EAT tea? As opposed to drinking it?
Why not? We eat other leaves.
But first off, why tea?
Well there’s that whole fantastic flavor and huge variety thing that tea has going for it. But on top of that, brewed tea is loaded with micronutrients called polyphenols, which are found in plants.
Of the polyphenols, tea is high specifically in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids. In fact,
since nearly 95 percent of tea’s polyphenol compounds are flavonoids, tea ranks among plants with the highest total flavonoid content (Bliss 2003).
And according to the George Mateljan Foundation, “in the U.S. the largest single source of flavonoids is black and green tea.”
So are the health benefits the same if you EAT rather than drink tea?
Short answer: it’s complicated.
Brewing tea leaves in hot water pulls out nutrients differently than when the leaves are simply eaten.
However, researchers have shown that compared to other green teas, matcha—tea leaves in powder form—has a much higher level of at least one type of flavonoid (Weiss and Anderson 2003).
On the other hand, heavy metal and pesticide residue may be more of an issue when eating entire leaves, so you want to ensure your leaves have been tested for these contaminants.
And why bother EATING tea when brewed tea is so delicious?
Because tea leaves can add flavor to just about anything! (Consider any health benefits from the tea itself a bonus.)
If you listened to the recent Food Bloggers Association interview with Lisa, a tea sommelier, in my last post, you heard about her businesses and learned that she is passionate about both drinking (TeaHaus) and eating tea (Eat More Tea).
Tea-infused gelato, caramel, marshmallows, hard candy, French macarons. Spice blends, from savory to sweet, with tea as the primary ingredient. Endless possibilities.
For example, I wouldn’t have ever thought of sprinkling black currant and orange blossom tea on chicken or veggies, but Lisa’s Tea Thyme Spice Blend No. 5—which includes these teas—elevates the whole over the parts.
High-quality loose leaf tea serves as the base; citrus peel along with thyme and other savory spices complete the blend. The promise of the potent aroma doesn’t disappoint—I find this flavorful combination absolutely terrific.
So the next time you want to jazz up that vanilla cake or roasted veggies, reach for the tea tins and explore the culinary diversity of tea for yourself!
–Bliss, R. M. “Brewing up the latest tea research,” AgResearch Magazine, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2003.
–”Flavonoids,” The World’s Healthiest Foods, George Mateljan Foundation.
–Weiss, D. J. and C. R. Anderton, “Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography,” Journal of Chromatography 1011(1–2):173-80. Sept. 5, 2003.