I recently kicked the diet soda habit (yeah!) and now drink water and a variety of teas. Always thinking that tea must be great for health, I looked on some nutrition labels and I realized that there are lots of flavors and they also state 'contains soy'. What gives?
Now that I drink a lot of tea during the day, I'm now wondering what teas are really great and what should be avoided? Can tea be my main hydration contributor or are there concerns?
It's possible that those teas you are looking at are funky herbal concoctions with various "artificial flavors" and things added as well. There's a lot of weird stuff out there.
First thing: Tea properly speaking is made from the tea plant, camellia sinensis, and comes in three basic varieties: black, oolong, and green (with white thrown in there as three and a half). These are all from the same plant, picked in pretty much the same way; they differ in what happens to the leaves after they've been gathered. Basically, the difference is in the degree to which the leaves are oxidized, with black treated the most, green the least, and oolong in between. (And white tea is not really altered at all.) Tisanes are the herbal concoctions: peppermint tea, chamomile, tilleul (linden tree flowers; common in France I gather), lemon, etc. These are loosely referred to as "teas," but the industry calls them tisanes, just to be clear (or snooty).
In general I think you will more often run into weird stuff added to herbal teas than to real tea, but it still happens in the latter case. In scented or flavored black teas, for example. But you can find good, clean sources for herbal teas just as you can for tea. The company that has pretty much become the gold standard for tea in the United States is Harney & Sons. It's a little pricey, but you can get big 50-count boxes of teabags for a decent price, and I assure you that you will not be disappointed. And if you want herbals, they have those as well. You can get a looseleaf chamomile for instance: it will be a tin filled with chamomile flowers. As easy as that, no other ingredients, and delicious. They also have organic teas, if that's your thing.
We've probably heard of those claims that green tea can improve insulin sensitivity (here for example). And we also think as paleos that "oxidation = bad" and so green tea is surely better than black tea. (Although of course there are no lipids in there.) But I never reacted well to green tea. One of the things I read back when I was spending a lot of time thinking about tea was that although there is technically less caffeine in green tea, the caffeine that is there is more "available" to the body, and so ends up having a greater effect on one than black tea does. There could be something to this. But I also found, as the research findings about green tea improving the action of insulin might support, that green tea just makes me hypoglycemic. I don't know why, but it does. (Well, black tea and coffee do also, if I'm not having them with food, but green tea is worse.)
People react different ways to different things of course. But this should give you some things to think about if you are engaging in some regular tea drinking.
Look at what you like to drink now. Get stuff like that.
If you are a soda drinker you are probably looking for something sweeter. Tea (black green or oolong) is not sweet on its own. I suggest you look into herbal infusions/teas/tisnanes. If you are shopping at the supermarket look for stash teas. It sounds like you are looking at Celestal Seasonings which, other then peppermint, typically have additives.
Some of the most exciting things you can brew might not be on the tea isle. If you have a bulk herb section at your food gathering spot check here. Open things up and smell them. If they smell good they will probably taste good if you put them in a muslin bag and pour hot water over them. Dried fruits can also make a lovely drink. I like fresh ginger and hot water too but that might be a little too spicy for some.
I hope you come to enjoy tea, it is a really lovely drink. Try black, green and oolong just plain from time to time. You can go hardcore with it and do bulk orders of obscure teas like I do from time to time from herelink text. On the other hand, like a lot of things, you can get a great experience without getting in to the nuances that make enthusiasts get all purple with their prose. Bagged tea is a fine start, I like Tazo and Twinings.
Yes tea! I am a sinologist too and I drink gallons of it. Probably more than I should. I have a little electric kettle, a gaiwan and probably 20 kinds of tea in my office, and many more at home. Mostly I'm into pu'er and weird oolong, and I love matcha too, but lately I've been drinking a lot of medium-grade Chinese green tea. I get a big mug, put half an inch or a little more of leaf in the bottom, fill it up with not-boiling water, wait for the leaves to sink, and drink it. When the water is like half gone I put in more boiling water. If you make green tea this way it'll last for hours. It's also good training for gongfu cha because you'll start to notice how the taste changes throughout the process.
You can get reasonably good green tea at any reasonably good grocery store. My recommendation is to get small samples of five or ten different kinds (Japanese and Chinese) and find out what you like to drink, then drill down. So if you decide you like longjing, get samples of five kinds of longjing. Don't buy in bulk until you're in love with something.
As for tea being your main source of hydration, I would say that I can function on tea and soup alone but if you only drink tea you're going to dry yourself out a bit.
I buy organic loose leaf tea from my local co-op store. The brand I drink is Rishi. You can buy them online, too. They have so many teas. My favorite is the Jade Cloud Green Tea. Here is a link: http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/jade-cloud-organic-fair-trade-green-tea.html
A lot of people seem to be intimadated by loose leaf teas. Don't worry! The quality and nutritional benefits are the highest with loose leaf teas. And it's easier than you think to make them vs. bagged tea.
If i'm on the go, I use this: http://www.teasetc.com/details.asp?prodid=19003&cat=19
If i'm at home, I use this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004RIZ7/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B0006SYA34&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0Z8VCNKCX1HBAKREQXMK
Hope this helps!
My favourites are green tea, because it's refreshing (hot or ice cold with nothing else added) or Earl Grey. Early Grey is a black tea intended to be drunk without milk, so fine for non-dairy paleos or anyone fasting who doesn't want to ingest any calories at all.
As a student of Sinology I'm a huge green tea lover. Personally, I'd never use bags, the loose leaves are so much better. I would also NEVER EVER drink the flavoured stuff (like mango flavoured green tea,...). My favourite is Japanese powdered green tea called matcha, it's like the espresso of tea and quite strong (i can't drink it on an empty stomach, I have no problems with coffee though...). More over, the good quality ones are really expensive.
I've always loved to drink black tea, especially from Ceylon oder Darjeeling, and never drink any (artificially) flavoured tea. Then I like white tea, for example Lin Yun white downy or Formosa Oolong.
In the evening i prefer to drink herbal teas, for example my own blend of nana mint, verbena, elderberry-, orange-, mauve- and lime-blossom.
And I avoid using teas in teabags.
I don't drink very much tea, but when I do it is usually an infusion of mint and pineapple sage from the plants on my windowsill and/or rose hips and red clover that I've gathered around town. I've also purchased some blends (custom and premade) from the tea shop in my city (here) because the woman that runs it is very nice and knowledgeable about all things herbal and her shop is like the farmers market of tea.