How about a cup of Chai?

Doug Hastie is passionate about tea…not just drinking it, but importing and selling it.

How about a cup of “Chai”?
Doug Hastie is passionate about tea…not just drinking it, but importing and selling it. It’s a long way from a career that has taken him from his Gisborne roots to a degree  in engineering, work on the Channel Tunnel and the roller coaster at Euro-Disney, to New York’s Wall Street and time as an equity trader.    The tragic events of September 11, 2001 sent him home to New Zealand and on a search for new directions. 
Doug started out thinking about opening “tea” shops, but felt that there were plenty good cafes in the country to make that too hard a route.  But tea had grabbed his imagination as well as his palate – he’s a 20-cups a day man – and now he’s setting out to get those good cafes to pay as much care and attention to how they serve tea as they do coffee, and to encourage consumers to appreciate quality tea.
Travel to the east on business had awakened him to the realisation that there are a great many varieties and styles of tea – and that, on the whole, we don’t make nearly enough fuss about them, or enjoy them to the full. He returned to Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan in 2002 to study tea and to source the best quality leaf available.
So, the Hastie mission nowadays, through his range of “Chai” teas introduced a year ago, is to bring tea back to the status it enjoyed in times past.
He muses that nowadays coffee is made by expensive machines, while we’re prepared to accept tea made with tea bags and off-the-boil water!   That’s not good enough, he insists; tea should be made with the same care and top quality ingredients, not dismissed as a second-rate beverage!   
Mark you, tea much more than coffee has been the domestic drink, certainly in Britain and New Zealand, and all of us have heard a cup of tea being proffered as a comforter, as a healer, as the lubrication of discussion and social intercourse, as a balm for shock.  For many centuries, tea has been the greatest social lubricant.
“Chai” is the Indian word for tea, used in over 50 countries; for Doug it is now “Kiwi” for good tea!  There are still some notable tearooms around the world, where tea is accorded solemn ritual and is still a time-honoured tradition as “afternoon tea”, “morning tea” or “tea dances”.  
Doug Hastie likens the selection of tea to wine-drinking.  “We used to drink red or white, sweet or dry and it didn’t much matter what the label was!   Now, we have a much greater selection and we know much more about what is a good wine and that is reflected in our taste and buying patterns.”  
As for New Zealanders, he reckons while we are big tea drinkers, “we don’t drink at the top of the tea market.”   His wife is Japanese – he met her when he was researching tea – and he says that the Japanese know so much more about tea and its quality; that’s quite apart from having developed and perfected the Japanese tea ceremony, which acknowledges the beverage’s importance in a spiritual way.
But you don’t have to go quite that far!   All Doug asks is that we learn about the quality of tea and the available styles – and don’t just settle for “gumboot” tea that we’ve always known and drunk.  He’s convinced once we do that, we won’t settle for less than the best.
The Chai range is exclusively leaf tea, because the best tea flavours come from leaf tea, not teabags.  A small leaf is used in teabags because large leaves cannot unfurl and the paper does have an effect on the taste, says Doug.   For those who complain that tea bags are easier than messing around with leaf tea, there’s a “Chai” teapot with its own removable infuser…just as convenient as the filter in your coffee machine!  Furthermore, if you want to take your Chai with you to the beach or tramping, there are tea bags for you to put your leaf tea into – just the ticket for a day out.
How best to make tea?  Boil FRESH water (not the stuff that’s been lying in the jug overnight!), heat the tea pot, put the recommended/desired quantity of tea leaves in the infuser and place it in the pot before pouring over the boiling water and leaving to “mask”.
Some teas are better with milk – like English Breakfast – others, like the “champagne” of tea, Darjeeling, are dleightful without. But, like everything else, it’s a matter of taste.  Large leaf teas, like Darjeeling, have no bitterness, while green teas are increasing in popularity as people learn more of the health benefits of tea. 
“The Chinese drank tea for health for 3000 years; it took them a while to realize that it tasted good as well!’ said Doug.  “We drink tea for taste, but it’s good that it is healthy.” 
Chai comes in ten flavours, the best known of which are English Breakfast, Darjeeling and Earl Grey.  Chai Nova is a full bodied malty black tea, Monsoon has a distinctive mellow flavour.  Jade Fusion is a refreshing green tea, flavoured with ginger, while Morroccan Mint is described as “a blend of fire and ice”, antioxidant, low in caffeine. Add Masala Spice to English breakfast for traditional Indian spiced tea, with a blend of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and black pepper, that is just as good iced as hot. 
“People will serve you proper coffee, made in a plunger or percolator, but give you tea bag tea,” Doug laments.  “As tea drinkers, we should not accept it!”    Well, don’t upset your friends…you can always introduce them to Chai!
Myth Busters - The Truth About Tea
