We start this week's review of tea in the news with our regular tea-health-watch. For a change there is good news and bad news and, as custom dictates it is the bad news first.
Firstly, this report on TheHealthSite there are reports from India that suggests giving tea to young children is a bad thing affecting brain, muscular, nervous system and structural growth and potentially leading to body aches, lack of concentration, irritability and lower muscle strength - which sounds like I must have been the victim of tea abuse as a young boy. Secondly, as reported in the Guardian and many other sources there is concern that taking drinks hotter than 65C (149F) is a potential cancer risk. So being able to detect when your cup or mug has cooled sufficiently is an important skill although I expect a range of products indicating cup temperature cannot be far away. In the meantime I have included a handy cut out and keep Newton's Law of Cooling below to help keep you safe (and remember to allow for any milk if you like to add it).
For the sake of balance here is some reassurance from Zeenews (again from India) that provides one of the ubiquitous internet lists confirming the health advantages for every part of the body from drinking tea.
An interesting article from Japan Today on how US based master blenders Harney & Sons are currently hot in Japan. It is a typical of the enigmatic modern business world that a product, such as tea, from Asia should be imported to North America, blended and then shipped all the way back to Asia.
Also from the US is a story in Crain's Chicago Business about a start-up called Tiesta Teas looking to take on Starbucks and David's Tea. What I liked about Tiesta Teas is that they seem to want to make tea more accessible and break away from the myth and zen that too often dominates the marketing. On the other hand, many of their offerings are tea blends that include artificial flavourings which (and this is a very personal view) I prefer to avoid at all costs. My experience in this area is that the pieces of fruits and/ or spice included with the tea add very little flavour to the tea and are included to make the blend appear exotic while the volatiles experienced are provided by the artificial ingredients. Nonetheless, it is good to see both Harney and Tiesta doing well and good luck to them in bringing choice and energy to the tea market.
From the sublime to the ridiculous the Guardian also runs a taste test on the best tea bag. This is one of those 'tallest dwarf' competitions and, despite their convenience, it is shame more people don't appreciate what can be achieved by spending just a few more minutes to make a proper cup of loose leaf tea. One thing that stands out from the article is how cheap the tea bags are which may say a lot about quality but also about how little farmers are paid for their product which leads nicely to a Guardian photo feature on child labour in tea production.
Some agricultural news this week tells in the Economic Times of weather problems in India where an earlier drought that reduced harvests by 40% has been replaced by torrential rain that is threatening to have equivalent consequences. Now I have never met a farmer that claims the weather is just right but these guys are really having it tough.
From Kenya there is a report in the Australian Financial Review of a plan to introduce futures contracts for tea for the very first time. This is presented as a device to stabilise prices for farmers but, and feel free to call me a cynic, I can only see this as an opportunity for city traders to make another killing.