Tea is more popular than you think...

Tea is back! Its popularity has been increasing despite the apparent dominance of coffee.  Figures from both the international organisations that oversee the respective drinks show that global tea production increased 40% during the period 2002-11 and there are now 4.3 million tons produced annually. In the corresponding period coffee production only increased by 7% and totals 7.8 million tons.  That’s only half the story though because it takes only 2 grams of tea for a cuppa whereas your average coffee uses 10 grams which means that in terms of drinking the world consumes 5.9 billion cups of tea against 2.2 billion cups of coffee.

Though tea is often seen as an English thing it is consumed far more in developing countries while the wealthier ones prefer coffee. 2012 research suggested that in Britain we still prefer tea though which would come a surprise given the volume of coffee shops now dotted around towns and cities. Perhaps we prefer tea at home and coffee out? Even a third of people under 25, who you’d expect would shun tea, when questioned admitted preferring it and finding it `comforting`. In a nod to modernity 46% of tea drinkers admitted they preferred it from a mug rather than the traditional china tea cup.  However there was some bad news for teapots. Only 16% of people who drank tea made it in a pot; it seems the one cup teabag has become king perhaps because it is less trouble. There is a palaver associated with making a pot of tea that doesn’t seem to fit with the fast pace of modern life. There is the waiting for a near full kettle to boil. Then there’s waiting for the tea to percolate. It’s a whole five minutes people won’t get back!

As you’ll know if you’ve ever received shock news or are just knackered, tea does seem to possess remarkable qualities of revival. The question is whether it is good for you. Research on this is mixed b
ut tea has been linked to calming your nerves especially when it comes to those unusual varieties such as jasmine or lavender. Tea drinkers have also been found to have experienced a decreased heart rate simply by smelling their tea, according to a one study. Caffeine can stimulate your muscles if you drink enough but green tea consumed daily could take anything up to an inch off your waistline in three months though there’s no guarantee about the taste. Antioxidants present in green tea can help repair a weak immune system because it has EGCG, an antioxidant that recharges the white blood cells that prevent viruses from reactivating.

Caffeine makes your body release hormones that keep you active, boosting your heart rate and blood pressure. A
study by French scientists showed heavy tea drinkers had lower blood pressure, pulse pressure and heart rate than lighter drinkers while people who drink four cups a day have been found to have lower blood pressure than those who drink none. This isn’t a signal to start drinking black tea or coffee many times per day though. 

On the surface it looks as if the world is full of coffee shops that can sell you a cappuccino or latte for the price it would cost to buy a whole jar of instant coffee not forgetting of course you can also purchase a very expensive slice of lemon cake. There are tea shops however, if you know where to find them. In fact the whole notion of drinking and eating out of your own home but not necessarily for a meal began with tea shops. The modern version of these is rather different to the lace covered tables and quiet formality of those.

LEAF is located in Liverpool’s Bold Street and as well as serving many varieties of tea they also do food and have music events. It is definitely livelier than the average coffee shop and last year The Times named it the fourth best place for brunch in Britain. Amanzi sits on Cavendish Street in London and is described as “a boutique two-tier tea shop complete with a tea wall, tea tastings, tea baristas, a tea bar and tea art work.” Lurking in London’s Spitalfields Market you can find Tea Smith which boasts in-shop master classes and tasting events. Their staff can help you decide which tea to best suit your mood.  There are many such places around the country yet what seems common to each is a bespoke individualism that contrasts with the corporate feel of coffee chains. The fact is you can go into a Costa in Plymouth, Aberdeen, Paris or Berlin and it will be very similar, which is not the case with tea shops which prefer to create their own ambience. Of course at the end of the day both tea and coffee are a lot better than drinking something fizzy and sweet.

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