By Laura Kaae
Killeen Daily Herald
Don't bother offering Beatrice Harper a cup of coffee; she never touches the stuff. But tea, on the other hand, now that's a whole 'nother cup of, well, you know.
For tea aficionados like Harper, tea is a way of life.
"I just love it," she said of the hot stuff she's been drinking for 20 years.
About two years ago, Harper decided to share her passion for tea by opening Bea's Tea Cottage in Killeen, where she serves up pot after pot of tea during the lunch hour. Some of her best customers, she said, are Ellison High School students, who visit the neighboring tea room on their lunch breaks.
While tea aficionados could probably decipher between green tea, black tea and oolong (which all come from the plant Camellia sinensis, but are processed differently) by just a small sip, the rest of us may need a little help picking out which kind of tea is best suited for our tastes. Harper was up to the challenge and provided readers with a little hot tea 101.
Green tea, she said, has a very mild flavor, compared to its Earl Grey counterparts, and is gaining popularity in her shop.
According to a report published by the USDA last year, green tea consumption has doubled over the past year (visit www.ars.usda.gov for more information). Harper attributes the increase in sales to the purported health benefits of green tea.
Green tea, she explained, is known for its high content of antioxidants, which are used by the body to protect against free radicals.
A report by the Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Conn. states that the leaves are less processed in green tea, making them rich in the antioxidant qualities that prevent cell damage and may help decrease risk of diseases and some forms of cancer (www.ynhh.org/online/nutrition).
Harper has even had one person come into her store, a Killeen-area man, claiming he'd lost about eight pounds over the course of several months, by changing just one part of his diet – beverages – that included adding several cups of green tea per day.
Oolong tea, Harper said, is known to increase metabolism and help ease symptoms of emphysema.
According to the research by the USDA, oolong makes up just about 2 percent of the world's tea consumption, taking a far back seat to black tea, which makes up some 75 percent.
Manufacturers, the report states, control how long the leaves are allowed exposure to air, a process called fermentation. Green tea is not allowed to ferment, giving the tea a green color. Tea that ferments for a very long time turns the leaves black, and thus black tea is created. Somewhere between the two in the fermentation process lies the oolong variety.
"It has a deeper color, with flowery and chocolate tones," she said. "It helps with digestion, but most of us just like the taste of it."
Black tea, Harper said, is her most popular variety of tea.
Because it is fully oxidized, it has a darker content, she said.
In terms of caffeine, black tea has the most caffeine of all the teas, about 40 milligrams per serving, which is about
half as much as a cup of coffee.
It is also has the most robust flavor of all the teas, she said.
Herbal teas are made by pouring boiling water over fresh or dried flowers, roots and leaves and then allowing them to steep. Some of the most popular blends Harper carries are herbal teas, she said, including raspberry and peach, which are among the local high school students' favorites.
Bags or loose?
Purchased tea bags are the easiest way to make tea, but some people prefer to buy loose leaves and create their own strength by using an infuser, Harper said.
"The loose teas are actually a little bit less expensive," she said. "And they give the tea a more profound taste."
The four enemies of tea in terms of storage, Harper said, are air, light, heat and moisture.
To avoid a poor-tasting tea, she suggested using an airtight container.
"Black and oolong teas can be stored for about a year," she said. "Green tea should be used within six months."
Contact Laura Kaae at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7464
Chocolate Mint Bread Pudding
This recipe was the winner of Celestial Seasonings tea company recipe contest, and comes from its Web site, www.celestialseasonings.com. The recipe calls for a creative use of mint tea, steeped in milk.
2 bags Celestial Seasonings Mint Magic Herb Tea
1 1/2 cup milk
1 6-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
Add 2 bags of Celestial Seasonings Mint Magic Herb Tea to milk. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes (do not boil). Remove tea bags. Add chocolate and continue over medium heat until chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Combine with sugar, egg and salt. Beat well. Stir in bread crumbs. Pour into a
one quart baking dish lightly coated with butter. Place dish into a 13"x9"x2" baking pan and add hot water to pan to a depth of 1". Bake at 400 for 1520 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.