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Where does that Earl Grey tea come from?

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
April 5, 2013
File under: Diet, Food, Health, Lifestyle

loose earl grey teaI was sitting at my desk last week staring at my tea cup, which is ALWAYS full of some form of earl grey tea during the daylight hours. My love of this tea goes back far enough that I’m not really sure when I became hopelessly hooked, but it was probably my summer in England in the early 80s. THAT is a whole other story, but I know it was before I met and dated my wild Englishman for several years in the later 80s, because to my shock and horror he drank plain ole Lipton’s (although he did school me on the proper way to prepare a pot of tea – yes, there was a cozy involved).

Tea is one of those commodities that should be subject to Fair Trade standards and in my humble opinion should be organic and non-GMO as well — for the enjoyment and health of the tea drinker as well as those who work on the farms, which are often in faraway places where the potential for unsafe and unfair practices has been common.

Listen to the Green Divas 5-minute Sleeping Naked is Green segment on Fair Trade Tea

It was in my afternoon early grey haze that I pondered the journey this tea made to my pantry and while I knew the brand I was drinking was all of the above (fair trade, organic, non-GMO), I wondered about how some of the other popular earl grey brands would compare . . . ooooo! An idea?

GD Mizar, Gina and I decided to each do some research on one popular brand and see what we could come up with. Because there are literally THOUSANDS of types of tea, from white to green to black to red and too many herbal and flavor combinations to try to categorize, we decided to just focus on one type of tea. As I was writing this, one additional company, which is worthy of a mention got my attention with a timely press release, so there will be 4 brands featured.

The main questions we asked were:

1. Where was the tea grown?

2. How was the tea grown? Using chemical fertilizers and pesticides or organically or other?

3. Who actually grew and harvested the tea, and how were they treated?

4. How much does it cost?

but first . . .

Who is this Earl Grey anyway?

The 2nd Earl Grey was prime minister of England back in the 1830s, when tea drinking was already a national obsession. There are several stories about the origins of Earl Grey tea in England. One debunked legend that one of the Earl’s men saved a young Chinese boy from drowning and the grateful father presented the Earl with tea that was flavored with the oil of bergamot, which is an aromatic citrus fruit — a small orange tree (Citrus bergamia). Of course, as it turns out the Earl never went to China, so there goes that fun story. It is likely that a Chinese diplomat presented the then prime minister with a gift of this specially flavored tea, and apparently he liked it. Jacksons of Piccadilly claims to have been given the original recipe by the Earl himself back in 1830, and continue to produce it as it was originally formulated.

There are many variations, like one of my favorites, lady grey, which is generally earl grey tea with lavender and Seville oranges. But, if you are like me, you become accustomed to your favorite blend.

A little more about black tea in general

Most of us know that tea originated in China as a medicinal drink way back around 1500 – 1050 BC. Tea played and continues to play many roles in Asian cultures from a formal tea ceremony that originated in China, but was developed by Buddhist monks in Japan into a mindful art. India, which is now well-known for growing some of the most popular brands of tea in the west, was introduced to tea by the British, who were fed up with the Chinese monopoly of this addictive commodity, in the 1800s.

Tea was introduced to western culture via Portugal via priests and traders who had dealings with the Chinese in the 16th century. The English, who elevated tea drinking to a cultural obsession, didn’t catch on till the 17th century. In my research, I found a page devoted to the history of tea in England that is pretty informative for anyone who is interested. Then you have the defiant Americans, who were as attached to their tea as the Brits (remember, they were still English at that point), who got all uppity because of the oppressive British tax on tea and dumped a mess of tea from English ships into Boston harbor in 1773   making tea (or the addiction to it) a catalyst in a historic revolution.

The many colors of tea

Black, green and white tea is made from the camillia sinensis plant. Their ultimate color is determined by how they are processed.

I’ll take mine black – the leaves are crushed and fermented. Black tea is fully oxidized. Black tea contains theaflavins and thearubigens, which help to reduce bad cholesterol and lower the risk of stroke and heart attack. And, of course it has 2 to 3 times more caffeine (unless it is a decaffeinated variety).

