Sunday, January 23, 2011

Coffee and Tea

Tea and coffee both have health benefits and are a lovely, relaxing beverage on a cool day.  The trick is to learn to enjoy these beverages unsweetened.

Teas flavored with fruit, vanilla, hazelnut, and flavors reminiscent of dessert often don't taste right without any sweetener.  Drinking tea with agave nectar in place of dessert, might be  good choice, but don't make it a habit.  Try different tea varieties until you find one you enjoy drinking unsweetened.  If you like fruity herbal tea with honey or sugar, consider trying green tea or mint tea, unsweetened.  Jasmine, Oolong, and Earl Grey are other varieties I find are exciting enough without sugar.   Kahahri Red Tea has many of the antioxidant benefits of green or black tea without the caffeine.  It is now much easier to find and comes in a variety of interesting flavors.

Stevia is a natural non-nutritive (no calorie) sweetener that is recently coming into more widespread commercial use.  It has an interesting flavor that not everyone enjoys, and may have unwanted laxative effects.  If this, plus additives that are being used to make the new products taste better, don't bother you, you make want to try tea flavors that compliment, rather than clash with the flavor of Stevia.  For instance, a subtle chamomile might not work, but peppermint might be perfect.  If you want to try stevia in it's more natural form, look for green stevia or stevia leaf in your local health food store or on Amazon: Navitas Naturals Organic Natural Herbal Stevia Powder.  I have also heard good things about Sweetleaf Flavored Stevia Extract.  

Coffee has gotten a lot of press for both positive and negative effects.  I've heard that coffee consumption can raise your blood glucose level.  However, the latest evidence I've read seems to show many benefits to coffee drinking.  Coffee consumption may even decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes!  Read more in the WebMD article, Is Coffee the New Health Food?

As with tea, there is no added benefit to drinking coffee with sugar. So, knock it off!  If you can't stand drinking unsweetened coffee, maybe you need to find better quality coffee.

You my even want to try roasting your own coffee.  Check out Sweet Maria's for more information.  Having specialty coffee or home roasted coffee would be a good reason to enjoy the subtle flavors of the bean, as opposed to covering it up with sweetener.

If it is the bitterness that bothers you, add a drop of full fat milk or cream.  It is the fat in milk that adheres to the bitter compounds in the coffee to make your morning Joe more palatable.  There's no point in using fat-free creamer, then trying to cover up the bitterness with sugar.  If that still doesn't work, throw some money at the problem and buy better coffee.  Kona coffee has gotten a reputation for being among the best, and it is readily available in shops and online.

A quality coffee maker can help.  My parents are convinced that their old coffee maker dripped the water in a way that made tastier coffee.   Purchasing whole beans and grinding them at home right before you make coffee will also improve the brew.  Watch the Good Eats episode True Brew.

If you are a vegetarian, limit your coffee and tea consumption with, or directly after, a meal you are counting on to fulfill your iron quota.  Tannins in the beverage can bond to certain minerals and decrease your absorption of them.

If you're now in the mood for a tea party of your own, check out the chocolate sourdough rosewater cookies I posted last week.

Please join us tomorrow, when Rivki Locker of Healthy Eating for Ordinary People, will share her recipe for Chai Tea.


  1. Unfortunately the tannins will mess with a lot more than just iron. It always makes me sad that something so wonderful/delicious/healthy/beneficial has so many little interferences in the body ;)

    LOVED this post! =)

  2. Is it possible that you can reduce the negative effects of tannins by not steeping your tea too long? Something like three minutes for green tea or 4-5 for black? I'll look into it for part two. I'm working on a post about how to make good tea and faux latte with minimal specialty equipment.



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