Tea-totaler’s Top 10: Ode to Tea and Woe to Faux


Almost everyone confesses to having a drinking addiction. The Dionysus dudes, Juice junkies and Cola chuggers—they’re all out there, easy to spot with their choice drink in hand. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the addiction with the barrage of colorful and fruity beverages unabashedly making their way in our TV screens and heads.

What’s so strange is that I’ve decided to join the bandwagon. Might as well have a pet drink—a much better conversation starter than “How’s the weather?”

“Pleased to meet you, Java Joe. I’m Groovin’ Green Tea. Want some?”

My (incomplete) Tea Shrine

Well that was bloody pathetic, but you get the picture. Tea is such a remarkable drink of choice, and I often wonder why many people pass up this wonderful creation that is served for free in most Asian restaurants. What a waste.

I’m not going to preach on the benefits of tea, as there must be millions of sites and commercials that dwell on the said topic. Hence, this tea sage has decided to spill some bits of personal and novel insight (some of which you may already know) spawned from this love affair with Tea. I may not be British but I do keep a tea shrine (a glorified way of referring to the pantry), always prepared and well stocked for any spontaneous tea party.

Who knows when the Mad Hatter might be knocking any time?

 

Well then, enough with the name-calling and whatnot, let’s proceed with the Top 10:

1. DON’T GET PLASTIC ON ME

No, it's not what you think.

The sugary, flavor-infused bottled tea drinks in the market aren’t necessarily Tea. Call them juice, fruity drinks but surely they cannot be classified as tea alone. Why, even iced tea is faux tea, with its composition of nearly 90% sugar. My point is that to qualify as tea, the drink better taste like one! You know, the grassy-herby flavor that is bland or mildly sweetened—now that’s tea. Sadly, the organic pungency is what most manufacturers try to mask with sweetener, juice and more sugar. Not only is the flavor tainted, even the health benefits are thrown down the drain as the calories and fat pile up. Just because it says “Made with green tea leaves” does not make it an authentic tea experience.

If you’re a true tea lover, ditch the plastic and dip in the tea bag! Go for the bottle, and settle for being a tea mistress.

2. FIND YOUR NEW MORNING MATCH-A.

Green tea (Matcha in Japanese) makes the best morning pick-me-up, as a healthier alternative to the traditional cup of joe and a great complement to pancakes. Not only does it contain reasonable amounts of caffeine, it also gets your digestive gears running early in the morning. Now that’s just the same effect as a fiber blast with 0 calories. A teabag of Lipton Green Tea goes a long way, and downing another cup after lunch ensures a post-meal perk without the caffeine OD.

Ditch the Java. Here are your new morning buddies.

3. GRAB A TEAPOT AND GEAR UP WITH GENMAICHA.

What better way to enjoy a fabulous cup of tea than to brew it yourself! Get a bag of Matcha (green tea) or Genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice) and enjoy authentic goodness in a ceramic cup. Let the leaves seep longer and savor a richer and fuller blend—an acquired taste but well worth the wait. Genmaicha is an all-time favorite; the brown rice creates such a splendid brew that goes best with Japanese cuisine, or anything for that matter!

4. GO OOH WITH OOLONG.

Often overlooked, Oolong Tea can be a handy lifesaver especially after a major binge. It falls in between its famous cousins green and black tea in terms of caffeine content, flavor and oxidation level. Not to be dissed as merely so-so, oolong is regarded highly in China because of its fat burning potential among its other health benefits. Too bad in the Philippines only Gold Leaf produces this flavorful tea. A rare brand, Jin Ling, is spotted on occasion, but with green tea’s mass campaign, oolong is left to be enjoyed in the Chinese restaurants. Not a bad proposition, since it goes well with buchi!

5. CALM DOWN WITH CHAMOMILE.

Need sleep?

While green tea works best during the day, simmer down your hefty dinner with Chamomile Tea. Not only does it aid in digestion, it also calms down your nerves and enables a good night’s sleep. Take it solo or with a peppermint fusion and feel yourself getting lulled to sleep after a killer meal.

Forget green tea after 3pm; go for Chamomile’s flowery brew to let your day end with a does of tranquility, not hyperactivity. Best finds in the country are Marks and Spencer and Twinings.  Insomnia plaguing you as well? Have a cup of Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime Herbal Tea and you’ll be snoozing in no time.

6. PAINT THE TOWN WHITE.

White Tea is a rather exceptional find but with very exceptional qualities. It trumps green tea in the health aspects and tones down on the caffeine level. Perfect for this insomniac! Last I checked, only Celestial Seasonings offers White Tea in the market. Will mass market producer Lipton come up with such? Pretty please, with steam on the top!

