My intent is for Tea Deviant to be a positive place to inspire curiosity and have fun while exploring, but I can’t ignore the proverbial elephant in the room. Considering COVID-19 still has a daily impact on our lives and a study on tea and the virus in vitro has been done I feel it’s worth sharing and hope you do too. I’m not interested in fake news. This is not about a definitive cure. It's about studies that show the potential for compounds found in tea to be helpful against the virus and staying informed.
In November 2020 Nara University in Japan conducted a study on the effect of catechins in black and green teas on COVID-19 in vitro. Various teas were used with the most effective being black tea brewed from tea leaves. The study showed that when that black tea was introduced to coronaviruses it reduced their ability to infect by 99% after one minute and 99.9% after 10 minutes.
I first saw news of this study on the Japanese Greentea Co website. I did some further searches, but could not find an abstract though I did find other articles:
“Nara University study finds some common teas can neutralize COVID-19”
“Detoxify the New Corona with Tea…”
Human beings are more complex than a petri dish in a controlled environment for sure. Still, this study combined with others on tea and COVID-19 along with tea and other illnesses have me thinking there is something to this idea.
Other Tea and COVID-19 Studies
Before the Japan study, in July 2020 the National Institute of Health released info on studies that focused on 2 tea polyphenols: EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) derived from green tea and theaflavins from black tea. In short, they found both to be worth studying more as they are bioactive with the ability to support physical health in multiple ways . Here is an excerpt :
“Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is one of the most abundant polyphenolic catechin found in Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze (tea plant), especially in green tea. EGCG has been tested for its antiviral activity against several viruses and found to be a potential treatment option over synthetic chemical drugs. It is recognized as a multi-functional bioactive molecule exhibiting antitumorigenic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidative, and antiproliferative properties in addition to its antiviral effects (Chacko et al., 2010). Theaflavins (TFs) are another class of polyphenols found in abundance in black tea. The TF derivatives found majorly in black tea are theaflavin (TF1), theaflavin-3-gallate (TF2A), theaflavin-3′-gallate (TF2B), and theaflavin-3,3′-digallate (TF3). All these TFs are being researched for their bioactive properties and are known for their broad-spectrum biological properties, like anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-bacterial properties. Since EGCG and TFs are of natural sources and consumed regularly by a majority of the population, investigating the anti-viral properties of these polyphenols against COVID-19 could be an advancement in finding a treatment to this latest pandemic.”
EGCG would not appear to be effective taken orally though:
“However, EGCG is unstable and when consumed orally has low bioavailability. It tends to get oxidized quite easily before it reaches the target. Hence, many studies have suggested structural derivatives of EGCG to enhance its bioavailability.”
Tea Fights the Common Cold and the Flu
In previous studies tea catechins have been found effective against other viruses including influenza and the common cold. They showed antiviral capability and immune support. References to studies done since the 90s indicate that drinking green tea with consistency reduces the chance of flu.
I think tea just feels good too, and feeling good has also been linked to higher immunity.
Does the addition of milk affect the benefits of these powerful tea compounds? I found this scientific review from 2015 that covered various studies on the effect of milk (even non-dairy) on the beneficial properties of tea. The studies referenced resulted in wide ranging results thought to be caused by variables like type of tea, brewing method, type of milk and ratio of tea to milk. Even though some studies indicated a positive effect, overall the review stated that milk in tea was more likely to have a masking or negative effect.
This article from Food Chemistry details that though regular sweeteners like sugar had a negative effect on antioxidants in tea, stevia did not. I am not ready to give up my raw honey in my morning tea, but I am happy to have my tea au naturel during the day. How about you?
Whether it’s the taste of your tea, the ritual of it, or the relationships forged over it I hope it brings you joy. We need every ounce of that to come out on the other side of this viral war intact.
Here are some more sources if you want to dig deeper:
"Green Tea" - Mount Sinai
"Research Suggests Black Tea Inhibits COVID-19"
Covid-19 took my Mom this week. I know I am just one of many thousands dealing with this, but for those who aren’t I wanted you to know why there’s been radio silence on the blog and socials. Tea Deviant was always meant as a place of fun and discovery and a step away from the pressures of life. It will be that again, but it has been hard to create that content during this time.