We’ve all heard how bad tea was for us if we drank too much. The Tea Council in Britain got fed up with it and here are their answers to the doomsayers! The Tea Council is an independent body dedicated to promoting tea for the benefit of those who produce, sell and enjoy tea.
1. Tea contains more caffeine than coffee
On the contrary, tea contains far less caffeine than coffee, in terms of mg of caffeine per serving:  Tea has 50 mg/serving, Cola 11-70 per 330ml can (regular & diet), instant coffer 75mg per 190ml cup, brewed coffee 100-115 per 190ml cup (filter/percolated).
2. Tea is a diuretic
Tea does not have a diuretic effect due to caffeine, unless the amount of tea consumed at one sitting contains more than 250 – 300mg caffeine, which is equivalent to between five and six cups of tea. In fact, due to the volume of fluid that is drunk whilst enjoying a cuppa’, the British Dietetic Association advises that tea can contribute towards the daily-recommended fluid intake of  1.5 to 2 litres.
3. Herbal teas are a healthy alternative to your normal cuppa
Not necessarily. There is substantial evidence that tea is rich in powerful antioxidants called flavonoids. Increasing evidence also shows that antioxidants found in tea, fruit and vegetables form an important part of a healthy diet.
Many herbal infusions contain pharmacologically active ingredients and antioxidants that are claimed to have positive benefits. However, recent research has shown that antioxidant levels in black tea are substantially greater than those in most herbal infusions and that one or two cups of tea provide a similar antioxidant activity to five portions of fruit and vegetables or 400 mg vitamin C. 8
4. Green tea contains no caffeine
Black and green tea are produced from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, so both green and black tea naturally contain caffeine.
5. Green tea is healthier than Black tea
No. Green and black teas both contain similar amounts of flavonoid components which differ in their nature. Green tea contains proportionally more of the simple flavonoids called catechins while black tea mainly comprises more complex flavonoids called theaflavins and thearubigins. Both these simple and complex flavonoids are powerful
antioxidants that may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancers.
6. The antioxidants in tea have little biological activity
Research is now suggesting that antioxidants may have a protective role to play in certain conditions such as heart disease, stroke and cancers. It is well known that fruit and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants. However, what is less well known is the
amount of antioxidants present in tea. In fact, there is eight times the amount  of ‘antioxidant power’ in three cups of tea as there is in one apple, and every time you brew up in a cup or a pot for up to one minute, 140mg of flavonoids are delivered. So as well as eating more fruit and vegetables, antioxidant intake can be topped up by drinking tea.
Research has shown that some of  these antioxidants are absorbed by the body which may account for the results from a number of population studies suggesting that the antioxidants in tea may help towards maintaining a healthy heart. There have also been a number of  studies to explain tea’s beneficial effects on the heart, including its effect on blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood vessel function and blood clot formation. 22-25
The scientific evidence for positive health effects of tea on these functions is growing but is not yet conclusive.
7. Adding milk to tea reduces the antioxidant activity
On the contrary, results from a couple of studies have found that the flavonoids from tea were equally absorbed from both tea with and without milk, concluding that the addition of milk did not effect the body’s ability to use these antioxidants.
8. Huge amounts of tea need to be consumed to derive any health benefits
Just one cup of tea contains a rich source of antioxidants called flavonoids. Intakes of
three to five cups of tea a day have been associated with health benefits.
9. Tea is bad for your teeth because it stains them
On the contrary, recent research suggests that flavonoids and fluoride in tea may actually be beneficial to teeth by reducing cavities and helping to prevent plaque from developing. As long as teeth are brushed regularly, stains will be removed.
10. Drinking tea with meals reduces the absorption of iron from foods
Tea consumption will not result in iron deficiency for people in normal health and who eat a healthy, varied and balanced diet. The absorption of iron from food is influenced by a number of factors. These include the quantity of iron, its chemical form (haem-iron and
non-haem-iron), interaction with other dietary components and physiological factors in the individual. For example uptake is increased when the body’s stores are depleted and when needs are greatest, such as growing children or menstruating or pregnant women.
Western diets normally contain both types of iron. Haem iron is found in high levels in meat and its ready absorption by the body (up to 25%) is unaffected by tea drinking. Non-haem (or ionic) iron found in cereals, fruits and vegetables is less well absorbed and its absorption is influenced by a wide variety of dietary components which include enhancers e.g. orange juice (vitamin C) and inhibitors e.g. tea (polyphenols). Therefore for those suffering from iron deficiency or from health problems related to low iron levels, it would be prudent to avoid drinking tea with meals.

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