Note: Lipton in the US has Tea To Go, artificially sweetened and flavored green or white tea in powdered form, which could perhaps be my holy grail in sinfully flavored faux tea. In the Philippines, nothing has come close to this tea-riffic variant, yet.

7. GO GREEN.

When will we ever find these in the Philippines?

Green tea’s spill-over in the food and cosmetics industries is so immense it’s created a niche on its own. Consider the following curious concoctions, some of which have become mainstream favorites: ice cream (FIC, Arce, Haagen Dazs), Frozen Yogurt (Red Mango and Tutti Frutti), frappuccino and latte (Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Bo’s Coffee, to name a few), soba noodles (typical in Japan but about to be in the Philippines), perfume (Green Tea by Elizabeth Arden), soymilk (Lactasoy), soaps, toners and creams (Etude House and Watsons, among others), supplements (Fitrum, etc.), candies, chocolates (Meiji and Kitkat), mochi and cakes (Dezato and Bread Talk).

Can’t wait for the next roll out of green tea-based goodies! I do hope it’s pasta noodles, cookies or granola bars!

Best. Chocolate. Ever.

8. FEAST ON THE FAVORITES.

Of course not all green tea derived products are to die for. Some project a healthy and “going green” image but forego all the health benefits, and I’m not a sucker for those fakers.

Here are my Top 3 faves, the green tea goods that will make you go googly-eyed:

  • Frappuccino – I’m not a coffee person, so flavors like Mocha, Espresso or even Hazelnut have no appeal to me. Bring in the Matcha Frap and no diet is spared. Sure it can be fattening if taken everyday, but the pleasure factor beats every pragmatic thought being sent by the brain. Just think about it: It’s got green tea, it’s creamy and yes, we won’t be getting brown stains on our teeth after a grande sized serving.
  • Chocolate – I love Green Tea flavored Kit Kat so match-a it gives dark chocolate major competition in the comfort food department. Sadly enough, my stash from Japan is nearing the red line. Anyone visiting Japan soon? Hint, hint.
  • Ice Cream/Mochi – Ice cream already is the ultimate dessert, by default. Bring on the green tea flavor, and it becomes the undisputed choice. Go the extra mile by reaching for the ice cream-mochi medley and you’re set for life. No kidding. Green tea ice cream of FIC is already a wonderful freezer staple, and Mercato Centrale’s green tea ice cream mochi is well worth the travel to Bonifacio High Street on an early weekend.

9. FORGET THE FRIVOLOUS.

Not even green tea’s perfect. Even the world’s favorite tea has its share of disappointing derivatives. I’ve listed 3:

  • Iced Tea – Iced Tea (aka sugar with a wee bit of tea) veers away from the healthy drink segment by dishing out more sugar than a slice of cake. With novel add-ons including lemon or apple flavor, sugar, aspartame or even sparkling water, the tea has evolved into something monstrously unhealthy and is fast approaching the nutritional content of a can of cola.
  • Eye Roll-on – A world-renowned cosmetics brand decided to infuse green tea into the formulation of their eye roll-on. Like most eye therapy thingamajigs, it fails to perform as promised. But unlike those other eye thingamajigs, the blame here goes to green tea. Next time, why don’t we just sleep early?
  • Cake – Ah yes, if there’s anything that would be a splendid match for tea, it would be a green tea cake (obviously). Sprinkled with matcha powder and infused with the same grassy essence, this should be every tea drinker’s dream. Unfortunately, Dezato’s and Bread Talk’s Green Tea Cakes are a letdown for this cake lover. Not only do they taint the integrity of the tea, the cakes are uninspired and scream mediocrity that we’d rather pass on these well-packaged pastries. Next!

10. BLACK OUT.

Black Tea is the most common tea in the world and is basically the composition of every glass of iced tea, unless otherwise stated. Lipton lives by this tea, as well as most local brands. Black is actually similar to Green Tea, with the exception of some technical terms that we can do without.

If you want a conversation starter though, you can go with: Hey, did you know that black tea has the most caffeine content in the tea family? Which is the very reason why iced tea is every insomniac’s nemesis especially if taken during dinner—yours truly a constant victim.

While I am not entirely against black tea—which has fueled the economy with its mass market goods, bravo—it has become a cliché drink that needs a serious makeover. With innovation and competition abound in the business arena, when will I ever hear something like, “One sugar free, iced white tea with natural raspberry flavor for the Lazy Black Cat?” Hope to hear that in the next 9 lives.

 

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