Goodness in a Cup of Tea
The Tea Drinking Culture in Indonesia
by Ken Jenie
Tea is a very popular drink in Indonesia. Almost every family in Indonesia always provides a complete range of tea in their beverage stock. Even it is only just a tea bag.
In recent years, awareness of Indonesians towards health benefits in tea has increased. This can be seen in many tea commercial advertisements that accentuate those benefits. It is caused by many published scientific studies stating the health benefits of drinking tea. To a few tea traders in Indonesia, those benefits are often added to give more value to their products. Several diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and uric acid are often believed to be curable by tea. Local and imported brands of tea sold in multi-level marketing strategy are often highlighted with their health benefits. Even tea products are sold in pharmacies with the aim to associate the related product as medicine.
Is it really true?
The main content in tea are catechin dan theanin. Catechin is proved to be high in antioxidant. In 1 cup of tea, the level of antioxidant is equivalent to 7 cups of orange juice. Theanine contributes more towards brain performance. It helps to relax and lower the levels of serotonin which can lower the effect of high blood pressure.
In vivo, lab research with some experimental animals proved those results. For instance, one study conducted at the University Hasanudin, Makassar, South Sulawesi, proved that catechin can inhibit the growth of steptococcus bacteria, which cause dental plaque. I also experience similar dental experience with tea. With the age of 47 years old, I don’t have any hollow teeth. I only visit the dentist just for the teeth scaling.
In a day, I drink tea almost 1-2 liter. Even during my childhood, I only drank tea, never pure water. But other health parameters are not affected by my tea drinking habit. For example, my high blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol level still remain high. I realize that they are caused by my eating habit. I am an addict in deep fried food since I was a little boy. I prefer eating deep fried side dishes, I dislike steamed or boiled food.
I mentioned this fact to Professor Gerard Bodeker, a medical scientist from Oxport USA, in a workshop at the International Tea Festival some time ago.
Professor Gerard said, “You are only a tea drinker, not a good follower of tea culture.”
He explained that only him that doesn’t have heart disease in his family, although all of his family members drink tea. “I practice good tea culture”, he said.
In one seminar of tea and health, there was one participant who express his concern with me. “Everyone knows that Mr.Fullan works in the tea industry, he drinks tea every day, how could he have stroke attack up to 3 times?”
Apparently a good tea culture has not yet became a culture per se. Regrettably, tea is often regarded as an antidote. Tragically, in a commercially product marketed through multi level strategy, it is said that the tea product is good for a smoker ….Ohlala!
It is important to educate people that the health benefits of tea also depend on the quality of tea, brewing technique, and, of course, a healthy lifestyle as well.
There was an email coming from a reader of my blog, which said that she was drinking green tea, but she did not get slimmer. Was it something that I ate? The brief answer is : “A lot of factors!”
The logic is simple, if we eat one kg of fat, is it enough to trim it down by one or two cups of tea instead? And what type of tea? If you drink sweeten tea every day, of course, it is a different story. Sugar will decrease the effectiveness of antioxidants. In addition, sugar is a source of calories that can lead to obesity.
I remember a philosophy of chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) that I learnt from Urasenke Tankokai Indonesia. The philosophy is Wa, Kei, Sei and Jaku which means harmony, respect, sincerity and serenity. Harmony is the most important. In every ritual of chanoyu, there must be a good harmony with nature, God, objects, and so forth. Without harmony, life would be unbalance.
Real examples to reflect the harmony of tea in daily life is to compare cigarettes and tea, which can be called a disharmony. Why is that? Because tea is beneficial for health, while smoking is harmful to health.
So the point is tea serves as a reminder. Many misleading opinions occur in Indonesian society that you can eat everything after drinking tea.
So when you drink tea, you can be reminded to do good as well, either by consuming good food, also do good things in life. The spirit of drinking tea is sharing. So enjoy tea with friends while sharing the goodness.