Go green – the leaves are withered and steamed. Green tea is un-oxidized, which is why it retains its color. Green tea has loads of a powerful antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is lost in the fermentation process of black tea.

White tea? – well it isn’t actually white, but because it is made from the buds and the leaves and is oxidated in a certain way, it has a silvery appearance. It’s all good. And while it has all the health benefits of its black and green siblings, it has the most antioxidants.

Health benefits of black tea

There are literally thousands of claims and studies about all varieties of tea and it’s benefits to our health – well, we have to rationalize this socially acceptable addiction, right? From increasing cardiovascular function to decreasing chances of many cancers to its effectiveness in treating intestinal stress because of  its high level of tannins, tea also is credited with some surprising things.

Did you know . . .

  • black tea prevents tooth decay because of the fluoride it contains
  • black tea is loaded with antioxidants, such as flavonoids, and is known to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, preventing damage in both the bloodstream and at artery walls, and lowering the risk of heart disease
  • a compound in black tea called TF-2 causes some cancer cells to go into apoptosis (cancer cell suicide – yes!) while normal cells stay healthy
  • all tea has phytochemicals. studies show that tea drinkers have stronger bones than non-tea drinkers, and these phytochemicals are the likely cause
  • the list goes on and on and on . . .

Here’s what we found out about
4 different brands of earl grey tea

legend:

No_GMO_Icon2non-GMO

FT_Icon2 Fair Trade

Org_icon2 Organic

numi aged early grey tea box imageNumi Organic Tea - Aged Earl Grey

No_GMO_Icon2FT_Icon2 Org_icon2

No one was assigned this one, but I got a press release at the last minute and I have always liked Numi teas, so I asked if they had an early grey we could feature and they did. I haven’t tried this one yet, but hope to soon!

Where is it grown?
Numi works with the Sewpur Tea Estate, a cooperative consisting of more than 330 workers in Assam, India.

How is it grown?
Certified Organic and Verified NON-GMO

Who grows it?
Sewpur Tea Estate has been working with Numi for two years. Fair Trade funds have been used to build a new school and provide scholarships; distribute fuel-efficient cooking stoves (chullas) and mosquito nets; build new roads; and develop women’s empowerment programs.
How much does it cost?
$6.99 – 18 tea bags

Paisley earl grey tea box image
Paisely Tea Company - Organic Double Earl Grey

This is my current go-to tea that started this fun project. Love the taste, love the price, and I love paisley designs. Here’s a silly pic I took of the inner bag, which is plastic, but I can’t help admire the design:
Paisely_baganyway, about the tea . . .

Where is it grown?
South India
How is it grown?
Organic. Only natural, approved fertilizers are used
Who grows it?
Our Paisley Teas are Fair Trade certified
How much does it cost?
$5.99 – 24 tea bags
Celestial Seasonings Earl Grey tea box imageCelestial Seasonings - Victorian Earl Grey
GD Mizar focused on this one . . .
Where is it grown?
Assam and Kenya
How is it grown?
Using conventional chemical pesticides and fertilizers (although the packaging says natural)Who grows it?
Don’t know

How much does it cost?*
$4.99 – 25 tea bags

 

Twining’s of London - Earl Grey

twinings earl grey tea box image

GD Gina did the research on this one . . .

Where is it grown?
Kenya, Sri Lanka, China, some is even grown in Poland. Everything is processed, packaged and produced in the UK

How is it grown?
The majority of their tea is conventional and grown with the use of pesticides, but they do have an organic blend

Who grows it?
They weren’t clear on exactly how the conventional tea growers were treated, but they stressed their new fair-trade certified varieties meeting the EPP (Environmentally Preferable Purchasing) standards.

How much does it cost?*
$3.00 – 25 tea bags

*as I wrote this question down for these last two that are not organic or fair trade certified, I wish I had the time, energy and brain power to calculate the REAL cost of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides — for the people working on the farms and the environment. Also, what is value of a worker, who is fairly treated and is afforded reasonable living conditions? There are costs for the abuse of people, whether it is economic, ethical, spiritual or cultural but I believe it all of those. I hope that the demand for safe, sustainable tea (and food) becomes great enough that no matter WHAT the cost, it is the standard rather than a specialty.

woman_in_field

Meanwhile,

eat. drink tea. be merry!

