As an ardent fan of tea, I am a huge advocate for its many benefits that I feel are particularly suited to those of us over 40 years old. One of the biggest struggles shared by us middle-agers is the increasing difficulty we face in maintaining a healthy weight, and even worse - losing weight. With weight loss teas being marketed and sold online and in health food stores, it’s no surprise that many wonder whether this simple steeped drink really delivers on that promise.
What science says about tea and weight loss
Based on various studies I looked over online (with my admittedly non-scientific mind), it appears that tea does have properties that may help with weight loss. Some tests have shown green tea, in particular, can have a positive effect on weight loss and weight maintenance, however its benefits may be dependent on various factors, such as ethnicity and caffeine tolerance. A recent study that tested the effect that drinking a green tea beverage had on Japanese men over a 12-week period resulted in reduced abdominal fat in the subjects. However, the study did not take into consideration the participants’ individual lifestyle habits, diet or exercise habits. No surprise, the study concluded more research is needed. There have been some human trials, such as two studies in British adults and one on American adult women, that resulted in no weight loss benefits at all.
I’ve no doubt there are a multitude of scientific studies that provide evidence for and against the weight loss benefits of tea, but from what I could understand (as a scientifically-challenged gal), there doesn’t appear to be any guarantee that drinking tea, alone, will lead to much, if any weight loss. If you wish to investigate further, these two articles offer a more in-depth analysis of this subject. (FYI, it’s a bit dry).
How tea is good for weight loss
Despite the uncertainty over the scientific studies on whether tea helps with weight loss, there is still hope. When tea regularly replaces other foods and beverages, there’s an opportunity for both weight loss and weight management. When I decided to quit drinking alcohol, tea became my main beverage replacement. Even though I'm inching toward 50, I have very little trouble maintaining my weight. I believe a lot of that has to do with replacing alcohol with zero calorie beverages (like tea!)
Do you know how many calories are in a cup of tea? Zero. (I drink my tea without milk or sugar, which is the best way to drink it in my opinion and keeps that count at zero.)
Tea is also a great way to suppress appetite and subdue sugar cravings in the evening. Thanks to the huge variety in tea flavours, it shouldn’t be hard to find a tasty tea that helps offset the desire for after-dinner snacking. Even if you don’t curb the snacking completely, a cup or two of tea will fill your stomach enough to prevent you from binging. Consider that our favourite late night snacks typically have high calories - chips, cookies, chocolate, ice cream - and there's a big savings in unnecessary calories there.
When to drink tea
Although the best time to enjoy a cup of tea is whenever you're in the mood, here are some ideal times of day if you're new to this ritual and not sure where to start.
Morning teas can be a nice, gentle start to the day if you choose a black tea with a bit of caffeine. But if you’re a coffee drinker like me, there's no replacing that jolt of java. The tea just has to wait.
Enjoying tea throughout the day is great for curbing coffee cravings, sugar cravings, or even hunger pangs if you’re not able to eat for another few hours.
Making a tea and slowly sipping it while preparing dinner is one of my favourite tea rituals. Also, the perfect substitute for a glass (or two) of wine if you're hoping to curb a daily wine habit.
Before bedtime, slowly savouring a chamomile tea is lovely. Every night, I drink a cup of sleepy time tea – sometimes two. Just beware the more you drink, the more often you’ll have to get up in the night to relieve yourself. For me, it’s worth it. (And, yes, I'm up at least once in the night for every cup I drink before falling asleep.)
Health benefits of green tea
Brewed tea has long been touted for a number of health benefits, particularly with regard to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, thanks to its high levels of compounds called catechin flavonoids. As anti-inflammatory diets gain interest, tea will likely grow along with it. Green tea, however, more than any other tea, tends to be the star when it comes to health benefits. Research has indicated that green tea consumption may play a role in reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease - but more studies are needed. With global demand for tea on the rise, it’s no surprise that the taste for green and herbal teas is expanding faster than black tea, which still holds the number one spot.
Best tasting teas for beginners
North Americans aren’t as well-known for their tea drinking habits as other cultures around the world. For a long time, I dismissed tea as a boring drink reserved for grandmas. I became a coffee drinker in my early 20s; I didn't love the taste, but appreciated its caffeinated jolt to get the body moving in the morning. Tea just didn't seem to cut it in flavour or buzz. Even worse, I couldn't enjoy it unless it had milk and sugar in it- the way my mother had taught me to drink it.
Then I discovered that there was an infinite variety of tea flavours in my mid-30s, around the time specialty tea shops began popping up everywhere. Now with so many purchasing options, both online and bricks and mortar, it’s not only easy, but fun, to experiment with different flavours, tea leaf blends and brewing options. If you’re one of those people who has never enjoyed a cup of tea, I challenge you to give it another try. I’ve compiled a short list of different teas to try out, starting with the tastiest teas for people who don't like tea. While I’m still an avid coffee drinker, I make the switch to tea by mid-afternoon. And, of course, tea is now my typical replacement for wine in the evenings. I love it.
