Tea drinking in Ireland is nothing short of a national pastime. ‘Tea’ refers strictly to black tea with milk. While we may occasionally make conscious efforts, particularly at this time of the year, to incorporate its less-caffeinated and more exotic relatives into our diets, it’s usually not long before we’re back to ‘milk, two sugars and a couple of biscuits’.

But could a more permanent broadening of our hot beverage horizons significantly impact our health for the better?

Once  summer rolls around and our minds instantly turn to diets and green tea is perhaps the most popular healthy hot drink alternative we turn to. It’s synonymous with dieting, detoxing yet nowhere near as accommodating as a dunked rich tea or chocolate digestive in a standard cup of tea. However, green tea appears a suitable antidote to our more than usual dietary excesses.

And while green tea seems like a quick fix, in our eagerness to overhaul our lifestyles for the better, we tend to make too many changes all at once. We’re not content with just making a few minor adjustments to benefit us in the long run; rather we go hell for leather in the pursuit of immediate results.

Unsurprisingly, come the start of the holiday season, this exhausting all or nothing mentality will cause even the best of us to pack in the health kick, along with poor old green tea.

But this is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The relatively simple act of adding green tea to your daily routine and diet is scientifically proven to have a profoundly positive impact on your overall health.

Melissa Choi, green tea expert and founder of Choi Time Tea has long been a passionate advocate of green tea and the health benefits it provides. Having grown up around her Chinese grandmother, a woman who attributed her age-defying health and radiance to green tea, Melissa never needed convincing of its extraordinary properties and founded Choi Time Teas as a means “of spreading the word further.”

“Green tea, because of its high levels of antioxidants, is purely and simply the healthiest drink on the planet,” Melissa says. “It’s widely recognised as a means of considerably lowering your chances of developing certain forms of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.”

Considering cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, are the major killers in the world, this alone should be reason enough for us to swap at least some of our regular black teas and coffees for green tea.

“It also,” Melissa continues, “contains just the right amount of caffeine. Drinking green tea means that it can revive both body and mind without any of the ‘jittery’ side effects one might experience with say coffee.

Green tea allows drinkers to maintain a much more stable energy level, which in turn improves brain function and overall mood. And on top of all this, It has even been proven to aid oral hygiene and combat bad breath by inhibiting the growth of bacteria in the mouth.”

In order to benefit from the extraordinary properties of green tea, Melissa advises drinking at least three cups per day but says, ideally, to feel its full effects we should aim to drink twelve. She also stresses the importance of using loose leaf tea whenever possible rather than tea bags.

While tea bags are better than no green tea at all, allowing the leaves themselves to brew and unfurl directly in the water is crucial to optimising the effects of their antioxidants and nutrients. Getting the most nutrients out of loose leaf tea is also why Melissa advises against the use of a tea strainer.

When we stick the kettle on and change what tea we put in our mugs, we can significantly reduce our chances of developing potentially fatal cancers, suffering strokes or heart attacks. We can keep our minds and bodies functioning at their best and even keep bad breath at bay. A resolution worth trying? In the immortal words of Ireland’s patron saint of tea, “Go on, go on, go on, go on!”

The Science Bit

Green tea has been proven to aid in the prevention of some cancers as it inhibits the uncontrolled growth of cells. Studies have shown it can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 22%, prostate cancer by 48% and colorectal cancer by 57%.

It has been shown to improve some of the main risk factors of cardiovascular diseases such as total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke in drinkers by 31%.

Contrary to popular belief, just the right amount of caffeine can be good for you. Green tea contains less than coffee but enough to produce an effect. Compared to coffee drinkers, those who drink green tea report maintaining a far more stable energy level and higher levels of productivity.

The bioactive compounds (catechins) in green tea have been proven to impede the growth of bacteria in the mouth which causes plaque formation and contributes to cavities and tooth decay. Multiple studies have also shown that it reduces bad breath.

Words by Orlaith Sadlier

Images Courtesy of Choi Time Teas