Tea steeped in health benefits according to local expert

With various health benefits to drinking tea, there are a few disadvantages in doing so. Drinking freshly brewed tea that is too concentrated can cause unexpected health issues. (Allison Evans | The Collegian)

The tea slowly steeps on the edge of the table in what is called a “hoddle,” while a small teacup turned upside down on top warms from the rising steam emanating from the brewing below.

This is how tea is usually served at Manhattan’s Radina’s Coffeehouse, whether at the Leadership Studies Building, at its Roastery in Aggieville or one of its two other local locations. The clear hoddle allows customers to watch their tea as it gradually becomes darker, and generally more “bitter” in flavor.

According to Shawna Smith, sophomore in economics and employee at Aggieville’s Radina’s Coffeehouse and Roastery, most people seem to prefer lighter teas.

“If you steep tea for too long, it starts to get bitter,” Smith said. “So most of our customers just let it sit for a few minutes.”

According to Mark Haub, associate professor and department head of Human Nutrition, that “bitter” flavor may indicate more significant health benefits in a cup of tea. This could be because of an increase in catechins, a type of antioxidant often found in tea.

The presence of catechins as an active ingredient in tea can help cause the bitter flavor in tea, making the cup less flavorful. On the other hand, according to an article on Wisegeek.org, studies show that these antioxidants actually “inhibit the growth of cancer cells.”

Haub said tea, specifically green tea or black teas such as Earl Grey, are known to contain high levels of antioxidants. They also are often associated with improving cardiovascular health and induce fewer cavities, among other benefits. That being said, this does not mean having a single cup of light tea will make a person “healthy.”

“The caveat is dose,” Haub said. “If the concentration is low, you might not get the same benefits.”

According to Haub, much of the most current research was done in the early 2000s, and includes some by researchers like himself at K-State. Most of the current research has been short term, dealing with the effects of a single cup of tea on a person over the course of a single day or short period of time.

“There have been very few long-term studies,” Haub said.

While there are various health benefits to drinking tea, there are a few disadvantages to doing so. Drinking tea which is too concentrated can lead to nausea and, in some cases, tea can affect the absorption of nutrients from food; however, according to Haub these effects are minimal.

“(Drinking tea has) a negligible impact on those nutrients,” Haub said. “Very rarely is that going to be an issue.”

Sun brewed tea is not necessarily better than tea brewed in a pot at home, according to Haub. He added that while adding sugar to tea may affect some of the nutritional value of it, drinking quality, freshly-brewed tea – even with decreased health benefits – is likely better than drinking pre-made tea.

“Choosing (a drink) just because it’s tea may not be the way to go,” Haub said.

Dan Spicer, freshman in psychology and employee at the Leadership Studies’ Radina’s, said he generally prefers to drink his tea “a bit darker,” with a combination of Caribe (a type of green tea at Radina’s) and Earl Grey, a flavor of black tea.

“The Caribe takes the sharpness out of the Earl Grey, while the Earl Grey takes some of the fruitiness from the Caribe,” Spicer said.

Tea is, quite literally, as healthy as you make it. From possessing antioxidants to improving cardiovascular health, tea has many enriching properties and, according to Haub, very few negative ones.

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.