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Office tea party

While my husband was paying our tab at a Greek restaurant Saturday morning, I stood next to another lady in front of a pastry case. Both of us were silently admiring the contents until I finally turned to her and said, “I don’t know about you, but I find several things very tempting.”

“You know what’s sad?” she replied. “There’s nothing in this case I wouldn’t eat…and then I wonder, ‘How did I get this way?'”

Isn’t that how it is for all of us? Our unconscious choices stack up and become part of who we are. Nowhere is that more evident than in our dietary habits. Call it blind eating and drinking.

What’s the antidote for that? You could start with a drink cultivated around a culture of reflection, health and longevity—tea. So says Alexandra Harris, owner of Nelson’s Tea, an online tea merchant who started her Indianapolis-based business after her newly-wed husband noticed how much she spent on boutique teas. “One day, he said, ‘Why don’t we start a tea business?'”
Alexandra and Justin Harris
After meeting Harris at a local event and placing my first order, I invited her to share information about the health benefits of drinking tea and her secrets for brewing a great pot.

Six tea tips from Nelson’s Tea, LLC

Select teas for their unique health benefits. Oolong boosts the metabolism for up to two hours after drinking it, making it a great beverage for people interested in weight loss. Peppermint is good for digestive problems. Tea is currently being studied for its powerful antioxidants, which are thought to be protective against cancer and heart disease. Scientists are also interested teas that contain citrus bergamot, (think Earl Grey and Lady Grey) which has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory therapy.

Use loose-leaf tea. “One of the major problems with bagged tea is the tea leaves are much smaller,” Harris says. “With loose-leaf tea, you get larger chunks of tea and fruit. The flavor is better and it goes further than bagged tea. Comparatively speaking, you get more bang for your buck with loose tea.” Harris suggests using 1.5 to 2 teaspoons per cup for best results.

Pay attention to brewing instructions. Teas are brewed at different temperatures. White and green teas require water that is just under boiling. Oolongs, herbals and black teas should brew in boiling water. Harris says most people won’t observe those fine points in daily life, so she puts more emphasis on brewing time. “If you leave a white or green tea brewing too long, it can be a little bitter,” she says. Generally, white teas have the shortest brewing time at two to three minutes. Green teas brew at three to four minutes and black teas at four to five minutes.

Cultivate your taste. “I compare tea to wine,” Harris says. “If you always drink the same house wine, you’ll never appreciate the nuances of other varieties.” Like their winemaking counterparts, tea growers manipulate nature and drying methods to produce the best possible flavors. For people just getting started with tea, Harris recommends white teas, which are milder but still full of flavor. “Green teas have wonderful health benefits, but they can be very strong on their own,” Harris says. “I usually suggest something like our green and white blend, Whispering White.” To develop your palate, she also encourages people to taste two varieties at once for the sake of contrast.

Dont mistake color for caffeine content. White teas make the lightest-colored liquors, but have some of the highest caffeine content. “For people concerned about caffeine, rooibos has a deep ruby color and great flavor, but no caffeine.” Alone, it can have an almost medicinal smell and taste, but it’s wonderful when blended with other flavors like mango, peach, vanilla and apple. (I highly recommend the American Apple Pie Rooibos.) Tip for decaffeinating any tea: brew for 30 seconds and pour out the liquor. Then brew the normal amount of time. This removes 85 percent of the caffeine.

Enjoy teas transformative effects. Although tea has been around for centuries, it didn’t become part of daily life until the 15th century, when Chinese monks imbued it with the Zen principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Their ritualistic treatment of tea was the forerunner for the tradition still followed by aficionados like Harris––creating a beautiful experience that calms the mind and heart.

“For me, tea is a way of life,” she says. “There’s something about it that makes you pause to reflect on your life.” Harris likes the way tea energizes and uplifts rather than making her feel jittery. “I think we’ve gotten away from rituals that allow us to pause and think about where we are in life,” she says. “I love implementing the introspective culture of tea and encouraging others to make it part of daily life.”

I’ve recently switched up my morning routine to include tea instead of coffee. It goes perfectly with meditation, prayer and reflection. What’s your favorite cup of tea and time of day to unwind?

 Life is short. Wear the good stuff.