 
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The Mother of All Grains for a Safe, Gluten-Free Alternative

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
October 24, 2012
File under: Diet, Food, Health

I don’t know about you, but all this news about arsenic in rice is a bummer for this gluten-free green diva! I LOVE rice, and it is the basis of most of the grain alternatives I’ve turned to to avoid gluten – ugh.

Now, I realize that not ALL rice is laden with arsenic, but this is all a good lesson in not relying heavily on any one type of grain or food too heavily – moderation and variety are probably always key to balancing out some of the harmful effects of any one food.

 

>> 5 SUPER NUTRITIOUS FOODS TO KEEP IN THE GREEN DIVA PANTRY

>> QUINOA: THE COOL NEW CARB!

 

In the fall and winter months, our family has become attached to our pot of brown rice pilaf that I make every week. My standard brown rice pilaf is eaten on its own, mixed with other soups or stews and obviously goes as a side dish with many meal menus. So, what’s a green diva (or dude) to do? I’ve turned to the highly-acclaimed, super food known by the Incas as the mother of all grains – quinoa. Check out my quinoa pilaf recipe.

I’m not sure why, but I have resisted quinoa. I think I have an automatic skepticism of any super foods and tend to wait and see what shakes out after the initial media frenzy over any new, super or miracle cure foods. Ok, so this makes me late to the party sometimes, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one still warming up to the many benefits of yummy quinoa . . .

Quinoa 101

  • The Year of Quinoa – the United Nations has declaired 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.
  • Mama Quinoa was not only a staple food for the Incas and other South American Indians in the Andes, but it was a sacred grain referred to as chisaya mama or the mother of all grains.
  • Not a Conquistador Favorite - The Spanish conquistadors who disrupted the indigenous people’s lives in the 16th century, felt that quinoa wasn’t a good christian grain – the sacred aspect of it perhaps threatened the conquistadors.
  • Quinoa is a seed and is a member of the goosefoot or chenopod family. It is also related to beet, spinach and tumbleweed species.
  • Quinoa leaves are edible, if you can find them.
  • Protein powerhouse – Quinoa contains all 8 of the essential amino acids and is considered a complete protein. One cup of quinoa has more protein than an egg, and has more protein than most grains and is a great vegan source of protein.
  • Mental & mood booster - mama quinoa is high in iron and B vitamins, which are great for keeping the mind sharp and the moods boosted
  • Plant-based calcium source – quinoa is an excellent source of calcium and especially good for vegans
  • Out of this world – because of it’s many nutritional qualities, NASA is considering quinoa as a crop for Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems, which are designed to help sustain life in space stations.
  • Not for the birds – the smart quinoa plant developed an outer coating on the seed shell that contains nasty tasting saponins to the birds from eating them. Most quinoa marketed in North America has already been processed to remove the bitter tasting saponins, but it recommended to rinse your quinoa well to remove any residue, just in case.

Green Diva Meg’s quinoa pilaf recipe

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/the-mother-of-all-grains-for-a-gluten-free-rice-alternative.html#ixzz2AFne3aX1

 

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Farmer’s Market Fare: Late Summer Menu (recipes)

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
August 22, 2012
File under: Diet, Food, Health, Shopping

I finally live in a town that has a farmer’s market – not that I lived so far from it before we moved a whole mile and a half to the new place, but there is something about being able to walk out the door with a couple of bags and walk down to the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning that is particularly awesome. I have never lived within reasonable walking distance of one either.

Neither of the two farmer’s that have stalls are certified organic, but they both claim to be using integrated pest control and are trying to minimize chemical fertilizers . . . not thrilled, but I want to do my part to help support them. You can be sure I made it clear that sustainably, responsibly grown food is important to me and many local folks I know. It is the perennial debate: if you HAD to choose between local and organic, which is better for you AND the environment. ugh. I’m polling people again on the Green Divas Radio Show FB page PLEASE weigh in!

