Rolling in the steep



On a day much like today, Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was casually drinking a bowl of hot water when, out of nowhere, a tea leaf fluttered into his bowl. He sipped this new brew and decided he could definitely get on board, subsequently ordering the mass planting of tea bushes.

Tea was introduced to the west at the beginning of the 17th century by Dutch and Portuguese sailors, then to North America about 100 years later.

Almost 5000 years since its discovery, the tea scene has changed a lot. Starbucks is cashing in and every other day we seem to be bombarded with new studies about how skinny you’re going to be if you just drink green tea. Hell, there’s even a political movement that’s all about the mighty leaf (that’s what the Tea Party is about, right?).

Tea leaves have been used in contexts from medicinal to fortune telling, and it is currently so popular that it is second only to water in world consumption. What is it that makes this beverage so popular?

Michael Menashy, co-founder of local company Tea Sparrow, has been drinking tea since childhood, but his passion grew when he was walked through a traditional brewing ceremony in China. Since then, he has made tea his life — and the man knows his tea.

“The biggest thing I would recommend is to experiment,” he says. “Once we discover a tea we like, we try brewing it several different ways to find the perfect cup. Take the etiquette out of tea and have fun. Personalize the experience and find your own love.

“It is totally awesome!” concludes Menashy. “The range of taste and flavours and the incredible benefits that come with tea crush the other daily beverages on the market.” Drink a type of tea you’ve never tried before or drink it over ice. Dress up and have a tea party — the Alice in Wonderland type, not the political movement. Menashy also suggests having fun with tea by pairing it with alcohol and making tea cocktails (my kind of a guy).

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Green tea has been established as being the healthy thing to drink. We all know that: it fights cancer, heart disease, lowers cholesterol, and the list goes on.

Black teas such as Earl Grey don’t get as much of a rep as their green counterparts, but they have a lot of the same benefits, not to mention immunity boosting. The caffeine provides more energy and less jitters than coffee.

Likewise, jasmine tea is derived from green tea and so it has many of the same benefits, but is also considered one of the best natural stress-reducers, and works to lower blood pressure. Maybe consider drinking that instead of Timmy’s XL coffees next exam period (a real “do as I say, not as I do” moment here). Its popularity is also linked to its benefits for the skin.

The less popular white teas actually have more antioxidants than some of their other counterparts, mainly because the tea leaves are less disturbed when picked. They’re also nature’s Colgate. Or Crest. Or, if you’re a broke student, whatever no-name-brand toothpaste is on sale.

Sometimes we just can’t handle anymore caffeine so peppermint is the answer, really refreshing and comforting when you’ve had so much espresso you can’t hold a pen. It aids in digestion, helps headaches and pains associated with PMS, and lowers fevers — among other things. Basically, if something’s hurting, peppermint tea is the way to go.

Rooibos (roy-bos) is another caffeine-free option. I provide the pronunciation because I felt judged by the Starbucks baristas when I said “the one that starts with R,” and I would not wish this upon anyone else. This tasty bad-boy contains different antioxidants than, say, green tea, and it fights off the cardiovascular and liver disease that you’re probably bringing upon yourself in your university years. It is also known to lower blood pressure.

Yerba Mate is the new kid on the health nut block and is often cited as being a healthier alternative to coffee, controlling appetite, detoxifying blood, and boosting immunity.

Chamomile was always the go-to that my grandmother would suggest when I was feeling sick. Turns out, it’s not just an old wives tale — this tea is perhaps the most medicinal of all. Not only does it boost the immune system and fight off infections and colds, it also soothes the stomach, aids in muscle spasms and menstrual cramps, reduces inflammation, and relieves back pain. Not enough for you? It boosts liver function and is used as a sleep aid.

The craziest part? This isn’t even an exhaustive list of all the types of teas, or of their health benefits. As tea enthusiast Alice explains — while clutching a steaming mug of vanilla rooibos, “Tea will always be there for you. Whether you’re stressed, tired, upset, or just trying to kill time, tea’s got your back.”


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Green Iced Tea
1 Lemon Tea Bag (also try Lemon Ginger)
3 oz. fresh Cucumber Juice (or cucumber slices for the same refreshing results)
1 1/2 oz. Tequila
Splash of Lemon Juice

Steep tea with tequila for a half hour, then remove tea bag. Combine and stir ingredients. Serve on ice, garnish with lime wedge.


Hot Tottie
Okay, not a summer drink, but if you’ve got a cold, this will clear it up! 

3/4 cup black tea (e.g. Earl Grey)
1 ½ oz whiskey
Squirt of lemon
Teaspoon of honey
Cinnamon stick

Steep black tea. Add lemon and honey. Add whiskey last, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.


Long Island Iced Tea*
Makes two drinks

2 cups ice cubes
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce gin
1 ounce white rum
1 ounce white tequila
1/2 ounce Triple Sec
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup Coka
2 lemon wedges

Shake vodka, gin, rum, tequila, Triple Sec, lemon juice, and ice in cocktail shaker. Pour mixture and top off with the cola. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve.

*Not actually a tea. Whatever.