Q: I have seen bubble tea advertised in windows. What exactly is it?
A: Typically when you find something with a firm and chewy texture in your drink, it is time to call for the waiter. This is not the case when ordering bubble tea. Bubble tea was brought to the United States by Taiwanese immigrants, and its popularity is gradually making its way across the country. Sometimes referred to as boba tea and pearl tea, bubble drinks are usually a cool, refreshing sweet drink with tapioca pearls or “bubbles” sitting at the bottom of a clear cup. Most commonly, bubble tea has four components in addition to the tapioca pearls: a liquid of tea, milk or water; a flavor of fresh fruit, fruit purees, flavored powder or flavored syrup; a sweetener of sugar, simple sugar syrup, fructose or honey; and a creamer of milk, half-and-half or powdered creamer. Tapioca pearls found in bubble tea are commonly the size of a marble and are black, white or transparent. The consistency of the pearls are somewhere between Jell-O and chewing gum. To get an idea of what to expect when selecting this new “brew” from the menu, several say that drinking bubble tea is like finding gummi bears in a smoothie.
Q: Green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea: What is the difference?
A: According to the Tea Association of the United States of America, black, green, oolong and white teas are grown from the same plant, but the differences in these teas lies in the degrees of processing and level of oxidation. Oxidation is a natural chemical reaction that changes the taste and color of the two teas, which creates the uniqueness of each tea that is oxidized. The two oxidized teas, black and oolong, have approximately two hours of oxidation difference. Black is oxidized for up to four hours, whereas oolong is only oxidized for two to three hours. Conversely, green and white teas are not oxidized after processing. Their tea color and flavor is formed from the look and chemical composition of the fresh tealeaf.
Q: Just how “friendly” is tea in regards to the environment and my health?
A. All-natural and environmentally sound describe tea to a “t.” The actual tea plant is naturally resistant to most insects, and the oxidation of the leaf is a natural process. Also, recycled paper is commonly used for packaging. Drinking tea is additionally friendly to your financial environment. Tea is approximately 3 cents per cup serving when prepared in your home.
When it comes to health-friendly, tea is a beverage which does not contain any sodium, fat, carbonation, sugar or even calories. Even though tea has caffeine, a serving of tea usually contains less than half the caffeine of an equal-size serving of brewed coffee, which was researched by the tea council. Sustaining a suitable amount of hydration through balancing the body’s fluids is another component of good health which tea assists with.
Improving health has been a component of tea research for years. Tea has flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds thought to have antioxidant properties. The word “antioxidant” breaks down into the definition “inhibiting oxidation.” Scientists hypothesize these antioxidants found in tea neutralize free radials. Free radicals are unstable atom(s) which may damage cells, genetic material and contribute to chronic disease in the body. Every day, scientists are researching benefits tea and tea flavonoids in various areas of health. Current research findings according to the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov):
Laboratory findings: Studies in mice were found that tea antioxidants prevent cell injuries, reduce the number and size of chemically induced tumors, and stop the growth of tumor cells. Liver, skin and stomach cancer studies demonstrated a large decrease in the size of tumors when mice were fed green and black tea.
Human studies: Overall, studies involving humans have been highly contradictory. Scientists believe these contradictions stem from dietary, environmental and population differences. For instance, two studies in China strongly linked tea drinking to the prevention of stomach and esophageal cancer. Participants in this study were only half as likely to develop cancer. However, the same study was taken in the Netherlands and did not support these findings connecting tea consumption to cancer prevention.