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How to make the most of your cup of tea

Pick green and white teas instead of black, and you might want to skip the milk

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The Straits Times

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Five millennia on, tea is still delighting scientists who want to prove slightly obvious things. The latest news on that front is that tea can make us more creative.

 

In the journal Food Quality and Preference, researcher Yan Huang from the Psychological and Cognitive Sciences Department of Peking University illustrates how his 50 subjects performed better when "trying to come up with a cool name for a noodle bar", among other tasks, when given a cup of tea instead of water.

 

The health and cognitive benefits of tea certainly do not end there.

 

Many people would have debated how to make the tastiest cuppa. But what about the healthiest? Here are some tips.

 

USE CHEAP, BAGGED TEA

 

Theanine, an amino acid, is at the core of how tea relaxes us. It is extraordinarily useful: good for anxiety and high blood pressure, and for preventing Alzheimer's. It is also used to make cancer drugs more effective.

 

There is more theanine in the stems than in the leaves. In that sense, pricey loose-leaf teas picked from the upper-most leaves in Nepalese villages are less valuable than those stems that are mashed into a standard builder's brew.

 

AVOID MILK?

 

Tea contains about 10 times as many antioxidants as fruit or vegetables. Some studies have shown that milk reduces the bioavailability of the antioxidants in tea. Others, however, suggest there is no difference. The jury is still out.

 

PREFER GREEN

 

Black, white and green teas all come from the same plant: camellia sinensis. The difference is simply the timing of the harvest and the level of oxidisation.

 

Catechins, associated with cardiovascular health and weight maintenance, exist in all teas, but they are affected by oxidation, so they are highest in unoxidised green and white teas.

 

DON'T SHAKE THE CUP

 

Or tap, or whisk the tea around in the receptacle. That can increase the quantity of tannins released, which aside from being bitter, can bond to iron molecules in food that has been recently eaten, preventing them from being absorbed.

 

BREW FOR 20 MINUTES

 

This is the point at which 80 per cent of the "bioactives" - catechins, theanine - are extracted. A tad inconvenient? Possibly disgusting?

 

Settle for two to three minutes, when 60 per cent of the catechins and 80 per cent of the theanine will be absorbed.

 

Alternatively, stewing for 30 seconds, then putting your mug plus the bag in the microwave for one minute, will bring the levels up to a three-minute equivalent in half the time.

 

THE GUARDIAN

 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.