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Prairie Fare: Make Time for Tea

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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Throughout its 5,000-year history, drinking tea has been a relaxing, social ritual.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Would you like to come to our party?” my 8-year-old daughter asked.

I wasn’t sure what kind of party I was attending, but I nodded my head and followed her to our living room.

Four stuffed animals were seated around a small turquoise and pink teapot, with a cup, plate and saucer in front of each animal.

“You can sit by Ruff,” she said as I lowered myself to the floor next to the plush green dog.

“Would you like a crumpet with your spot of tea?” she asked.

“I prefer scones,” I answered with the best British accent I could muster.

“Yes, we have those, too,” she said.

This was definitely “low tea” I thought as I sat on the floor next to her plush toy.

According to many sources, the terms high tea and low tea often are used incorrectly. Low tea also is referred to as “afternoon tea.” Traditionally, low tea was served in a sitting room on a low table, such as a coffee table.

High tea, on the other hand, usually refers to heavier foods served with the tea, such as sandwiches or meat dishes, at dinnertime. As its name implies, high tea usually was served on a high table, such as a dinner table.

Although “high tea” often carries an elite connotation, historically, high tea was not as “fancy” as low tea. Crumpets, which are similar to English muffins, commonly were served with low teas.

“Be sure to lift your pinky finger when you drink your tea,” my daughter instructed as we continued our tea party.

“Yes, this helps me balance the cup so I don’t spill my tea,” I added. I remembered that early teacups had no handles.

“Would you like a lime slice? I ran out of lemons,” she said, being the perfect little hostess.

“We have an issue. Ruff is drinking my tea!” I exclaimed as I lifted the toy’s head out of my cup.

She giggled and rearranged the party attendees at that point. Throughout its 5,000-year history, drinking tea has been a relaxing, social ritual. In fact, tea is the second most popular beverage in the world next to water.

Nonherbal tea is derived from the Camellia senensis plant. Tea is one of the leading sources of flavonoids, which are antioxidant compounds that may fight chronic disease.

All tea starts out “green.” Black tea has undergone fermentation or oxidation to develop certain flavor profiles. Oolong tea undergoes a moderate amount of fermentation, while green tea is not fermented.

U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers have studied the role of tea in health with promising results. Drinking tea might promote weight loss and heart health.

USDA researchers reported that when their study volunteers drank tea (without cream or sugar) instead of an equal amount of water, they burned an extra 67 calories a day. They noted that the tea may play a role in preferentially burning fat.

Another study highlighted the potential role of tea in lowering blood cholesterol among people with mildly high blood cholesterol. The participants consumed five servings of black tea per day, along with a carefully controlled diet. The blood cholesterol levels of the participants decreased by up to 10 percent in less than three weeks.

However, the researchers caution that more work is needed to understand the complex role of tea. In the meantime, sipping a cup of tea is a pretty good idea. Here’s how to brew a pot of tea.

  • Fill a tea kettle with fresh cold water and place on a burner.
  • Add hot water to a teapot, preferably one made of glass or pottery, to warm it. Using a metal teapot may result in a metallic taste in your final beverage.
  • Next, add the loose tea to the empty, warmed teapot, adding one spoonful of tea for each cup of water plus “one for the teapot.” If you use teabags, use one bag less than the desired number of cups.
  • When the water in the tea kettle comes to a rolling bowl, pour it in the teapot and cover. Allow it to brew for three to six minutes.
  • Finally, pour through the tea strainer and enjoy. Serve with a citrus slice if preferred.

Try this tasty tea mix recipe courtesy of North Carolina’s “Eat Smart. Move More” website. It is less expensive and less caloric than most commercial brands.

Chai Tea Mix

1 c. nonfat dry milk powder

1 c. powdered nondairy creamer

1 c. French vanilla flavored powdered nondairy creamer

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. unsweetened instant tea

2 tsp. ground ginger

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. ground cardamom

In a large bowl, combine first five ingredients. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup at a time until the mixture is the consistency of fine powder.

To make tea, stir two heaping tablespoons of chai tea mixture into a mug of hot water. Makes about 48 servings. Each serving has 45 calories, 1 gram (g) of fat, 9 g of carbohydrate, 1 g of protein and 10 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Feb. 23, 2012

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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