The hardest part of this is that she was in a medical facility prior to covid for other health issues and during all of this time she was not allowed visitors. 10 months. My sister got to see her through a window once. I know she knows she is loved, but I hate to think of her enduring all this without direct connection with family and friends. I am grateful to all of the PAs, nurses and aides, many of whom were kind and loving toward her. I don’t believe death is a full end, but I do believe grief is a process that I need to get through.
I look forward to coming back with more tea adventures, a few which are already in the works. One will virtually take me overseas. Until then, to all who have lost friends, family, jobs, homes, and many other things important to the joy of living I wish you strength and peace.
Here is a link to a previous post with grief management resources should you need them:
Tea, Grief and Mental Health
There are many ways to get your tea on, from simple to geek-level complicated. The best tea brewing method for you isn't just about taste, or even health benefits. It's also about your lifestyle, and what you're looking to get out of your tea experience. We’re going to explore hot brew, cold brew, flow through and grandpa style!
Hot Brew - Classic style
Western hot brew is pretty common: steeping tea with hot water ( preferably at a temperature suiting the tea you're making ) in a pot or cup. In Britain and the US this style is familiar, accessible and relatively easy. For ultimate ease just use a tea bag and a cup, or be classic with loose leaf tea, a teapot, a strainer and go Downton Abbey on that thing.
Hot brewing brings out more of the tannins and caffeine in tea versus cold brew. If you like the astringency of those tannins and getting the most caffeine out of your cup, hot brew is great.
When it comes to a traditional British black tea with cream and sugar I am so accustomed to hot brew that it feels like the soothing familiarity of a favorite cozy blanket. When it comes to green tea though I am a fan of cold brew.
Cold Brew - Progressive style
This method is as simple as putting leaves in water and letting them steep in the fridge (I’ve steeped anywhere from 8-24 hours). The main considerations are water quality and leaf to water ratio. Avoid using chalky water (because it’s gross) or distilled (because the flavor compounds won’t have anything to cling to resulting in a cup of blah). Use filtered or spring water. You’ll be happier, and happiness is what we are aiming for. The amount of leaves to use depends on your palate. Some people use more leaves for cold brew (like with cold brew coffee) others use the same amount as they use in hot brew and are satisfied.
Cold brew differs from hot brew in taste because they are different chemically. (Help me out, Science!) The molecules move around more slowly than in hot brew. This results in fewer of certain compounds being released from the leaves, like polyphenols and caffeine. That’s why the taste of cold brew is smoother with no real acidic bite.
Flow Through - Geek style
Tea blending is truly an art form. One of my favorite blends from Harney & Sons is Eight at the Fort, a blend of eight teas created for a meeting of eight world leaders in 1997. The site mentions silver, black and green teas which you can see when looking at the leaves. How they get them all to play together so nicely when brewed at black tea temperatures, I don’t know. It just works.
When making your own blends, whether with herbs and a base tea or mixing tea from different categories, it may take some experimentation. One way to test and enjoy your blend is using the flow through steeping method.
This is where steeping gets a little more complicated. The idea is that you steep the tea that takes the hottest water first and then steep the other tea(s) in the strained first tea at the temperature best for them.
As an example I made a blend of ¾ Chinese green tea to ¼ peppermint. I steeped both together at green tea temperature (I chose 175 degrees F/ 79 degrees C for this tea) for three minutes as a control. Then I steeped the peppermint in just boiled water for five minutes, as herbs release more of their goodness in hotter water and longer steeping times. After the peppermint finished, I steeped the green tea in the peppermint tea for three minutes.
Though the same amount of leaves was used for both the taste difference was noticeable. In the control tea the peppermint was milder and the green tea was more forward, but to me, murky. In the flow through method the tea was overall more aromatic, with the peppermint being very forward though the green tea still made its presence known.
I asked someone else who I’ve never made tea for which one they enjoyed better. At first they thought they would like the flow through one better, but after multiple sips they decided they preferred what they called the earthiness of the control one. That is the beauty of tea. You can make it to your preference. With this flow through example, I think it depends on whether you want the peppermint or the green tea to be the dominant note.
