I’ve always loved this time of year. Since I was a little kid, the lead up to Christmas has always felt like such a magical time. Summer’s here, the Christmas tree is up, the end of school/uni/work is near and there’s a fun and frivolous feeling in the air.
But now I am a working parent, I’m railing against the feeling that the magic is disappearing – squeezed out between multiple school events, daycare Christmas performances, tea orders, house maintenance, Christmas gift shopping, holiday menu planning and that Christmas blog I’m weeks late in writing…
So I have devised a little recipe for you (and for me) for how tea can help us keep our minds and our bodies intact on Christmas day. Here it is:
Step one: Add interesting flavour
Good quality tea sits right alongside wine and whisky when it comes to complex, intriguing and satisfying flavour. ‘Terroir’ influences tea’s flavour in the same way that it does with grapes for wine: soil, altitude, weather, climate etc. all have an influence on the final flavour in your tea cup. This means, across the six types of tea – white, green, yellow, oolong, black and dark – the diversity of flavours is enormous; think berries and cream from a Taiwanese oolong; ripe plum, wood and smoke from a Chinese black; or rose, melon and hay from a wild white tea. Yum. There are so many options when it comes to selecting tea to add flavour to your Christmas Day.
Step two: Pair it with food
In the same way that you can pair wine with food, you can also pair tea with food. This means you can select one or more teas to serve with your Christmas menu – a sparkling tea to serve with your appetisers, a full-bodied tannic black tea to balance the richness of your mains, and/or a fruity and nutty dark oolong to serve alongside your dessert, for example.
Step three: Adjust your temperature
One of the many reasons to love tea is that it can be steeped in different ways. You can serve it hot, cold brew it overnight for a refreshing cold/iced tea, or (my favourite for summer), cold-brew it in sparkling water. Prep two hours ahead of time and sparkling tea is the perfect alternative to champagne (and one the kids can enjoy too!^).
Step four: Add a boost of nutrients
Tea contains antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals so it’s a nice way to give yourself a nutrient boost on Christmas day and counteract some of the less gut-friendly foods you might eat. Dark (Pu’erh) tea in particular helps to stimulate digestion and eliminate cholesterol from the body (1), making it a great digestif to serve after your meal. And, as tea is 99% water, it is a good fluid source that can help you stay hydrated during the day (2).
Step five: Sit back and feel the serenity
There’s a clever little amino acid called L-theanine which is found almost exclusively in tea. L-theanine has been shown to increase alpha waves in the brain, improving cognitive performance and mental focus as well as inducing a state of calm (3). In addition to that, the caffeine in tea acts as central nervous system stimulant that boosts wakefulness, improves our mood and enhances how focused and alert we feel. It is the combination of both L-theanine and caffeine in tea that has a powerful effect, as scientists believe they work together to improve brain function, making us feel calmer, more alert and content. Exactly what Santa ordered.
My final tip should you choose to serve tea on Christmas day is to get all of your equipment sorted the day before – your tea pot and cups for hot tea and/or your funnel, sparkling water, glassware and pitcher for your sparkling cold brew - set out on your serving tray - and measure out your tea (keep it in a zip lock pouch), ready for when you need it on Christmas day.
Oh, and steps four and five in particular are equally applicable in helping you stay sane in the lead up to Christmas day too. Time to pop the kettle on...
Design your Christmas Day tea menu yourself, and:
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Notes and citations:
^When tea is steeped in cold water, the level of caffeine in tea is reduced and it of course has no alcohol.
* As long as you don’t drink more than 6 cups in one sitting!
1) The Camellia Sinensis Tea House. (2014) Tea, Histories, Terriors, Varieties, New York. Print.
2), 3) Keating, Brian R. Long, Kim. (2015). How to Make Tea; The Science behind the Leaf. Lewes. Print.