Tea in its many forms is by far the most consumed drink in the world after plain water. While green tea gets most of the attention for its many health benefits and popularity in Asia dating back thousands of years; there is a different classic tea that is gradually gaining a newfound popularity: Earl Grey tea (or Earl Gray as it is known in America), in its many recipes and variations.
Very much like Breakfast tea, there is no official recorded account of how the Earl Grey blend came about nor of what the definitive recipe is, but there are some notable events in history that explain.
The most plausible story of its origin dates back to the early 1800s. The British Prime Minister Earl Charles Grey at the time commissioned a Chinese tea merchant to create a tea that would suit the water at Howick Hall, Northumberland, which had a high concentration of lime. The dealer chose bergamot oil – a perfumy, citrusy-sweet extract from southern Italy, to which he added Chinese Keemun black tea (the most widely available variety of tea at the time, when the famous East India trading company was the main importer of Chinese teas to England).
And thus in one moment of genius not only did he create a blend that would withstand the harshest of water from northern England but also a mixture that would become synonymous with England and that age-old English tradition, afternoon tea. The family have subsequently tried to trademark the recipe but have failed to do so as it became widespread commercially under numerous brands.
Apart from being a deliciously refreshing drink, Earl Grey has some known health benefits - this is because like all kinds of tea, it contains antioxidants which help to prevent cell oxidation, which in simple terms means it keeps us young by protecting our bodies cells from external damage from pollution, toxins and stress.
True, some teas have higher levels of antioxidants than others, and green teas especially have gotten most of the praise, but all pure organic teas are actually very healthy. Ironically when you make a cup of black tea you need more tea than when you use green tea; so theoretically you could end up with the same amount of antioxidants per cup of tea!
Did you know as a regular tea drinker, tea can contribute to improving the PH levels in your mouth. This health benefit comes from a very potent antioxidant called catechin, that fights against oral infections. Tea also contains small amounts of fluoride, which has been well documented as beneficial to the overall health of your teeth.
If you are concerned about tea staining your teeth, a good tip is to drink water after your cup of tea (in addition to regular brushing), this helps reduce the tannins left behind in your mouth - this is the real cause of discolouration. Also, switching from green or herbal teas to black teas has actually been shown to reduce the effects of staining - yet another reason to start drinking Earl Grey. Lastly, Japanese researchers have confirmed that those who consume tea regularly remain protected from cavities and tooth decay.
If you usually suffer from bad digestion or irritable bowel syndrome, the consumption of tea can help relieve your symptoms because it is a natural antispasmodic. Black tea like Earl Grey with a slice of lemon can help if you suffer from the symptoms of colic and nausea - recommended by English mothers since Victorian times. It has also been found useful in dealing with the problem of intestinal worms.
Even though the Earl grey has far less caffeine than that found in coffee, it still contains enough to keep you going throughout the day. Drinking a few cups of tea after lunch is ideal to help you ward off that mid-afternoon lethargy in the office and keep you going, but with just enough caffeine to make sure you don't stay awake all night long.
Some studies have reported that the regular consumption of tea can reduce bad cholesterol by as much as 39%, preventing heart diseases and maintain healthy arteries. All leaf teas help increase good cholesterol in the body which actually boosts your immune system. Finally, tea also helps in lowering blood sugar and maintaining your glycemic levels which is beneficial for anyone suffering from or at high risk of developing all types of diabetes.
Tea is helpful in relieving stress levels and a calming effect on anyone suffering from anxiety. When we look back over history, and of how tea has always been consumed from Asai to Europe and the Americas, it's been drunk with friends, sharing stories and socialising away from the stresses of everyday life - this is all we need in the modern 21st century. Also, the antioxidants in tea help keep you healthy and better prepared for those usual ups and downs in life when they do happen.
According to some recent research, drinking 2-4 cups of tea daily may assist you to lose weight. This is mainly as the result of the 'slow burning' caffeine effect of tea that ever so slightly increases your body's internal temperature that in turn activates your natural fat burning abilities. However, you need to keep in mind that adding milk or sugar may counter this, while adding a slice of lemon may actually speed up the process.
The health benefits of drinking tea far outnumber any negative side effects. As long as you like with most foods make sure you always buy the best quality from reputable tea brands in the UK as well as use clean, fresh filtered water. Like all teas, Earl Grey is a full of health benefits (for the body and soul), it may not seem like a 'health drink' but when you make it part of your daily ritual you will soon realise you wish you had done so sooner. Most importantly enjoy your special daily tea moments!
Note: This article provides general information and discussion about health subjects. The words and other content provided here and in any linked materials, are not intended to, and should not be construed as a cure or treatment for any medical condition, nor as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or qualified healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.
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Seán Farrell – Founder, Chateau Rouge