These herbal teas are sweet and refreshing. Perfect for all seasons of the year, served hot or cold. Often fruit-based teas are caffeine-free and made with dried fruit, leaves, flowers and stems. A good place to start is to select a tea made with your favourite fruits. I love mango, so no surprise, mango teas are among my favourites. Peach is a close second. The choices are endless – from tropical to citrus flavours to spicy blends that are perfect for cold winter days, (think currants, plum and apple.) The widest selection of fruit teas are available as loose leaf teas, but you can also find a limited selection in the grocery store aisle that are packaged as tea bags.
These teas tend to be caffeine-free but there are exceptions. With names like Mint Chocolate Chip, Crème Carmello and Vanilla Cupcake (all Sipology teas), it’s clear these are perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. If you enjoy eating dessert, one of these may offer a healthy alternative to a rich and sugary treat that fills the belly without any of the calories. Even if the tea doesn’t satisfy your craving completely, a cup of tea with dessert can help limit the number of bites you indulge in of that chocolate cake.
This style of tea is often sold at coffee shops as a milky, sweet specialty drink. It is actually quite a different experience when sipped without all of those extra ingredients. Chai tea is typically a black tea (making it caffeinated) blended with a variety of spices. It’s not a flavour every person enjoys, but is worth experimenting with. A healthy option is to make it with heated almond milk, rather than steeped in hot water. Personally, I find it quite strong and, therefore, drink it on occasion - more so in winter than summer.
While all of the above teas can be considered herbal, here, I’m referring to non-caffeinated tea blends that are made with ingredients that do not necessarily sweeten the flavour, but typically boast certain health benefits. My favourite herbal tea is chamomile or a chamomile blend (sleepy time tea) because it puts me in a relaxed state before bed every night. Other interesting options include lavender tea and dandelion root tea, each known for specific health benefits which you may, or may not, believe or experience when you drink them. Tao Leaf Tea’s most popular tea blend (according to its website) is Rose Buds tea made of, you guessed it, dried rose buds. It’s beautiful, aromatic and tasty. The more you experiment, the more you get to appreciate the unique looks and aromas of different teas.
Black and green teas
Green tea receives a lot of attention given its reputation for healthful benefits. However, in my opinion, this is the toughest tea to get used to drinking due to its bitter taste. Jasmine tea is a more mellow green tea that I recommend trying if you’re new to green tea. Black teas, however, are what most of us grew up drinking, or watching our mothers drink. These are the teas most prominently stocked on grocery store shelves. Think orange pekoe (Tetley), English breakfast and earl grey. Growing up, I saw my mother drink multiple cups of tea per day. She added a spoonful of sugar and dollop of milk to every cup - a ritual I gave up years ago to save on calories and now prefer all teas on their own. For anyone else who grew up believing tea needs to be sweetened and creamy, the switch to drinking it black can be tough at first. However, with an open mind, you can learn to appreciate the nuanced flavours of different black teas and reap its many health benefits - without the extra calories and fat.
Although there are so many more teas to describe, these offer a good starting point to gain an appreciation for tea drinking.
Best ways to drink teas
How you prepare your cup of tea can make all the difference in how it’s enjoyed. Like a glass of wine or a cocktail, it’s the ritual as much as the drink that makes the experience pleasant. I’ve discovered, over time, my preparation of teas during various times in the day is almost as enjoyable as the time spent drinking it. I have a bright yellow kettle that whistles when the water is boiling. It drives my kids crazy, but I love it.
I have a few different tea making rituals - all of which begin with my whistling kettle. The variety in preparation adds another fun element to experimenting with this hot drink. I often select my preparation method based on how much time I have, my mood and time of day.
This is the simplest way to prepare a cup of tea. The loose leaf tea is already packed neatly inside a small tea bag that you simply drop into hot water and wait until it’s steeped. For many of us, this is how our parents made their tea and is convenient and requires minimal effort or clean up. I always have a variety of boxes of tea bags for the moments when I just want a quick cup of tea and no fuss or hassle (which is at least once per day).
Loose leaf tea
Preparing a cup of tea with loose leaf offers myriad options as well as an assortment of tools to use. The first step is to measure out your tea – most blends provide the ideal amount of tea leaves per cup. The leaves can be placed in a disposable tea bag that then is dropped into your cup or teapot. Alternatively, you can use a re-useable tea ball, which is a small, sphere shaped metal container with small holes (like a colander) to keep the tea leaves out of the water while it steeps. The ball is removed once the tea is ready to drink. Lastly, tea leaves can be dropped loose inside a teapot to steep, then caught in a strainer resting atop a teacup when the tea is poured.
Forget the iced tea of your childhood that tasted more like sugar than anything else. Also, forget the awful bitter iced tea a server would offer when you asked for the non-sweetened iced tea. The trick to a refreshing homemade iced tea is using a delicious fruit tea blend. Once you’ve found a favourite sweet tea blend, make your tea using any of the options described above, then place it in the refrigerator until it’s cold enough to drink. I use an iced tea pitcher purchased from David’s Tea about 10 years ago that has a removable tea filter. I place the loose leaf tea inside the filter, screw the filter into the lid so that no leaves can escape into the water, and immerse the filter into the hot water inside the pitcher. I typically leave the tea to steep on the counter for a few hours before placing it in the fridge; I like a strongly flavoured iced tea. However, for a really light option, I will brew the tea leaves in regular temperature water overnight. Experimenting is the key to enjoying the tea ritual, and discovering what you enjoy most.