Stress busters: tryptophan (turkey?) and l-theanine (tea)!

tired turkeyBy now, you’ve probably forgotten about the  post -thanksgiving  stupor characterized (if you can recall)  by glassy eyes, protruding tummy, and overwhelming urge to (yawn!) take a nice nap.

You may have heard over the years that turkey’s soporific effect is caused by tryptophan, an essential amino acid. Since the body can’t make tryptophan, it must be provided by diet. Tryptophan is used to produce niacin and seratonin, a brain chemical that enhances mood and well-being. Sadly, the amount of  trytophan in turkey is slightly less than found in chicken.    The turkey/tryptophan connection probably has more to do with the amount of carbs than  that the turkey effect.typtophan cartoon

But did you know that l-thenine, an amino acid found in tea – but not coffee – really does have the chillax factor without any guilt-inducing carbs? This is why you can drink tea and not have the hype you feel with coffee. While  L-theanine is  known to reduce stress by relaxing the mind without causing drowsiness,  animal studies also indicate that l-theanine reduces high blood pressure and increases the effectiveness of some cancer drugs.


Back to chillax factors: A recent overview by  Nutrition Review put it like this:  “The studies reviewed suggest that caffeinated tea, when ingested at regular intervals, may maintain alertness, focused attention, and accuracy and may modulate the more acute effects of higher doses of caffeine.” In another  article that reviewed research on the effects of l-theanine and caffeine in tea on attention and mood, the vaulted American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that studies ” showed the validity of laboratory findings by supporting the idea that tea consumption has acute benefits on both mood and performance in real-life situations.”


Tea, Turkey plus Cranberry Chai Sauce

turkey teapot 19th centuryThursday, as you put the bird in the oven, why not consider using tea:

1. Put sliced onions on bottom of roasting pan, sprinkle with tea rosemary and onionleaves and rosemary sprigs and lemon grass, if available. Add bird, pour cup of your morning tea on bottom of pan to keep moist. If you don’t have a morning cup of tea, now is the time to start!

Rubs, tea and more from TeAlchemy founder Lynda Budd.

Rubs and teas from TeAlchemy’s Lynda Budd.

2.  Use tea leaves as a turkey rub with turmeric, curry powder  and good olive oil.

3.  Baste turkey with tea: oolong, good jasmine or pu-erh. Or baste with tea leaves mixture.(see #1).



canned cranberry sauceCranberry sauce: Canned? Forget it: Make  your own. It’s  easy and delicious. Try LTR’s:

Cranberry Chai Saucecranberries

1.Buy a bag of fresh cranberries. Wash.

2. On top of the stove, in a good heavy, small saucepan, pour brewed tea (no need to brew  afresh – just infuse again from teapot). Add tablespoon sugar, cinnamon stick, thumb sized slice of ginger, diced, cardamon pods (remove from shell) or powdered (½ tsp), ½ cup golden raisins, small amount nutmeg (¼ tsp) and  and bring all to a boil.

3.  Add cranberries, bring to boil again.  Reduce heat when you hear cranberries pop. Simmer for 20-30  minutes.

4. Let stand. When cooled and more gelled, pour into fancy dish. Voila!

a_minton_majolica_monkey_teapot_year_cypher_for_1875_impressed_factory_d5588277hNote: be creative with your chai ingredients. . If you don’t like ginger, don’t use. If you can’t find cardamon, use a few cloves. For an added kick, add a jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced. Or if you have a good dried pepper, add, but DON”T FORGET to take out before serving.



Plums and tea and cheese: Yes! And Earl Gray/bourbon recipe too!

"Plums," by renown American artist Tina Mion depicts John Adams plying Abigail with a tasty morsel.

“Plums,” by renown American artist Tina Mion depicts John Adams plying Abigail with a tasty morsel.

Say tahtah to cucumber sandwiches on crustless breads: Instead, why not think tea paired with fruit or cheese: Imagine a voluptuous, bright orange persimmon or ripe purple plum paired with the rich full mouth feel of an aged pu-erh or slightly astringent tie-guan yin, a deep green oolong with a lingering, complex aftertaste.