Meanwhile, Here’s what we made this week
from the goodies you see in the picture

Carrot Juice w/ Beets & Kale – (GD Meg’s Recipe for Carrot Juice w/ Beets & Kale)

My favorite carrot juice recipe includes (per 1 cup serving):

  • about 6 carrots
  • 1 leaf kale
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 t fresh ginger
  • 1/4 of a medium raw beet

Farmer’s Market Fig Salad

The only things that didn’t come from the farmer’s market were the pistachios and the salad dressing! We gobbled this one up and can’t wait till next week’s market – hope they have more figs! (GD Meg’s Recipe for Farmer’s Market Fig Salad)

Vegan Roasted Beet & Cashew Cheese Tower

We love to roast beets and get creative with them in the summer. (GD Meg’s Recipe for Vegan Roasted Beet & Cashew Cheese Tower)

BBQ Corn

Not sure where we came up with this, but half the family loves this, the other half not so much, so we divide our corn catch and do half plain and half BBQ’d.

Ingredients

Locally Grown NON-GMO Corn (if you can find it!)

Your favorite BBQ sauce

Instructions

Cook all the corn as you normally would (we usually just cook in boiling water). Take out the ears you want to BBQ and cool a bit. When you can handle them, roll them in your favorite BBQ sauce and toss them on the grill, turning as they brown and blacken. YUM

 

 
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Reasons to Love Kale & 6 Recipes to Make it Easier

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
July 25, 2012
File under: Diet, Food, Health

My husband and kids love kale – no, really they do! I wasn’t always a big fan myself, but I learned about the many virtues of this amazing veggie and got creative to find ways to enjoy it. I’ll share our family’s favorite recipes in this post, but first let’s talk about why we should adore this vegetable.

Getting to Know Kale

A member of the Cruciferae clan, which makes it kin to cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and cauliflower. It is a descendent of the wild cabbage that grew in Asia Minor. My crazy roaming Celtic ancestors brought it to Europe around 600 BC, where it blossomed in popularity all over Europe into the Middle Ages. More of my adventurous ancestors (or folks like them) brought them to the US in the mid 17th century. This is one hearty plant that does particularly well in cold climates and the cooler seasons. I’m guessing this is part of its popularity.

According to WebMD, one cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Oh boy!

As it turns out, vitamins A, C & K are super antioxidants of the phytonutrient variety – this is good. The particular phytonutrients – carotenoids and falvonoids are particularly associated with anti-cancer qualities. Very good. Aside from an awesome fiber content, it also contains lutien and zeaxanthin compounds, which are excellent for eye health. according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a vitamin K-rich diet can reduce the risk of developing or dying from cancer. Excellent. There are other foods that contain vitamin K (spinach, collard greens, cheese), but none quite like hearty kale.

6 Ways to Love Kale

…read more of Reasons to Love Kale & 6 Recipes to Make it Easier here

 
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Green Diva Vegan Recipes – Cashews, Creamy Cheesy Yum

By Green Diva Meg thegreendivas.com
May 16, 2012
File under: Diet, Food, Lifestyle

As some of you may know, I’m back to my vegan roots and have been kicking the cheese habit – again (15 days, but who’s counting?). Whether you are a vegan, vegan wannabe, vegetarian or are an omnivore and love delicious food, you might appreciate the power of the mighty cashew and it’s amazing versatility.

Did you know these yummy kidney-shaped nuts are actually the seeds of the cashew apple that grow on the cashew tree? The tree is indigenous to coastal Brazil, but of course made its way to Asia and Africa where they are now also cultivated – thanks to some 16th-century Portuguese explorers. While we don’t eat the cashew apple, it is considered a delicacy in Brazil and in some Caribbean island countries.

Cashews are potent little beasts, sometimes referred to as “nature’s vitamin pill.”  They are lower in fat than most nuts, but of the monounsaturated fat, it contains oleic acid, which is the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil. Cashews are touted to be very heart-healthy, high in antioxidants, good for weight loss, and can help reduce risk of diabetes. Wow. These things are also supposed to help reduce risk of gallstones and according to OrganicCashewNuts.com, the “chemicals in cashew nuts kill gram positive bacteria, a pervasive mouth affliction that causes tooth decay, acne, tuberculosis and leprosy.” Wow x 2! There’s even more information about the health benefits this website about healthy foods.

…read more of Green Diva Vegan Recipes – Cashews, Creamy Cheesy Yum here

 
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