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  • Writer's picturejohn snell

Is Tea trying too hard?

Every time you see an advert for a tea (CS or otherwise) that purports to protect or deliver an antidote for a clinical condition or other benefit, consider the validity behind the claim.

At the outset, this sounds like a hate letter to tea but, far from it, like many I think tea is intrinsically good on a number of different fronts. The fear is that overstatements or downright half truths can undermine the industry's health and torpedo the good ship "Tea" and that if, over time, it does not deliver then you will move on to another remedy that does (or states that it does too).

Let's delve a little deeper and consider a claim of 350mg of an active ingredient, with purported benefits, per teabag. So you steep your tea accepting that all 350mg pass into your brew (highly unlikely if not impossible) and then that this concentration in one cup of water (236.555grms), which my poor math suggests is a ratio of 1:676 is going to be absorbed across the gut wall and not retained in the intestine and will reach the area of need, unencumbered by the loop of Henle or other fantastical machinery that is hidden within your own skin.

So what does the above boil down to? It's not about being a Nay Sayer but setting expectations, realistically, and not letting ourselves be consumed by a need to satisfy every consumer's desire.

We cannot, as an industry, deliver, by the infusion of plant pieces in water the same targeted benefit as say an extraction of a specific active ingredient, made totally soluble and concentrated through processing! But we can deliver a "No harm" beverage (Harder than you think!) that is aesthetically pleasing, tasty, hydrates and delivers a solute content that includes a bunch of phytochemicals that can be metabolized by the human physiology.

As the industry launches an endless array of products that claim to cure or assist in a myriad of physical and mental needs it loses it's identity to a disparate offering that threatens to fracture the very understanding of what tea is and should be.

So what should tea be?

In the author's humble opinion and, in acceptance that "tea" is now any botanical infused beverage (with the exception of coffee, cacao and other specialist malted offerings), the industry needs to focus in on what it can substantiate. That it offers interesting and varied taste profiles. That it hydrates, a no brainer, that it can stimulate or not (depending on the ingredients) and that it comes from nature, supporting a plant based diet and a healthful lifestyle.

Further, for the most part (Have to be specific to crops) it is an important employer, benefits the agrarian landscape and has a lower footprint than many other things sipped, glugged or chugged.

Is tea trying too hard? Maybe not but maybe it is straying too far.

Tea has been drunk for millenia for a host of reasons including, yes, healthful benefits. It is important foundational knowledge that supports the "Tea is healthy" message but, let's not get carried away.

Tea is ubiquitous in the human world and as strongly linked to trade, travel, community, revival and survival as any product one cares to mention.

I cannot think of a better product statement than that, let's ensure it remains a reminder of why we should imbibe rather than becoming an epitaph for something lost, a memory of something simply delicious and good!

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