Focus: Russian Tea

A lot of people don’t know that Russia has a rich tea culture. Russia drinks 3.051 pounds of tea per person annually[1] making them the fourth biggest tea drinkers in the world but tea was not always a popular drink in Russia. It was first introduced in 1638 when Altyun-Khan, the ruler of Mongolia gifted tea to Tsar Michael I. At first he did not accept the gift because he assumed he had no use for dried leaves. Once he tried it, tea was integrated into Russian culture and they haven’t stopped drinking it since.

The tea that Russians drank was delivered from China in the form of loose leaf and tea bricks via Camel caravans along the Siberian route. This is why this type of tea is called Russian Caravan Tea or Camel Caravan Tea. Due to the length of time it took to travel that distance the price was extremely high which meant that tea was reserved only for royalty. However, after the Trans-Siberian railroad was finished in 1880 the price of tea declined and Russia began importing tea from other places.

Box used to transport the tea from China, and a Tea Caravan. Pictures: Kungur City Museum

Russian caravan tea has a smoky flavor. It is usually a blend of lapsang shouchong and oolong with black tea but companies tend to have their own take on how they blend it. There is a story about why this tea has a smoky flavor and it was due to the tea absorbing the smoke from the campfires during the journey.

Traditionally Russian tea was brewed in a samovar but today you will find a porcelain tea pot at Russian tea parties.Samovars work very similarly to the double tea pot I wrote about in the previous tea focus on Turkish tea but they tend to be more intricately designed.

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Traditionally tea was drunk in the afternoon but nowerdays it is drank all day. It is served with lemon and sugar and usually accompanied by Sushki. These looks like a mini bagel but they are slightly sweet round cookies and are served on a string which is draped around the samovar.

Drink On!

Footnotes

1. Map: The Countries That Drink the Most Tea

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Health Benefits of Tea

Every day we are bombarded by the media with claims of antioxidants in products and superfoods that we should eat because it can prevent cancer. All these  marketing terms and foods  being labelled as healthy, often with no scientific background to prove it. We’ve all read so many articles about the health benefits of tea but they all seem to contradict themselves or make ridiculous claims. I’ve decided to get to the bottom of this  so I’ve researched into the teas that are always in the media about having health benefits to sort the fact from fiction.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea

First up is Chamomile tea. People usually drink this before bed and it claims to cure insomnia and help reduce anxiety. Chamomile extracts exhibit benzodiazepinic activity which when it binds to the brain results in sleep inducing effect. Benzodiazepines are actively used in treating insomnia and anxiety disorders. However, in a study about the effects of drinking chamomile tea on sleep quality and depression the positive effect was limited to the immediate term of consumption. Which meant participants did not experience the sleep inducing effects and reduced depression 4 weeks after the test.

Conclusion: Mostly true. Chamomile has been reported to alleviate those struggling with sleep and depression but  these effects only last as long as the drink itself.

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Ginger tea

Next up: ginger tea. The most common health claim for ginger in tea is that it relieves gastrointestinal upset. Many studies and preliminary trials have shown that  ginger does indeed have an antiemetic effect. Antiemetics are drugs that help to alleviate nausea and sickness. This drug that is present in ginger helps to expel intestinal gas. The most common use of ginger is to alleviate the vomiting and nausea associated with pregnancy, chemotherapy, and some types of surgery. Ginger also appears to reduce cholesterol and improve lipid metabolism, thereby helping to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes but more research needs to be conducted.

Conclusion: True. Ginger has been reported to help with gastrointestinal upsets and relieve gas and other properties of ginger are still be researched.

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Green tea

Tea contains catechin which is an antioxidant. An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits oxidation which is a process that damages cells. Vitamins can counteract this effect. There are many articles and studies that suggest that these Antioxidants can prevent diseases and help with curing cancer. However, there is no clear cut evidence from clinical studies that states that this is the case. It is mostly speculation. Antioxidants are mainly used in the gasoline industry to prevent oxidation of the fuel in the tank which would lead to residual fuel deposits in your tank.

The biggest claim for Green tea today is that it help you lose weight. Although some studies show that green tea extract increases fat metabolism when ingested, results of other studies have not. The results have not been consistent and warrant more human trials.

Conclusion: Mostly False. There is no clear evidence to support either of these claims. The effects of green tea on metabolism look promising but it is not clear whether it is catechins or caffeine in tea causing said effects.

Peppermint-Tea

Peppermint tea

Finally, peppermint tea. It has been suggested that peppermint tea helps relieve stomach discomfort.  In a trial which investigated the effectiveness of antispasmodics, fiber and peppermint oil on people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), the peppermint oil had the greatest effect. Peppermint oil is also an antispasmodic which means it relaxes muscle spasms. There is still ongoing research into the use of peppermint oil to relieve the symptoms of IBS but so far the studies are looking promising.

Conclusion: True. Peppermint oil has shown positive effects to relieve stomach discomfort and more studies are being done to   help people with IBS.


I’ve only concentrated on a few of the health benefits these teas claim to have. There are many claims that have been reported, for example research has been conducted into chamomile tea lowering blood sugar levels and how green tea can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. If you know of any other teas with research that can prove their health benefits please comment below!

Drink On!