The Rise of Single Origin Japanese Tea: Webinar with Oscar Brekell

Join speaker Oscar Brekell on Tuesday October 10, 2017 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM EDT for a webinar about Japanese tea

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“Top of the East” Yokosawa, Shizuoka, Yabukita, May 2016

In the last couple of years, we have seen an increased popularity and interest in Matcha in the Western market. When it comes to Sencha however, despite the fact that the market offers more variation and teas of higher quality than ever before, it has remained in the shadows of its stone ground cousin. This is indeed unfortunate because Sencha is truly unique both in terms of taste and flavour, and also in terms of brewing methods and how it is served.

As tea grows increasingly popular across the world, there is a growing interest in high quality teas and single origin teas, among lovers of Camellia Sinensis in many countries. Thanks to the internet and improved communication, single estate tea is more available than ever before.

However, when it comes to Japanese tea, unfortunately single estate teas are still a rare thing to come across. This does not only apply to the international market but is also the case with the domestic market. The last 20 years have brought many changes to tea drinking in Japan, and among them we are now witnessing the rise of Single Origin Japanese tea.

This is a movement that is taking place in several areas, but especially remote villages in Shizuoka Prefecture such as Yokosawa, Ohira and Tawaramine are putting great efforts into putting Single Estate Sencha in everyone’s tea cup. The result is an amazing degree of variation, and taste nuances that tea lovers across the world have never before experienced.

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Yokosawa, Shizuoka, Sofu Cultivar, May 2017

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Yokosawa, Shizuoka, Sofu Cultivar, May 2017

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Yokosawa, Shizuoka, Sofu Cultivar, May 2016

About the Webinar  

As a frequent traveler to these areas, Oscar would like to share with the attendees all his impressions and the stories he has heard from farmers, wholesalers and retailers, many of whom were directly involved from the very start of the movement.

Oscar will also dig deeper into the reasons for Japanese Single Origin Tea not taking off until recently, and share with you his predictions of what the future has to offer.

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Yokosawa, Shizuoka, Koshun Cultivar, May 2016

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Mariko, Shizuoka, Kondowase Cultivar, May 2016

About the Speaker: Oscar Brekell

Oscar Brekell is currently working for the Shizuoka Prefectural Japanese Tea Industry Research Center. He is the 10th graduate of the Japanese Language and Culture Studies Course of the International Student Center. After hard study of Japanese tea, he became the first Swedish certified “Japanese Tea Instructor” in Japan. Mr. Brekell has already held a number of Japanese tea seminars both at home and abroad and made many TV appearances and on radio programs. Mr. Brekell is very passionate about promoting Japanese tea.

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Ohira, Shizuoka, Sayamakaori Cultivar, January 2017

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Mariko, Shizuoka, Kondowase Cultivar, April 2016

Register Here for the October 10th Webinar with Oscar Brekell

Ticket prices:

THAC Member

*Members are eligible to enroll in 2 STPN webinars at no cost

Free
Non-Member $125.00

(+CA $25.41 FEE & GST/HST)

THAC Member

*Only 2 complimentary registrations to STPN webinars per membership year

$100.00

(+CA $20.46 FEE & GST/HST)

Tea Sommelier® Student $100.00

(+CA $20.46 FEE & GST/ HST)

 

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Join us for a drink… of tea!

The Niagara region of Canada is a perfect place to run a course for those looking to expand their palate. We couldn’t be happier to have our Tea Sommelier® Certification Program offered at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute at Niagara College.

With the Fall Term nearly here we wanted to speak with Kristina Inman, who will be the instructor for the upcoming session of TEA 101: Introduction to Tea (register for the Sept 11- Oct 2 class here) and TEA 102: Regions of the World.KHM 2090

Why do you think it is important for the Canadian Food & Wine Institute to have the Tea Sommelier® Certification Program?

It’s a wonderful time to be expanding on all things sensory at the college.  We already have well established wine and culinary programs and have an unrivalled beer program – tea is a natural progression for us.

You’re not just a Certified TAC Tea Sommelier® Professional, but a CAPS sommelier. How do the two fit together for you?

I’m a wine industry veteran. I became a CAPS sommelier in 2008 and worked with wine in restaurants, wineries and most recently in education at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College. But once you start talking terroir and tannins, the two worlds are not far apart.

What is your earliest memory of tea?

Growing up in a family of self-declared coffee aficionados, my mother introduced me to tea when I was sixteen while on a trip to London. She took me to department store, Liberty and said, “Kristina, if you’re going to try tea for the first time, this is the way to do it.” Boy was she ever right. I had an English Breakfast tea.

