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Why your tea may not be as healthy as you think it is (and how to fix that)


Everyone knows that tea has health benefits. But it turns out you may not be getting them, even if you’re brewing, steeping, and sipping on a regular basis.

“A lot of research has shown benefits for cancer prevention, cardiovascular health, and cognitive health,” says Heidi Kothe-Levie, who’s an acupuncturist-expert in Traditional Oriental Medicine and a former tea specialist for Ito-En. “But if you’re drinking tea for overall disease risk reduction, it all comes down to how frequently you’re drinking it, how you’re brewing it, and what kind it is.”

Are you doing it wrong? Kothe-Levie, who’s sharing the current research on and myths surrounding tea’s health benefits at the 92Y next week, will explain how to make sure you’re getting those benefits every time your kettle whistles.

She gave us a sneak peek, with these four tips:

acupuncture and tea in New York
Heidi Kothe-Levie

1. Ask when the tea was plucked. Freshness is the most important factor for Kothe-Levie, who says a tea shop that values freshness should be able to tell you how long ago the leaves were plucked from the bush. Ditto any online retailer worth its salt.

2. If you’re buying tea in person, smell it! “Japanese green should have a nice grassy smell,” she says. “For black tea, you should be able to almost taste it when you smell it.” If it’s flavored, make sure they’re using natural enhancers. For example, Earl Grey should contain bergamot oil, not a chemical additive.

3. Follow brewing instructions. Those instructions that come with your tea are actually there for a reason; different temperatures and steeping times are ideal for drawing out healthy compounds, like antioxidants (and flavor!). Black tea usually calls for boiling water, while green and white are best at lower temperatures.

4. Drink almost as much tea as water. “A lot of the studies we’re seeing are showing 3-5 cups per day,” says Kothe-Levie. Which means your one morning cup isn’t cutting it, if you’re interested in partaking of the health payoffs that studies show. Channel your inner Brit and make it a part of your daily routine. —Lisa Elaine Held

The Healthy Power of Tea, Tuesday, February 7, 6:30 p.m., 92Y, Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street, $20,