Or think about tea with cheese:  Why not sip a sweet spring green dragonwell while nibbling on a tangy Manchego sheep cheese from Spain.

Manchego, sheep cheese from Spain

Manchego, sheep cheese from Spain

Sweet, savory dragonwell from Imperial Tea Court.

Sweet, savory dragonwell from Imperial Tea Court.

Consider how the fresh savory taste of dragonwell brings out the creamy tang of Manchego.

humboldt fog Or think about piquant, fluffy, just about runny /ripe room temperature Humboldt Fog goat cheese (left)from the rocky Pacific Coast paired with the minerality of rock oolong from the Wuyi Mountains. Or try a full-bodied pu-erh with a ripe brie. Consider how the brie becomes richer when paired with the velvety  (and non-astringent) pu-erh.

tea festivalThese were some of the pairings tasted at the San Francisco International TeaFestival last Sunday during a talk given by Lilac Tearoom founder, aka, me.

Why not have your own  tea/cheese/fruit  party?  Use suggestions above or make your own.

A word on persimmons: To avoid the pucker mouth of an unripe persimmon, make sure they are almost bletted, or past ripeness just before rotten. Bletting increases sugar and reduces tannins, (cause of cotton mouth feel). The word comes from poire blette, French for overripe pear.

Southern Earl Grey with bourbon and prosecco.

Southern Earl Grey with bourbon and prosecco.

And for those who asked at the Tea Festival – or for a delicious buzz – try Cynthia Gold’s Southern Earl Gray recipe . Cynthia Gold is a tea sommelier in Boston and the author of Culinary Tea.

·Southern Earl Grey;

 1/2 ounce Earl Grey infused Bourbon

1/2 ounce Grand Marnier

1 teaspoon Oolong and ginger syrup

dash of Orange Bitters


 Add first four ingredients to a champagne flute. Fill with Prosecco or your favorite champagne. Optionally garnish with a curl of orange zest.

 lInfused Bourbon

 1 liter Makers Mark Bourbon

1/4 cup of Earl Grey tea leaves

 Place 1 liter of bourbon in non-reactive container. Add tea leaves, Taste periodically until desired strength is achieved. Probably around 2 hours. Strain multiple times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until completely clear. Store at room temperature or chilled.

 Oolong Tea and Ginger Simple Syrup

 2 cups white sugar

2 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh ginger

1 wedge lemon or orange

3 tablespoons Oolong tea leaves

 Place sugar and water into a saucepan. Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in citrus and add ginger. Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and let simmer until a clear thick syrup is formed, about 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add tea leaves and let sit until cool. May be left overnight at this stage. Strain.



Smile! Tea is good for your gums and teeth too

pearly whiteWho knew that tea keeps teeth and gums healthy?  With all the tea buzz about cardio and anti-cancer, nobody talks about the role tea plays in keeping your pearly whites strong and gums pink. But think again: Tea leaves have fluoride and anti-inflammatory anti-oxidants. Makes sense this would play  role in tooth and overall health. Here are two studies that definitely give you something to chew on. (Sorry, folks, couldn’t resist.)

Black tea and plaque:

black tea and tooth healthRinsing your mouth with black tea ten (!) times a day for a minute results in less plaque than  a plain water rinse, according to recent research at University of Illinois at Chicago.


Green tea + healthy gums = healthy body too:

Tooth _PCh.fh9Do your gums bleed? Dentist told you there are pockets in your gums?  Do your teeth feel loose? Might be the dread gum or periodontal disease leading to painful and expensive surgery.gum disease But green tea might be the answer. Here’s why: In a Japanese study published in the Journal Of Periodontology, 940 men were examined for three gum disease markers: bleeding gums upon probing, pockets in the gums and weak teeth becoming detached from supporting  bones. Researchers found that for every one cup of green tea the men drank, there was a decrease in all three indicators. Simply stated, tea reduced gum disease.