As a student, what was your favourite Tea Sommelier® course?

TEA 106: Preparation, Consumption & Health. I loved learning about different cultural practices for tea preparation and consumption. Sipping tea while having a spoonful of jam in your mouth (the Russian way)?! I mean, learning doesn’t get any better than this.img_3464-e1503410355676.jpg

If you could only drink two teas for the rest of your life, what would they be

My daily go-to teas are Jasmine Green pearls and Earl Grey usually with lavender blended in. But, the purist in me always goes back to a lightly oxidized Oolong, such as Tung Ting or a Darjeeling First Flush could carry me through the ages.

Where in the world has tea played a role in your travels?

Send me back to Paris to Mariage Frères in Place de la Madeleine. Whenever I visit the store I get swept away. The choices are extraordinary and the staff is well educated so it’s a delight to shop there. Another memorable experience is visiting Gamla Stan (the “old town”) in Stockholm. The Swedes take their daily fika (the Swedish coffee break) where you can find tea blended with local Nordic berries and cardamom-scented buns.

In what capacity are you currently working in the tea industry?

I’ve worked with my colleagues at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute at Niagara College to launch the Tea Sommelier® Certification Program. We are weaving in the program through our new division, Expert Edge, all in the heart of Ontario’s food & beverage scene.

What role did the Tea Sommelier® certification play in your career at the college?

As I mentioned, it’s a natural progression for us here at the college when we’re already focusing on wine, beer, food, and soon, distillation.  Now we are looking to offer tea experiences with our newest division, Expert Edge, in addition to offering the tea program.  We also have our restaurant Benchmark, that has a loose leaf tea program and I work with them on staff training and further developing their tea experience.

What are some of the highlights and challenges presented with working in the tea industry today?

Most of us can probably relate to this, which is in my opinion, simply getting the word out there. Tea is on trend, certainly, but we are still the underdog to so many other beverages. It is going to take a lot more hard work and persistent attitudes to propel us forward. I really feel strongly that we need more education on tea, which is largely why I’m in the field that I’m in. I teach a wide range of students, from future brewmasters to hospitality majors and there is a huge opportunity for these students to look at tea in a new light and use it to their advantage.   Most of them come out of my class saying, “Wow, I had no idea that tea was so interesting and so diverse!”.hills

What current trends in the tea industry excite you the most?

It’s exciting that tea itself is on trend! It’s no longer “your Granny’s drink”. I’m quite excited about using tea in other realms. Tea & mixology is something I think we’ll see more of, and tea & brewing has a lot of potential. One of my former brewmaster students made an Earl Grey Milk Stout for example, and that was fantastic. I bake a lot at home, and often incorporate tea into my baking. I’m even teaching my four year old the recipes, and that’s what’s inspiring as well. Tea can truly reach all ages, and that opens up its realm of possibility.

To take Tea Sommelier® classes with Kristina visit here, or enroll in the next TEA 101 beginning on September 11.

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Interview with Shabnam Weber, Director of Academy of Tea

The Academy of Tea is the only English provider of our TEA SOMMELIER® Certification Program. Since the program was launched online a few years ago, it has expanded from ten students in Canada to hundreds spread across the country and internationally.

We had a chance to sit down and share a pot of tea with the Director of the Academy of Tea, Shabnam Weber to get to learn a little more about her and the online program. Shabnam is also the author of our TEA SOMMELIER® Certification ProgramShabnam_India
What is your favourite part about teaching this program?

I wrote the program nearly a decade ago and handed it over to THAC with a lot of love and dedication to the material.  Being able to teach that material, myself, to students across the globe, and have them connect with it is more gratifying than I could possibly express.  I feel fed by the energy my students bring to each module and am thrilled to see tea for the first time through their eyes.  You just can’t beat that.

Tea Cupping for TEA 106 Menu Design, Food Pairing and Cooking

Tea cupping from TEA 107: Menu Design, Food Pairing & Cookingtion

What is your favourite memory with tea?

Every visit I have to origin (producing country) is a truly special memory. Tea would exist without every executive in every major corporation of every major or minor tea company.  It would exist without me and you.  But none of this would be possible without the tea pluckers in the fields and the workers in the factories, producing our teas.  Visiting origin is a sobering reminder of what is real.

Louise and Shabnam with two women smallholders in Blantyre, Malawi

Shabnam and Louise with two tea smallholders in Malawi (2016)

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Castleton Tea Estate Factory, India (2015)

Have you always been in the tea industry?

