Tearooms Offer a Healthy Buzz

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Read the tea leaves, antioxidants found in fruits and veggies, by one estimate.

For jaded coffee drinkers, tea also offers new sensory frontiers, with its roots in Chinese, Japanese, Indian, African, and South American cultures.

When you sip a chai tea latte, for example, you’re enjoying a beverage born in India. “All over India, on almost every street corner, vendors sell chai tea,” says Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Council of the U.S.A.

“The traditional tea lover won’t like chai tea that much,” he tells WebMD. “The spices — ginger, cardamom — overpower the taste of the black tea. But for American coffee consumers, it’s perfect.”

In the U.S., elegant tea salons, tearooms, and take-out tea shops are popping up everywhere, says Simrany. “Four years ago, we had one-quarter the tea salons we have today. Even coffee shops are selling more tea.”

People find tranquility in tearooms, says Dominique Tanton, manager of the Dushanbe Teahouse, an exquisite traditional Persian teahouse in Boulder, Colo.

“Coffee shops are for the quick green tea is highly beneficial to our health, says 82-year-old John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y.

“I’ve published over 500 papers, including a hell of a lot on tea,” says Weisburger, who drinks 10 cups daily. “I was the first American researcher to show that tea modifies the fruits and vegetables,” he says.

While herbal teas may also contain antioxidants, less is known about them, Weisburger adds.

“In my lab, we found that green and black tea had identical amounts of polyphenols,” he tells WebMD. “We found that both types of tea blocked DNA damage associated with heart disease.

However, the bulk of research is what counts most, Blumberg says. And that research has found that regular tea drinkers — people who drink two cups or more a day — have less metabolism to aid weight loss, block allergic response, slow the growth of tumors, protect bones, fight blood clot formation, breakfast. Switch to decaf tea midday, if you need to. “Flavonoids are unchanged by removal of caffeine,” he says.

Kids should drinking tea, too. “We try to get children eat vegetables,” Weisburger say. “I’m suggesting that children age 6 on should be drinking decaffeinated tea.”

Not that kids need a fancy tearoom — iced tea at home works fine.