The Vitamin Kid

Avoiding bad medicine and finding non-toxic treatments that actually work

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Location: Ankeny, Iowa, United States

Friday, December 10, 2004

Have a cuppa tea: hope for the caffeine-sensitive

Tea is good for you. Period. I mean, one billion Chinese can't be wrong, can they?

If you want to delve into the scientific details, go to the Life Extension Foundation website, and type "green tea" in the search window. Try this article for a start.

Green tea contains antioxidants that are 25 times more powerful, milligram for milligram, than vitamins C and E. In other words, it can combat the free radicals -- destructive molecules that cause tissue damage and aging -- that are created by toxins, stress, and illness. Cancer patients drinking large amounts of green tea have lower rates of recurrence.

Whoever invented the tea plant must have been a genius. He designed helpful chemical compounds into the tea leaf, and it even tastes good. Well, it tastes good until you decaffeinate it. That's a problem for those of us whose nervous systems don't tolerate stimulants.

The processes that remove caffeine also seem to remove flavor, and even worse, almost half of the antioxidants! I looked at the Lipton teas on the grocery shelf. Green tea has the highest level of antioxidants per cup. In second place is black tea. Decaffeinated green tea is much reduced in antioxidant level, and worst of all is decaffeinated black tea, with perhaps only about half as many antioxidants as caffeinated green tea.

Lately I've tried making a cup of (Lipton) decaffeinated black tea using two teabags at once. With two bags per cup, you can get nearly the same level of antioxidants as caffeinated green tea, and as a plus, it almost begins to taste like real tea. Steep no longer than 3 minutes or it will get bitter. Each teabag contains about 5mg of caffeine. Two bags in one cup will yield close to 10 mg of caffeine, about one-fifth the amount in a cup of ordinary caffeinated black tea. Also, black tea isn't chemically the same as green tea, but still has many health benefits.

This isn't a perfect solution. It is possible to take green tea supplements, but I'm loathe to take tea in a pill. Call it a personal prejudice.

I used to scorn Lipton tea. I thought it was the bottom of the barrel. Actually, it tastes quite good to me, but it absolutely must not be oversteeped. That must have been my problem -- oversteeping. Green tea gets astringent when oversteeped. Black tea gets bitter.

For green tea, I think 2 minutes steeping is probably too much. Lipton recommends 1½.

For black tea, maybe up to 2½ minutes, maximum. Decaffeinated black tea can go up to 3 minutes.

Another great tea is Celestial Seasonings' Victorian Earl Grey Decaffeinated. In fact, their decaffeinated Earl Grey tastes better to me than the caffeinated variety. Naturally, the company has decided to discontinue their Earl Grey decaffeinated tea. Thank you, Celestial Seasonings! The hunt is now on for an alternative. Choice brand makes an organic decaffeinated Earl Grey tea. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm hopeful.

My favorite tea drinking song is "Have a cuppa tea" by the Kinks, from their Muswell Hillbillies album. It's a cure for hepatitis, so they claim. This statement has not been reviewed by the FDA, however.