I have not.  I have lived several lives in different fields before I entered the world of tea…17 years ago!

The Academy of Tea’s program is completely online, but are there any live components where students get to interact with you?

Each module has a live tutorial – one for TEA101 and two each for TEA102-108.  They are held at two different time slots during the day.  I highly recommend you attend the tutorial as it is your opportunity to have me live for 30 minutes to ask questions. Also, the final presentation for each module is done live with me over Skype.  I also find the human interaction an important one, as e-learning can be a very cold experience sometimes.

How long does it take for a student to complete the certification online?

Once you have completed TEA 101, you may take a maximum of two classes at a time.  Keep in mind that we recommend spending a minimum of 3 hours per week per course. The Academy of Tea offers four modules every 7 weeks, so our students are never waiting for ‘availability’ to complete the program.  We don’t have the same constraints as colleges do, so we’re very accommodating in that sense.  We never cancel classes, so I would say that most of our students are able to complete all modules within a year.

Who are your students? Are they coming from a particular industry?

I have students from truly all walks of life and across the globe.  Some are taking the program out of pure interest and love of tea.  Others are in the tea industry and range from being independent shop owners to medium sized chains to working for large international conglomerates.

Any tips for students taking the course?

Plan your time well if you intend on taking more than one module at a time. You have to remember that the final evaluation (blind cupping, written exam and oral presentation) for each module will be held on the same day.  More than anything though…enjoy the process.  All learning is a lifelong journey.  It shouldn’t be any different for tea.  This is part of the tea journey.
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What is different about the program online as opposed to in person?

All of the course material is the same. You will be doing the same reading and cuppings in both the in-person classes and online classes the only difference is the delivery method.  Because we don’t have the same constraints as colleges do, we have never cancelled a class.  That means that students are able to finish all modules in a very fluid way.

To register in the next TEA SOMMELIER® class with the Academy of Tea visit academyoftea.org

Upcoming Classes:

TEA 101: Introduction to Tea

  • September 4-September 25

TEA 101: Introduction to Tea

  • October 2-October 23

TEA 102: Regions of the World

  • August 21-September 25

TEA 102: Regions of the World

  • September 11-October 16

TEA 105: From Bush to Cup

  • August 21- September 25

TEA 106: Preparation, Consumption & Health

  • August 21- September 25

TEA 108: The Business of Tea

  • August 21- September 25

 

August 15th is National Relaxation Day

Today is all about taking some time to slow down, unwind and relax!

In a recent survey, 23% of Canadians aged 15 and older (6.7 million people) reported that most days were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely stressful’[1].

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Did you know that stress affects your heart health? Research shows that too much stress can harm your heart and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke[2]. Stressors include not just major life events such as moving or starting school, but also daily events such as traffic jams, meeting deadlines or facing conflicts.  The level of stress you experience and how you react to it can lead to a wide variety of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, or irregular heartbeats[3].

A great deal of research has been published on tea’s health benefits and tea has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is a risk factor of heart disease and small decrease in blood pressure from dietary changes may have significant benefits. Researchers in Australia found that regular consumption of 3 cups of black tea a day can result in significantly lower blood pressures. “There is unequivocal evidence that tea as a lifestyle factor can impact health,” said Dr. Carol Greenwood, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. “Drinking tea should be considered part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Knowing your stressors can also help you choose strategies that are right for you. There are three basic types of coping skills for stress:

  • Physical: exercise, stretch, eating a healthy diet, and get a good rest
  • Cognitive/Mental: positive thinking or meditation
  • Personal/Social: leisure time with family and friends. “Seek out things that make you happy and that matter most to you.” advises the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

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All three types of stress coping skills are useful to help you deal with stress in your life and you may find one more helpful than another depending on your particular situation

Everyone feels stress in different ways and knowing where your stressors come from and what to do about it is an important first step in managing your health.

Many people find tea a refreshing and relaxing drink. Tea originates from the Camellia Sinensis plant, and has been used for hundreds of years to help with relaxation.

Easy as 1- 2- TEA

How to Brew the Best Cup of Tea

How to Brew the Best Cup of Tea

Visit here if you’re interested in learning more about the types of tea and how to steep tea, or learn more about how to become a Certified TAC TEA SOMMELIER® Professional here.

