Tea Time With Nourishment Expert Jeanette Bronée
Jeanette Bronée is one of my role models for clean living and adopting better eating habits. And, for some reason, I always picture her with a teacup in hand or within arms reach, so it’s only fitting to have Jeanette enlighten us with her vast knowledge of tea. After reading Jeanette’s below, I’ve already placed a few tea orders and I’m certain you will, too!
TEA TIME by Jeanette Bronée
Growing up in Denmark, coffee was pretty much our daily version of water. Tea was something I only had when I was ill. My tea sipping habits have changed a lot over the past 20 years. Having gone from being a complete coffee-aholic to a tea enthusiast is probably the best way to describe my transition.
My first introduction to tea as a beverage of nourishing pleasure was at the luxury department store, Takashimaya, which no longer exists in NYC. Their tea collection was quite impressive, and so was their tea serving ritual. I think it was the closest I could get to a proper tea ceremony in NYC.
The tea ceremony is a long-standing Japanese tradition, which honors both the tea and the tea drinker. What I love about tea is the extensive variety and, of course, the health benefits, which far outweigh my old coffee habit. Green tea, for example, has been studied for years for its cancer-fighting properties. It still contains caffeine, but it does not have the same rush that coffee gives you, which is more like an anxiety rush of “fight or flight” mode than just energy. Coffee kicks your cortisol levels up (stress) and exhausts the adrenals. Green tea is a stimulant but it is also a healing drink that gives you more of a calm and focused energy. Coffee gives you more of a hectic and “feeling rushed” kind of energy. So basically you can sip your green tea all day long and not get the same anxiety buzz that you would get from just one or two cups of coffee.
Green tea is also far more alkalizing, or neutralizing, than coffee. Coffee is rather acidifying, or inflammatory. Green tea also has health benefits that can help lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, diabetes and even dementia. I am sure I could keep going, but I will leave that for another time.
Now to the tea selection process. Loose tea is really the way to go for a good cup of tea. If you have the chance to visit my favorite tea shop in Paris, Le Palais des Thés, go sniff the many different teas they have. My favorite flavor is Thé des Lords, an Earl Grey tea (yes, black tea) with bergamot and safflower petals. They also have a Rooibos version with Earl Grey, an excellent caffeine free version. Thé du Hamman is a wonderful green floral tea, so delicate in the aroma that I cannot tell if it is the roses that do something for the green tea or the green tea doing something for the roses! Either way, it is a smooth light floral green tea, which basically means less bitter than my otherwise favorite Jasmine green tea (pictured above).
In New York, I buy my green teas from Holy Mountain Trading Company. Their selection of organic green teas is fantastic and there are soooooo many wonderful versions of green tea. Sencha is milder and smooth and good for someone who does not like the bitterness of green teas. Dragon Well is very smoky in flavor and great for someone who is otherwise a black coffee drinker.
In the mornings, I choose Pu-erh tea, a fermented tea that is lovely and very dark, like a cup of black coffee, with a strong yet smooth taste. It has some digestive advantages so you must drink it with food or after eating, just like green tea. You should never drink green tea on an empty stomach or you may feel very queasy. Another tip, if you are anemic do not drink tea with your meals or too close to mealtime as it blocks iron absorption. Oolong is a smooth yet richer tea that is categorized in between a green and a black tea. It is very high in anti-oxidants and mellower than green tea and nice in the morning or afternoon. My favorite evening tea is Rooibos with a piece of cut licorice root. The place I used to buy the licorice root has since closed so I am on the hunt for a new supplier. Will keep you posted.
In Pursuit of Tea on Crosby Street in NYC also has a wonderful selection of various types of teas, both loose leaf and in bags. Owners Sebastian Beckwith and Alexander Scott supply the finest teas available from around the world. My favorite from their shop is the Genmaicha, a green tea that contains popped rice which creates a balanced, roasty aroma.
I bring my own teabags along with me everywhere I go because I prefer that they are from truly loose leaves in silk bags and not just dust from tea leaves in paper bags. There is just something about dipping bleached paper into my cup, soaking it well, and then drinking it that makes me think, “Yuck.”
Mostly I brew my teas from loose leaves and even at the office I indulge in a pot of tea with my clients. There I have a ceramic pot that has a stainless insulated cover over it so we can sip together throughout the session without loosing the warm nurture of the tea. At home, for brewing my tea, I use my favorite Yanagi teakettle to heat the water.
I don’t like the idea of electric water in my tea, but rather prefer the flame to heat up the water when possible. Don’t heat the water too high as most teas should be brewed below boiling point. For my morning Pu-erh tea, I prefer a small Japanese cast-iron pot. Later in the day the pot gets bigger and right now I am in love with the Stelton tea pot, but normally I prefer an older ceramic tea pot, as long as it can take loose tea and is made from either glass, ceramic, or stainless steel. I love looking at it, touching it and feeling nourished by it. It really becomes “Your Pot of Your Favorite Tea.”
There is no one-way with tea. It has far too many interesting, split personalities, just like us! So enjoy finding yours. And remember, you don’t have to choose only one!
Read Jeanette Bronée’s previous OnMyPlate post on her inspiring story and her favorite eco-chic cookware here.
Photos Courtesy of Torkil Stavdal, www.torkilstavdal.com