When flow through is used with blends of different categories of tea, like black and green, it can give each tea it’s due. If steeping the lighter tea in the darker one doesn’t please you, you can also steep each separately at their correct temperatures and combine them afterward. Indulge your tea geekery and discover what works for you.
I knew I had to do this post just as much for myself as for anyone else out there who might be going through something similar. I’ve found that grief is something that comes in waves. It is a process. It doesn’t have a rule book or manual. It is an individual experience, and it takes however long it takes. Going through it alone however is a kind of self-induced torture.
During this time of covid-19 and human rights atrocities, we’ve lost so much: structure, outlets, human contact, jobs, income, security, respect, freedom. Some have lost their lives or people they love or beloved pets.
In a time where we are asked to stay alone or in small groups our grieving process has been taken too. Funerals, wakes, gathering together to celebrate the life of another, are limited if they are available at all. This makes it even more important to create new rituals and to soothe ourselves. It’s also extremely important not to become emotionally isolated. A phone call or video call may not substitute for a hug and an actual shoulder to cry on, but they’re better than being alone with cycling surges of loss.
I’ve had two personal situations during this time that made me realize how important it is to engage in self-care and to reach out. Someone dear to me thousands of miles away is being cared for in a facility, but no one is allowed to visit. I don't know how much time she has left. The powerlessness. The uncertainty.
Then my beloved cat fell ill and deteriorated. This magical creature that has been a part of my life every day for years was in pain. Not getting better. Having to make a decision when or if to end his life before he was in excruciating pain is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Watching the light leave his eyes felt like light was leaving my life.
Waves still hit me.
Rituals like tea and conversations with friends don’t eliminate grief, but I’ve found they help me process it. That’s the goal. Not to wallow in grief, not to reject it and have it haunt me later, but process it, get on the other side of it, and continue to live.
There have been some days that looking forward to a cup of tea is what got me out of bed. When so much of life feels out of control, making a cup of tea the way I like it reminds me that I do have choices. The calm from the L-theanine and the energy from the caffeine are a feel-good combo. They help my focus when my mind wants to fly away or just put me to sleep.
Video calls with friends over tea (and sometimes something stronger) give me a feeling of connection. To share something positive with those I love and who love me in return does more than ease grief, it builds relationships, continuing the story until the next time we can take hands and breathe the same air.
I don’t believe we are meant to be islands. Though it is difficult to be vulnerable in front of others, handling emotional pain alone isn’t heroic. It doesn’t save the world. Vulnerability isn’t shameful. I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust.
Perhaps you feel everyone in your life is currently so burdened you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about your pain. I get it. Perhaps you don’t feel you have someone in your life you can be that vulnerable in front of. I get that too. If you’re surrounded by empty platitudes rather than people who actually show up you can still show up for yourself. You can also reach out to a third-party like a professional. Sometimes it is easier to talk about something emotionally heavy with someone who is completely uninvolved. They’re not someone you will see on a regular basis, their opinion of you matters less, and they’re not emotionally attached to the issue.
Now I’m not a counselor or psychologist. I’m just a person learning to manage my own sadness during this time, and sharing what I hope will be helpful to you managing yours. Even though I do have people who are in a good place to reach out to (and who I appreciate immensely for supporting me), I do occasionally use a couple of the resources below. I hope that they are helpful to you when you need them.
Whatever your loss or grief I wish you healing and that love and joy win the battle for your heart.
Grief and Mental Health RESOURCES
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Video resources, therapist directory
No insurance, low cost:
Messaging therapy (fee based/weekly), paired with a therapist
Crisis Text Line
Free 24/7 resource in US, Canada, UK, Ireland
Pet grief resources
Multiple resources including a forum, chat, coping suggestions for children and adults and more
The Rainbow Bridge poem: https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/Rainbow_Boutique/Rainbow_items/Poem_upclose.htm
Though I started this in May, I needed time and clarity to complete it. This is not a sponsored post. Resources were just those I've found and/or used.
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