[1] Statistics Canada http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2015001/article/14188-eng.htm

[2] Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada  http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/reduce-stress

[3] Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/other/coping-with-stress-en.ashx

 

How to Talk Like a Tea Sommelier

A simple guide for discussing the qualities of tea

By Mel Hattie

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Maybe you’ve been out with your friends, when one of you orders a fresh green tea. “Wow! I really like how this mellow tea has little astringency. It’s almost buttery, with hints of seaweed, wet rocks, and asparagus!” They exclaim—meanwhile, you look into their cup, seeing neither seawood, nor wet rocks, nor asparagus.

What are these crazy tea people talking about?

Much like how in the world of wine sommeliers there are hundreds—if not thousands—of ways to describe the taste and character of wines, in the world of tea sommeliers, there’s an established vocabulary and accepted amount of improvisation that goes along with describing what it is we’re experiencing when we drink tea.

In this guide we’re going to get beyond the five primary taste sensations—salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and umami. We’ll introduce you to some basic tea tasting terms as well as show you how you can get creative when talking tea. Follow this and you’ll be talking like a tea sommelier in no time. Your tea will also taste better—sometimes all you need are the right words to open up your palette.

Basic Tea Tasting Terms

Before we even let that tea touch the tip of our tongues, let’s look at how we can describe how the tea leaves look.

Bold: Has big pieces of tea leaf.

Tip: The very end of the baby young buds that give golden flecks to the processed leaf.

Wiry: Twisted leaves, as opposed to open pieces.

Even: Leaf pieces of roughly the same size.

Irregular or Ragged: Uneven and non uniform pieces of leaf.

Choppy: Tea leaf that has been chopped or cut up, instead of rolled.

Now, as we begin to sip the tea, we can think about the aroma, body, and character. Think of it like the ABCs of tea.

Aroma: the odour of the tea liquor, also called the nose or fragrance. If the aroma is complex, it’s sometimes called a ‘bouquet.’ Think of it like smelling a bunch of flowers vs. a single rose.

Body: The weight and substance of the tea in your mouth. Is it light, viscous, thick? Sometimes people describe tea as being round—that is, having a full body that hugs your cheeks. It might be full—indicating a tea of good quality with colour, strength, and substance.

Character: A tea’s hallmark attributes, often depending on the country or region of origin, unique to its very own tea story.

Similar to wine, astringency is an important characteristic in tea. Astringency is that mouth-drying effect on the tongue—not to be confused with bitter. Astringency is a clean and refreshing quality, caused by a reaction between the tannins in tea and the protein in our saliva. Some teas are very astringent, and others—not so much. Astringency isn’t good or bad, but it’s important to take note of.

As you finish swallowing your tea, what happens next? The lasting taste on your tongue is called the finish. Is it smooth? Is there an aftertaste? Take a second to slow down, exhale, and really experience the end of the tea’s journey. Then go in for another sip, of course.

There’s also ways to talk about tea’s undesirable qualities. Tea that has gone off because of too much moisture is flat, while tea that has been through damp conditions during transportation or seen pollution is tainted.

Sometimes even if the tea survives transportation, it might have some other less desirable qualities. It might be brassy—bitter, coarse—strong but low quality, dull (like it sounds), or harsh—bitter and raw with little strength.

On the other hand, you might have an awesome cup of tea that is bright—a lively, clean tea that refreshes the palate; clean—has a focused, pure flavour;

It might have floral characteristics, have a muscatel aspect—just like the wine, reminiscent of grapes. Teas from the Darjeeling region are famous for this. Or, it might be malty—like a good whiskey. Teas from Assam are famous for this characteristic.

How your tea is processed has a big impact on its characteristics, too. For example, green teas from China are often pan-fried, while green teas from Japan are steamed.

This means green teas from Japan (sencha, gyokuro, genmaicha, etc.) are often described similar to steamed greens. Think asparagus, brussel sprouts, spinach. Green teas from China (gunpowder, dragonwell, etc.) are more often described with a sweet, toasty words. Think chestnuts over a fire, or roasted corn.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Both of those teas, for example, could include a number of other ‘vegetal’ descriptors.  Next is where we really break out our creativity.

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Descriptive Vocabulary for Different Characteristics of Tea

Here are some starting points. Feel free to get as creative as you want. The sky’s the limit. I once heard a wine sommelier describe a white wine like, ‘opening a fresh can of tennis balls.’ These words are meant to evoke a sense of taste and place with your fellow tea-lovers.

Vegetal: Earthy, herby, vegetable, and marine qualities

Tastes like sea air, sea weed, garden peas, green peppers, asparagus, wet rocks, musty, compost, old wet wood, leather, turning over a log, peat moss, bark, resin, camphor, sawdust, cherry wood, mahogany, pine, fresh cut grass.

