More Americans turning to tea

On Theresa Branda’s Naperville kitchen table sat a delicate display of ladylike foods arranged on a cake stand. She poured hot water into red antique cups and chose a tea blend from her collection. “You know what?” said Branda with an ironic chuckle. “I prefer coffee.” That’s not unusual in America, where coffee tops tea, but tea is the most popular beverage worldwide, aside from water. It turns out Branda drinks tea for the health benefits and because she enjoys the flavors. She was the head chef at a tearoom in Oswego until recently, and she’s planning to open her own tearoom in Naperville.

She enjoys making people happy by cooking for and entertaining them. “I have five children, so I’m big into nurturing,” she said. If you asked Dan Robertson, owner of The Tea House, an online tea business in Naperville, Branda perfectly fits the profile of a tea lover. He described the stark philosophical differences between coffee drinkers and tea drinkers. “Preparing tea is a quiet thing, whereas preparing coffee is a hurried thing,” Robertson said. Coffee appeals to people because of the “vitality, gusto and excitement.” Tea represents “connoisseurship, refinement and pausing to smell the roses,” he said.

He compares it to the difference between drinking beer and wine. Just imagine chugging a bottle of wine the same way a frat boy pops a hole in the end of a beer bottle to shotgun it. Robertson said Americans lost their taste for tea before the American Revolution. The British put a huge tax on tea, and Americans rebelled by not buying it. It became unpatriotic to drink tea, and therefore coffee became the new patriotic drink of choice. “A lot of things are carried through generations,” said Elizabeth Stephano, co-owner of Octavia Tea in Batavia. Had the British not taxed tea so heavily, there might not be a Starbucks on every corner. Americans are finally realizing the health benefits of tea, Stephano said. Tea contains less caffeine than coffee, and it brings a blast of antioxidants. In the United States, tea drinkers are moving from the pre-bagged tea to a higher-quality leaf, Stephano said. Flavored teas although they contain ingredients that are not actual tea, such as fruit, herbs and essential oils are bringing more women into the fold. It all leads to the question of which brew. White tea: White tea is minimally processed and contains the least amount of caffeine of all teas when it is brewed correctly. Made of only the unopened buds of the tea tree, it is very rare.

Green tea: Green tea leaves are minimally processed. This tea has a subtle taste, and its health benefits have been touted. The aroma and taste may vary.

Black tea: Strong and rich, black tea is heavily processed. The Chinese call it red tea because the liquid takes on a deep red color when brewed.

Yellow tea: Yellow tea contains leaves and buds that are processed only a very small amount. It is rare and considered one of the healthiest teas to drink, more so than green tea.

Oolong tea: A connoisseur favorite, this tea is semi-oxidized. Its flavor is considered complex.

If the tea is high-quality, the leaves can be brewed up to 10 times. (By Lauren B. Kraft,, July 2005) Article