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The Health Benefits of Tea

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Tea Embassy Co-owner Amy Sims shares the health benefits of tea and how a cup a day keeps the doctor away.

By Courtney Runn

Every week, teas spanning the globe begin their journey to Austin. Hand-rolled in the Caucasus foothills of Georgia, precisely plucked by whirring metal in the fields of Japan, fermented in the North of India, each package of tea has a different origin story, but they all share one thing in common: They were painstakingly, specifically, thoughtfully chosen by Jonathan and Amy Sims.

Native Austinites, the couple owns and runs Tea Embassy, a staple of the Austin tea scene since 2004, when it opened as a storefront in a Victorian house downtown. The shop shuttered in 2013, but the couple continued the family business online. In Tea Embassy’s 15-year history, the Sims family has collected countless mugs, teapots and loyal customers.

“With every order, you’re going to get a handwritten note and a sample in every package, and you’ll probably get a note from one of our children,” Amy Sims says.

She married into the business and quickly converted to her new family’s tea culture. Now she drinks tea every day, whether it’s “105 degrees outside or if it’s 20 degrees.” While she is quick to note her in-laws are not tea snobs, they do take tea very seriously. From measuring water temperature with thermometers to carefully sourcing the best tea from throughout the world, the family takes pride in ensuring they’re offering customers the best tea experience possible.

For Amy Sims, the experience of drinking tea and the conversations it facilitates are the true power of the drink.

“Tea is about slowing down and talking,” Amy Sims says. “It’s multigenerational. I can share tea with my children, whereas I’m not going to give my children a pot of coffee. I think it’s something we need in our culture right now. I really wish that part of tea was something that America could embrace because I think it’s so important.”

Besides the communal nature of tea, the drink offers a multitude of health benefits. From a caffeine boost to an extra dose of nutrition to serenity for the nerves, tea provides a relaxing solution to daily health problems. Forcing yourself to drink tea, however, isn’t the end goal.

“The healthiest tea is the one you like to drink,” Amy Sims says. “If you hate green tea, you’re not going to drink it.”

When people say they don’t like drinking tea, she argues they simply haven’t found their perfect match yet.

“You just haven’t met your tea,” Amy Sims says. “It’s out there because there is something for everybody.”

From sweet, nutty teas like Almond Cake to fresh teas best iced, like blueberry rooibos, Tea Embassy truly does have a flavor for everyone. While the experience of finding your perfect match is now confined to web, the Sims family will still bring the world to your doorstep, with the added bonus of a one-of-a-kind portrait sketched with love by their daughters.

We asked Amy Sims to share her tea picks for common health issues.

If you’re stressed, drink any tea.

“Unlike coffee, the caffeine in tea is balanced by the [amino acid]theanine, so instead of it being like a jolting energy, it is kind of a time-release capsule. So, you are getting the benefits over time, so it stimulates the mind but relaxes the body. All tea does that.”

If you’re having persistent rashes or eczema, try rooibos.

“Rooibos is amazing for your skin. We would give [my babies]rooibos in a sippy cup, and it really helps with diaper rash. Rooibos helps with digestion issues and it’s caffeine-free, so it’s great for kids. It has a ton of antioxidants and potassium.”

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try lavender rooibos, lemon lavender or Digestive Helper.

“We have lavender rooibos or lemon lavender. Those are very calming. We have one [tea]called Digestive Helper. The name is a little misnomer because it has valerian root in it and valerian root is often in sleep medication. So, it knocks me out. We even put a warning label on it. … Everybody is affected differently, but for me, it’s very powerful.”

For a nutrition boost, try matcha.

“[When you’re drinking matcha,] you’re drinking the entire plant. … You’re getting all the nutrition. It’s a superfood. It’s incredible. It’s so good for you. … It needs to come from Japan; if it’s Chinese, it’s not real matcha. There’s a lot of matcha out there that’s in a bag and it’s not the real stuff. For me, that’s a big one because with this, you are eating the plant and you don’t want it covered in pesticides. … We’re very picky about our matcha.”

If you’re trying to lose weight, try a sweet dessert tea.

“Use dessert tea to satisfy your sweet tooth.”

If you need energy, try black teas.

“Black is going to be the most caffeine, then green, then white. The tricky thing about white tea is that some white teas actually have a lot of caffeine because of the bud that holds the caffeine. Matcha has a lot of caffeine.”

If your hormones are out of balance, stop drinking coffee.

“I think tea can be a great drink for women. We carry so much and so, I think it’s great to have that de-stressor. It’s good for your body. It’s not jacking with your cortisol. That’s a big thing about coffee; it can really mess up your hormones. I’m not trying to dis on coffee, but…one of the reasons I won’t go back to coffee is because the way I feel on tea is better.”

How to Boil the Perfect Cup of Tea

Photo by Courtney Runn

There is a precise science for making a cup of tea. Follow Tea Embassy’s recipe for the perfect cup. Amy Sims recommends using a strainer with a lid to trap the steam full of health benefits while the tea is infusing.

1. Measure 1 teaspoon of loose tea per cup of water.

2. Boil the water to the appropriate temperature, then pour the water over the loose tea and let it steep for the right amount of time: black tea (212 degrees; steep for four minutes); green tea (180 degrees; steep for two minutes); oolong tea (195 degrees; steep for four minutes); white tea (185 degrees; steep for five minutes), pu-erh tea (212 degrees; steep for four minutes), herbal tea (212 degrees; steep for four minutes).

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