Smokey: Like a cigar

Ash, tar, smoke, smoked wood, burning leaves, beef jerky, bonfire, whiskey.

Spicy: Open the spice drawer

Cloves, cinnamon, cocoa, thyme, parsley, oregano, black pepper, vanilla, coriander, liquorice, eucalyptus, saffron, fennel.

Sweet: Nuances of sweetness

Honey, maple syrup, malt, nectar, caramel, molasses, burnt sugar, cotton candy, bubble gum.

Nutty: That chewy, often toasty taste

Almond, peanut, chestnut, hazelnut, roasted nuts, nougat, peanut butter.

Floral: When your nose feels like it’s walking into a greenhouse, or mountain meadow

Hints of jasmine, lilac, orchid, honeysuckle, wildflowers, cherry blossoms, orange blossoms, rose, dandelion, violet, geranium, hops, perfume.

Fruity: From stone fruits to bush berries, all your jammy concerns

Jammy, peach, apricot, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, lychee, pineapple, banana, citrus, lemon, black currant, rhubarb.

Build Your Tea Taste Buds

As you can see from the list above, the best way to describe tea is using other foods! Therefore, the best way to learn how to taste tea is by trying other flavour sensations. Really pay attention when you put food in your mouth. Pay attention to smells. Lick rocks if you have to. Learn what the world tastes like.

If you enjoyed this, you’d probably enjoy Tea 103: Sensory Development, where we build your tea palate, learn more about how we taste tea, and dive into developing our taste buds by practicing on some other tasty things—chocolate, olive oil, and coffee too.

By taste alone, TAC Certified Tea Sommeliers can tell the difference between a pan-fried and a steamed green tea, a light and long-oxidized oolong, and whether a tea comes from Assam or Darjeeling (amongst their many other talents). Here’s where you can find out more about what it takes to become an accredited TAC TEA SOMMELIER® professional.

Hydrate With Tea

Did you know that after water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world? Staying well hydrated is so important to good health since losing as little as 1 to 2% of body weight from fluids can impair physical performance and our ability to think.[1] If you are like most people, about 80% of your total fluid intake comes from drinking water and other beverages.[2] Tea is 99.5% water and it counts towards your daily fluid intake. Tea is known for its many health benefits, so drinking tea is also good for you! Read on about how to satisfy your thirst with tea!

How much fluid do you need a day? [3]
Your body loses water when you’re breathing, sweating and getting rid of waste. If you lose more fluid than what you drink and eat, your body can get dehydrated and you may feel tired, get headaches and not perform at your best. NOTE: You can become dehydrated even before you feel it. That is why it’s important to drink fluids regularly, even before you feel thirsty. Your fluid needs are influenced by a number of factors including your age, gender activity level and the weather! (Hot and humid weather can increase your fluid needs.)

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Daily Healthy Beverage Guidelines[4]
Beverages make up an important part of nutrition for Canadians. Men and women aged 19 to 30 obtain around 20% of their daily calories from beverages.[5] The Daily Healthy Beverage Guidelines, published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of American Clinical Nutrition, can help you make smart choices about the types of beverages you consume. The guide looks at the relative health and nutritional benefits and risks of various types of beverages. Under the guidelines, unsweetened tea is second only to water as a beverage choice and people can drink up to eight cups of tea a day as part of a healthy diet.

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Downloads

 Daily Healthy Beverage Guidelines (.pdf)

[1] Liebermann HR. Hydration and Cognition: A critical Review and Recommendations for Future Research. J Am Coll Nutr 2007;26:555S-61S.
[2] The Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride and Sulfate. Washington DC: National Academy Press, 2004.
[3] Dietitians of Canada, Guidelines for Drinking fluids to Stay Hydrated, Nof 27, 2014 http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Water/Why-is-water-so-important-for-my-body-Know-when.aspx
[4] Popkin BM1, Armstrong LE, Bray GM, Caballero B, Frei B, Willett WC., A new proposed guidance system for beverage consumption in the United States., Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Mar;83(3):529-42.
[5] Garriguet D. Beverage Consumption of Canadian Adults. Statistics Canada Health Reports, November 2008.

Happy National Iced Tea Day!

June 10th is National Iced Tea Day, what better way to celebrate than by brewing up some iced tea. Making iced tea at home is easy, and there are so many flavours to choose from!

How to Brew the Best Cup of Iced Tea:

  1. