The Man with no Tea in him

Hearing the advice, earlier this week, of a learned marketer who proclaimed that tea – in the form that we know and love it today – will disappear in five years, and that tradition, love for tea are obsolete amongst a new generation that desires only instant gratification, it seemed that the 21st Century is no time for artisans in tea. My friend’s thesis was sound – with the relentless advance of Wal Mart, the insistence on speed and convenience amongst a generation that tweets and SMSs in preference to writing or even emailing, the teapot could well become an obscure accessory. Suggestive though the signs may be, predictions of a demise in tea in the style it has endured for millennia may be premature.

Tea began as a medicine and only then grew into a beverage. The protective, health benefits that herbalist emperor Shen Nung, is said to have discovered in tea have been proven by science 5,000 years later. Their significance for humanity is much greater today than it has ever been in the past. The potency of antioxidants in tea – in reducing the impact of stress, of protecting us from every chronic disease, from Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, its ability to strengthen the immune system, to fight cholesterol, and the naturally stimulating function of L-Theanine – are essential for a 21st century lifestyle.

Scientists are striving though to deliver these benefits in a more concentrated form, than in your cup of tea. The extract of tea antioxidants in convenient tablet form miss a very important aspect of tea though. As tea grew into a beverage, it became the source of comfort in solitude, of warmth in company and equally of luxury that neither coffee nor cocoa, wine nor whisky could offer.

A natural herb, naturally produced to brew a tonic that offers healing and at the same time a palette of colour, an  array of tastes, textures and aromas, has a style and indulgence that has no parallel. Science may succeed in synthesizing some of the elements responsible for the nutraceutical benefits in tea, into the unnatural form of a tablet. Those benefits – if they offer the same benefits when taken in isolation – will only offer a fraction of the goodness in tea for the true potency in tea lies as much in its ‘naturalness’ as in the intangible benefits from its calming and at the same time enlivening aroma, its gentle and simultaneously inspiring appearance, its incomprehensible variety, its gentleness or as often its majesty in taste. These are attributes bestowed upon tea by God, and there is no science that can distill the sophistication and indulgence in tea into a tablet.

If that were still inadequate justification for the continuation of the tradition of taking tea, consider the fact that in tea made in the traditional manner, there is the expression of an art that has been perfected over 5,000 years. Real Tea (although unfortunately not many of the commodity teas – CTC – in supermarkets today), is handpicked and from that first step, is nurtured through a style of manufacture that is unchanged for centuries. In that lies the third and possibly most compelling feature of real tea, for in your cup of tea is also the future of generations of people whose lives are inextricably linked to tea; the millions of tea pickers, planters, tasters and factory workers.

The real danger therefore lies not in the likelihood of the obsolescence of tea in its traditional form, but in the appearance of pretenders that may dilute real tea and its importance for future generations. Many people see tea as the highly sugared Iced Teas that have little relationship to real tea, instant tea – an insult, Iced Tea Lollies as obvious a misguided effort to profit from the heritage of real tea as a corporation can design. Yet amidst recession, the consumption of tea grew – and interestingly it grew most in the speciality tea segment, suggesting that the new generation wants tea, and seeks better tea. The appreciation of leaf tea – served in the traditional teapot – is growing, and as people overcome with the blandness of materialism, seek more profound fulfillment, tea offers the same serenity, energy, vitality and comfort as it has done for generations. Of course there is much to be done for the story of real tea must be told, and the wonderful heritage of tea, be applied with authenticity, ethics and expertise to offer more tea drinkers the possibility of indulging in the divine herb. That may take more resources than a family company like ours can muster, but more passionate tea people will surely join the fold as it becomes apparent to corporations that the headlong rush towards extracting profit from tea at any cost, eventually yields diminishing returns.

I can only assume that my friend, overcome as he was with consumer research and trend reports, does not drink tea. An ancient Japanese proverb observes that, “If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.”

