hand. My new housemate Sage came up with the delicious concoction one afternoon and I thought it would be great to share. This naturally sweetened beverage with subtle hints of berries and the freshness of sliced cucumbers is super simple to make and is a no calorie drink that can be enjoyed any time of the year. But first… lets talk tea.
What’s In Your Tea?
Tea originated in India thousands of years ago and is now the most popular drink in the world after water. Tea leaves contain fluoride, potassium, iron, niacin, protein and a range of minerals. When made into a drink, however, the quantity of tea used contributes to very little of these nutrients, with the exception of fluoride. It is interesting to note that a cup of tea contains more fluoride from the tea leaves than from the water used to make it.
Tea and Health
There are numerous studies showing potential health benefits for regular tea drinkers, including decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as increased bone and dental health. Further studies are needed in this area and we need to keep in mind, with any seemingly outrageous health claims in regards to tea, the research may not have come from a reputable source. Some claims made for the health benefits of tea exaggerate research findings, often because sellers of tea assume that findings in laboratory tests (often using high doses of tea extracts) or with various animals apply to humans.
So is Tea Better?
If you are replacing high sugar or/and high fat drinks with tea, then YES tea is definitely better! A range of polyphenolic antioxidant compounds exists in green, black and white teas. The amount of these compounds differs from tea to tea so it is difficult to know exactly how much you are getting from your cuppa. The antioxidants in green and white teas are a type of flavonoid called catechins. Whether the antioxidants in tea have any effects on health or preventing disease depends on how well they are absorbed by the body- this can differ in individuals as well as differing between teas.
If you want to avoid the caffeine than herbal tea is your best option. But do keep in mind that they still contain tannins, and sometimes more than regular tea. Some herbal teas may be hazardous to health. Talk to your health professional if you are thinking about trying any new herbal teas especially during pregnancy or if you suffer from any existing medical problem.
Fair Trade and Ethical Issues with Tea
The biggest ethical issue in regards to tea is the right to fair pay and decent hours for workers. By purchasing Fairtrade products you ensure the tea you purchased prohibits forced or child labour, enforces fair salaries and meets health and safety requirements. Look for the Fairtrade symbol when purchasing teas.
Pesticides in Tea
A few years ago, Choice tested a range of teas for pesticides and found that of 55 different brands tested (including herbal teas), more than a third contained pesticide residues. Tea plantations are generally of a monoculture nature which require high levels of pesticides and fertilizers which means the plantations have a greater negative environmental impact. Organic teas are much better for the environment, and organic Fairtrade suppliers also guarantee to support smaller farmers in running their tea estates sustainably and pay a fair wage.
Recipe for Refreshing Berry and Cucumber Iced Tea
Makes 1 large pitcher
Recipe by Sage
Total Time To Finish: 10 minutes or more
Ingredients for Fair Trade Berry Cucumber Iced Tea
Use this recipe as a guide only, add whatever you like to it. The berries should add enough sweetness but if you are used to sugar packed store bought iced tea then add some honey until your tastes buds have adapted.
Handful of fresh or frozen mixed berries
1 heaped tbsp of lose leaf tea of your choice – I used a honeydew mate
5 thin slices of cucumber
5-10 ice cubes
optional: fresh mint
Method for Fair Trade Berry Cucumber Iced Tea
Seep the tea in a jar or jug of cold water using a tea ball for 4-7 minutes. If you don’t have a tea ball use a fine mesh strainer and sit it on top of the jar.
Add the berries, cucumber and iced cubes and stir well. The flavour will increase the longer you leave it. If using mint, tear leaves into medium sized pieces and add to your iced tea.
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