Here’s what makes this really  interesting. The three symptoms of gum disease: bleeding, pockets, and weakened bone attachment to teeth, may be an inflammatory reaction to periodontal bacteria in the mouth. According to a report by  the American Academy of Periodontology  “By interfering with the body’s inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria, green tea may actually help promote periodontal health, and ward off further disease. Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth, and has been associated with the progression of other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.heart and teeth

“Periodontists believe that maintaining healthy gums is absolutely critical to maintaining a healthy body,” says Dr. David Cochran, DDS, PhD, President of the AAP and Chair of the Department of Periodontics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “That is why it is so important to find simple ways to boost periodontal health, such as regularly drinking green tea—something already known to possess certain health-related benefits.”


Horrible tea, no treat: Happy Halloween

blue cyanide teacupIn mid-19th century England, cyanide via Prussian blue dye and yellow gypsum made up a half pound of every hundred pounds of  tea imported from China, according to a wonderful book, All the Tea in China, by Sarah Rose.  Considering that the average Brit drank a pound of tea annually, that was a lot of poison to drink with a cuppa. The object was to intensify the color.prussian blue pigment

Don’t feel too complacent yet, dear tea drinkers. LTR asked a group of tea experts for their take on horrible tea. Their answers below: 

“Sometimes people make teas worse by applying  additives and unfair manufacturing practices,” writes Nipun Wisnagalage,  an executive at Heritage Teas (Pvt) Ltd.“To make the teas blacker a few manufacturers add things like Potassium permanganate, iron. potassiumMeanwhile, for a better twisting appearance, manufacturers add gelatin, sugar etc.  These contaminated teas are the worst for me.”

Then there’s just bad tea:  “End-season tea which is reprocessed and burnt – I don’t think it can taste worse!” says Inderjit Singh Uberoi, profit center head at LACON Certified, Sustainable Organic Tea Estate, Assam.

According to Manish Kumar Bhartia, it’s “tea sold at Indian railway stations.”  Did Mr. Bhartia, Assam green tea entrepreneur at know about a report from a 2013 issue of the New Indian Express? A priest went to the Kollam station to pick up his wife, ordered tea — and found a lizard in his cup. lizardSaid the vendor: “an isolated event.” The  priest was having none of that: The Railway subsequently  shut the canteen down. Then there is the far-fetched,  too horrible to be true story that’s made the rounds on the web for years of a passenger finding that the tea on board was made from toilet water and heated next to the toilet. On to gentler ideas of bad tea, please:

soggy tea bag“Any tea sold in tea bags!” says Neelabha Chatterjee, student at Coca-Cola Enterprises.”I think people need to learn how to get the optimum flavour from different types of tea. There are so many wonderful varieties.”

“Cheap english supermarket teabags – own brand – I won’t name and shame but I threw the rest of the box away,”” comments Julie Cavey, director at Rosie Lea Ltd.

” I tasted a flavored tea bag which was technically expired of vanilla flavor and gave me a very unpleasant taste that stayed in my palate for days, ” says Pramudith Bodikotuwa, executive at Beta Tea Kenya Ltd. .“It tasted like rotten mangos — I wish I had never tasted it.”

For long-time tea expert Victoria Gonzalez, Owner of VictoriAnna’s Teas, smoky teas were her least favorite. “As a tea lover, enthusiast and retailer, I think they are just awful!”

Not from the tea plant, but Kuding tea Is my least favorite,” says tea shop owner Angela McDonald. No wonder, it’s known as “bitter nails.” Really.

“It’s all a matter of individual taste and culture,” says  Mette Svanberg, owner of Bohea Ap, in Denmark. “For me, it’s a horrible experience to get a strong very black breakfast tea!  I don’t like my cuppa with milk and sugar…  it gets way too strong and nearly knocks me down.”

For Alexis Elizabeth Kaae, Chairman at Danish Tea Association, her least fav is clear: “Flavored teas with oils!”, while for Sunil Sivaraman, president, Poddar Plantations, it’s two words: “Instant Tea.”guy with fat stomach

Cyanide, toilet water (and we’re not talking about eau de toilette), lizards, additives, and who knows what else. But consider the alternative: You could be drinking phosphoric acid, eroding your tooth enamel, risking bone fractures, obesity, and diabetes: common ingredients and side effects of sodas. 

Thank you to all the tea mavens who responded : You are not only experts, but good sports too!

owlHappy Halloween! And give yourself a treat and sign up for free weekly postings from the Lilac Tea room.