In conclusion, let us brew a cup of fine tea, taking care to appreciate the tea as the leaves unfold and yield their delicious infusion, whilst thinking of more sage words;the suggestion of Thich Nat Hahn, Vietnamese monk, peace activist, poet and teacher: “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”


The beverage tea, from the top leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis is one of the most widely used beverages in the world, second only to water. Black and green tea have mostly similar actions. The active components are polyphenols, mainly epigallocatechin gallate in green tea, and the tea leaf polyphenol oxidase mediated oxidation to oolong and black tea, yielding other polyphenols, theaflavin and thearubigins. There is 40-50 mg caffeine in a 160-ml cup of tea. The chemopreventive effects of tea depend on: (1) its action as an antioxidant; (2) the specific induction of detoxifying enzymes; (3) its molecular regulatory functions on cellular growth, development and apoptosis; and (4) a selective improvement in the function of the intestinal bacterial flora. The oxidation of LDL cholesterol, associated with a risk for atherosclerosis and heart disease, is inhibited by tea. Many of cancers are caused by lifestyle elements. One is cigarette and tobacco use, leading to cancer in the oral cavity, esophagus and lung, inhibited by tea. Mice administered a tobacco nitrosamine, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), developed significantly fewer lung tumors than controls when given green tea or its major polyphenol, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Tea suppressed the formation of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG), a marker of oxidative DNA damage, in the lung DNA of mice given NNK. Gastric cancer, caused by a combination of Helicobacter pylori and salted foods, is lower in tea drinkers. Western nutritionally-linked cancers of the breast, colon, prostate and pancreas can be inhibited by tea. The formation of genotoxic carcinogens for these target organs during the cooking of meats, heterocyclic amines, and their effects were decreased by tea. Tea inhibited the formation of reactive oxygen species and radicals and induced cytochromes P450 1A1, 1A2 and 2B1, and glucuronosyl transferase. The higher formation of glucuronides represents an important mechanism in detoxification. The developmental aspects and growth of cancers through promotion are decreased by tea. The regular use of a widely available, tasty, inexpensive beverage, tea, has displayed valuable preventive properties in chronic human diseases.

Extract from :

Mechanisms of chronic disease causation by nutritional factors and tobacco products and their prevention by tea polyphenols. Weisburger JH, Chung FL. American Health Foundation, One Dana Road, Valhalla, NY 10595, USA. [The Journal of the British Industrial Biological Research Association, Food & Chemical Toxicology, 2002 Aug;40(8):1145-54. All rights acknowledged.

3 Comments The Man with no Tea in him

  1. Daniel Ortiz October 29, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I am coincidentally enjoying a cup of chamomile tea as I was browsing this entry, and agree that your friend is obviously not a regular tea drinker. I have been drinking chamomile tea for as long as I can remember. My grandmother used to give it to all her grand children at the sign of fever, stomach pains, gripe or just a general sick feeling. Would not be surprise if the same potion was not put into a bottle and given to me, when crying and unable to communicate what was wrong with me. A home remedy for most ailments. If you did not feel better after tea, and a home cooked meal, it meant you were really sick and you were taken to the doctor. This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation and has become part of a culture in all of Mexico. Without statistics at hand, I can say with confidence that families in Mexico would not trade grandmother’s feel good potion for anything.

    I believe that your friend was not basing his opinion on facts, but a general contrarian perspective to insert a memorable comment into your conversation. He could easily defend his perspective on a general basis about the human need for instant gratification, but that is not new thinking. Mankind has benefited as well as lost intangible countless benefits from the efforts of being able to provide faster responses to our needs. We have internet and instant meals, faster travel and the list goes on, and does this give us more time to do the important things in life? There is no right answer of course, everyone is different and that same answer would change on a regular basis depending on the circumstances, but yet we all make a conscious decision to periodically stop what we are doing to relax and drink a cup of tea or coffee, and balance the pace of life that our ‘learned marketer’ is talking about. There are some basic rules that regardless of the effort or eagerness for ‘instant gratification’, the human body responds the same, if you don’t take care of your body, the body will eventually let you know its displeasure. The truth is, we all need to have a balance diet, with home cooked meals, exercise regularly and rest. It helps if you are spiritually guided and take time to share and contribute in your community. Ask Oprah if you don’t believe this. She has tried every diet plan, equipment, solution, potion for instant gratification on her body and health and her response will be that mother nature will eventually show you that you are going the wrong way and short cuts are not acceptable. She now promotes exercise and diet as a must for healthy balance living.

