Listen to the full radio interview here.Naturally Savvy: Something we can do every day to relax and stay warm is drink tea. January is Hot Tea Month and who better to join us than Cindi Bigelow from Bigelow Tea. Hi Cindi!
Cindi Bigelow: Hello hello, how are you guys? And thanks for having me on for Hot Tea Month!
NS: Well, we couldn’t think of anyone better than you, so we are every excited to have you on! Let's talk about Hot Tea Month. What is Bigelow Tea doing to celebrate?
CB: We do all kinds of things. We have a lot of fun inside the company: we play games, you can win awards, and we send out trivia questions about tea. We do the same things on our website. We celebrate with fun, giveaways, and information about that wonderful beverage – tea.
NS: So many of us are not only cold, but stressed out. What types of teas do you recommend to help us calm down and get in the zone of feelin' good?
CB: There is actually something in tea that really does calm you down. That’s why people always write us and say, "Oh gosh, tea is so relaxing," while other people ask, "How can I relax when it has caffeine.. but yet I feel relaxed?" That is because of theanine or L-theanine (it’s referred to both ways). It is highest in tea than any other product and it truly does relax you. It stimulates the immune system, which is very good, but it also binds with the caffeine which is why the tea experience is so different than the coffee experience in terms of the lift and the decline of the caffeine. It relaxes the body and stimulates the mind, so it actually is almost like yoga – it's fantastic. L-theanine… that’s why tea relaxes you!
NS: Very interesting, well you know, Cindi I am a huge tea lover. I literally have tea every single day, many times a day (I always use my Bigelow Tea mug). Is L-theanine in caffeinated and decaffeinated tea? Is it in all types of tea?
CB: Theanine is only in the tea bush, Camellia sinensis, so that means you need to be drinking green tea, black tea or oolong tea to get theanine or L-theanine. Herbal teas are also very good for you; they are relaxing (for example, chamomile), but when we are talking about theanine we are talking about the tea bush – Camellia sinensis (green, black and oolong). Theanine is also in decaffeinated tea. I have never studied whether when tea is decaffeinated if it actually reduces the theanine, so I will look for an answer to that.
NS: I am so glad you mentioned that because I always stayed away from caffeine. I get jittery pretty quickly, so I have been thinking, "Gosh, I would do anything for a chai tea, but it has black tea and I shouldn’t have that." But I am going to try now, I am really excited!
CB: Chai is going to have the caffeine in it but it does metabolize very differently than coffee. Because coffee doesn’t have the theanine, it has a huge hit up and an aggressive drop. If you have a chai tea you are going to feel the caffeine – it’s going to go for quite some time, but it’s going to be a gentle decline. I would recommend if you are very sensitive to caffeine that you don’t have a cup of tea on an empty stomach. Have a piece of toast with it or something else with if you are going to be embarking on caffeine for the first time!
NS: Good suggestion. In the past I have had green tea on an empty stomach, and I have gotten nauseous after so that’s a really good point.
CB: Some people are much more sensitive. It’s not necessarily the caffeine; it is the tannins in tea that make it sensitive. Many, many people can have a cup of tea on an empty stomach and not feel anything. I personally like my tea with food, I just handle it better. That’s the point though – I can have tea in the afternoon after I have had lunch hours earlier but there is something in my stomach. I have no problem with tea in the afternoon by itself, no problem with tea at night by itself, but in the morning when it’s completely on an empty stomach I like to have food with my tea.
NS: Explain for us quickly what a tannin is.
CB: Well tannins are naturally occurring in tea; they are what give it its color. It’s a natural component of tea; it's very much part of that taste profile of tea. You want a high quality tea that doesn’t have so much tannin in it – that makes it too astringent.
NS: For people who are new to tea drinking, what are some that you would recommend that might be more on the mild side, flavor-wise?
CB: It really depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a mild cup of tea, there are several ways to do that. If you have a black tea (ike our chai tea), if you put a little milk and you put a little sweetener (which is how I like my black teas), it really changes the experience to be a lot more low-key than just a straight cup of chai by itself, or you can do some of our herbals
like our new Chamomile Vanilla Herbal Tea with Honey (honey is in the product naturally – it is SO delicious).
At Bigelow we have 120 different types of tea so there is a tea for everything. There are beautiful herbals – I like to make sure our herbals are very flavorful. If you drink a plain cup of our chamomile it is sweet, you can really taste the entire flower (we worked very hard in the sourcing of that chamomile). You still want it to be full-bodied, even if it’s an herbal, but they do give different experiences and that’s why I like to start my day with black tea and finish off my day with an herbal tea.
NS: That really shows the quality of the tea – when you can drink an herbal tea and you don’t have to add anything to it. That speaks to the Bigelow quality. I want to just talk quickly about sourcing. When it comes to Bigelow and the quality of your tea, talk about the importance of sourcing the tea.
CB: I think sourcing is essential; it is so important. I go out to visit many of the locations in which we get our tea. I just got back from Sri Lanka where we get all of our beautiful black teas from the top of the mountains. Got back from Italy where we buy the beautiful full oil of bergamot, very expensive, but we are still one of the few companies who do that. We are going out to the lemon groves in California next month. We just came back from Oregon where we get beautiful, beautiful mint. It’s very important to know your sources. We buy mostly everything from family farms – 2, 3, 4 generations – we have worked together 20, 30, 40 years to make sure our ingredients are completely top-notch. We are never going to compromise on that.
NS: By top-notch, you mean in terms of the quality and how they are growing it… the love right?
CB: Absolutely. Not every ingredient – tea, mint, lemon – is created equal. You can get chamomile all around the world, but some of them are pale, without flavor. We make sure ours is robust and sweet and full bodied. The sourcing is everything – it really is.
NS: I love that, and I will drink to that! Thank you, Cindi.
If you would like to learn more about Cindi Bigelow and Bigelow Tea, visit bigelowtea.com.
Image: Daniela Vladimirova