Tea often gets a bad rap, lumped in with coffee as some kind of body pollutant. Well, put the kettle on, because it has earned this reputation unfairly, a recent survey says. Tea is in fact just as hydrating as water, and perhaps even more so. According to research carried out by King's College London, there is no basis to the urban myth that slurping on a cup of tea is dehydrating. Dr Carrie Ruxton, the nutritionist behind the survey, says: "It's a common misconception that drinking tea can increase the risk of dehydration because of the caffeine content. This new study proves that there is absolutely no truth behind the theory."
For her study Dr Ruxton divided a group of 21 men and asked one set to drink mugs of tea for 12 hours, and the other to sip on the equivalent amount of plain, warm water. On another day, the groups swapped. The tea-drinkers tried water, and vice versa. Blood and urine samples were duly taken, the results compared. And guess what? Those who drank tea passed no more urine than those who drank water, in some cases slightly less. And according to blood test results, there was little difference in the levels of sodium and other vital body salts.
Dr Ruxton's conclusion? "If you fancy a cup of tea on a hot summer's day, have it. A cup of tea is going to give you the same hydration as a glass of water," she told a Nutrition Society conference in Edinburgh last week. Her positive report is one of two recent coups for the humble tea-leaf. Dutch researchers have just revealed that regular tea drinking may mean a reduced risk of heart disease. Their study, just published in the journal of the American Heart Association, found that those who drink six cups or more were a third less likely to develop heart problems than those who drank none.
But then there are countless statistics about a cup of tea aren't there? In the past, we've seen research suggesting that tea lowers the risk of ovarian cancer and diabetes but may increase the risk of arthritis and throat cancer. An acne cure? Some say so. A weight loss aid? Perhaps. A mouthwash? Apparently. So it's perhaps best not to rely on tea absolutely for medicinal purposes, but much depends on what kind of tea you drink of course and how you take it.
All types of tea, apart from herbal teas, derive from the Camellia sinensis plant, the leaves of which are rich in polyphenols, or antioxidants. Hence, all these health claims asserted on the leaf's behalf. The vast number of variations that you stumble across on supermarket shelves simply depend on where the plant was grown and how the leaves have been treated. A standard English breakfast? Very basically, that means your tea-leaf has been picked in India, the cell structure has been broken down by rolling and exposure to air.
More of an Earl Grey fan? Your tea-leaf has been treated in the same way but flavoured with the rind of the bergamot orange, with a blend of leaves taken from India and Sri Lanka. Lapsang souchong? Your tea has been laid out in bamboo baskets in South-East China and dried over pine fires. Green tea isn't oxidised in the same way as black tea, so it retains its colour. And the delicate-flavoured white tea comes from immature buds and undergoes even less processing than green tea leaves. Just about time for a cuppa isn't it?
PropahTea A gimmicky café chain in Dubai Marina and Festival City that combines the ethos of a tea room with a business-like approach to finding property. Their "tea book" is five pages long and features teas spiked with flavours such as ginger, blueberries and chocolate. SalonTea The tea-room at Dubai Mall's Bloomingdale's. Here, you can find a gigantic, well-marketed range of caffeinated and de-caffeinated teas. The Society Hostess is a Chinese black tea infused with vanilla and the Romantic a green tea with jasmine Cafe Columbia This Beach Rotana café in Abu Dhabi lists a tea-menu of 15 different kinds, including the lemon-flavoured Lemon Sky Tea, the vanilla and orange infused Cream Orange Tea and an exotic passion-fruit white tea. Hediard A French café chain that can be found in malls in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it has just launched four new kinds of tea blends - marzipan, mango-flavoured, jasmine green tea, raspberry and violet flavoured and a lychee, rose-lotus white tea.