    But back to tea. Tea is the fastest growing beverage sector in all markets, not because its trendy or fashionable, although ‘marketers’ do have the ability to promote the shell without substance, tea continues to stand on its own. Tea is a beverage with natural health characteristics, it embodies tradition, loyalty and peace. When the thought or memory of someone coming to you with a problem or chaos in the air, the sensible reaction is, ‘let’s talk about it’… and tea is subtly introduced into the solution. I recall a movie with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts (Nottingham) , where she plays a famous actress staying at Hugh Grant’s apartment incognito, when suddenly the paparazzi shows up unexpectedly and she reacts aggressively towards Hugh. She reacts by packing her things and unjustly accusing him, while he defends himself by asking her to sit and have a cup of tea. She did rush off, but eventually after a few developments in the movie regretting it, coming back and asking him to take her back. Of course this is a movie, but in retrospect, the problem would have been solved much sooner if she stayed and had the cup of tea. How is that for quick gratification? By the way, I’m plugging in a recommendation for cinnamon tea, if you do find yourself in the odd situation and you need calmness and peace to take over a scenario. The mere scent of cinnamon will work wonders in the situation.

    I acknowledge your concern about the dangers of tea pretenders, highly sugared teas and even worse, corned syrup sweet and rubbish comments from so called ‘learned marketers’ who generalize their comments to suit a conversation. I agree and the task is huge, but speaking as a reformed sugared saturated iced tea drinker, opening my eyes and palate to good tea was very easy. Exposure to good tea, education and this blog is a step in the right direction. Your comments with regards to the recession are spot on and blame the ‘instant gratification’ quest for it. Consumers eager to get what they wanted whether a house upgrade, car, boat or other without properly assessing feasibility and affordability rushed to purchased based on over inflated evaluations of their homes and when the balloon popped reality set in that they were living beyond their means. Not surprised about increase of tea sales during this period, a lot more chamomile for me as well. Well, I think I wrote more than I intended to; maybe the topic hit a spot, or maybe it was the tea that inspired me to promote it and joining you in defending it whole heartedly. Why don’t you send a box of tea to this friend of yours? He might have another perspective next time you run into him.

  2. Bruce July 28, 2011 at 4:26 am

    … blends. I believe that the vast tonnage of Dilmah retailed on the world’s shelves are teabag teas. When the day comes that Orthodox Teas (the consumer may relate this to “loose tea packs”) come back into fashion on the global markets outside of some but not nearly all Middle Eastern markets, I’d personally be delighted to see it happen. Meanwhile, we must deal with the realities of the Pakistani, North and South American, UK, Ireland, European and Japanese demand for bright liquoring CTC and Orthodox small leaf broken varieties best suited to teabag blends. Meanwhile, if there were a method by which we could halt the production and export of thge world’s poorest varieties, most all of which are made in the Orthodox Rotovane method, I’ll be the first to stand at the front of the line to promote the eradication of this rubbish. Meanwhile, if we are sticking the vast lion’s share of the world’s tea production into individual standard size teabags, CTC versus Orthodox does not enter the equation. A brilliant high or midgrown CTC PF1 is quite the same in that teabag blend as a brilliant high or midgrown Orthodox BOPF. Meanwhile, the lowgrown CTC’s – a tea fairly unique to Ceylon – regularly fetch some of the highest prices of all CTC’s in the Colombo Auction, and indeed of all CTC’s on the world markets. The fight is not against CTC or Orthodox – it is against mechanical havesting versus hand plucking and a number of other factors that lead to the output of wretched teas. While countries aggressively fighting for a consistent high quality standard of tea – countries including Kenya and Sri Lanka at the top of the world export list – we must fight to action change in the other leading producing export nations that are making the vast majority of poorest teas. In today’s world, the fact of the matter is that, sadly, most of these teas are produced and exported from Asian and SE Asian nations, of which Indonesia is not one. Peace, Bruce:)

  3. Gloria Smith May 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

    The Teabag. The Dilmah Teabag available in Orthodox and enjoyed as a BOPF might be compared to a CTC PF1. The Dilmah Teabag authentic, quality, pure and easy enough to get at the store, restaurant, or the hotel while traveling. Just enough places the teabag had its effect. The palate has been cleansed and memory recalls.”Where did I have that great cuppa tea?” If we can get away with staying pure, Orthodox, authentic and a teabag. Well, by golly why not. Anything like “loose” is a perk. I am proud to raise my teabag cup and say,”business is a matter of human service.”

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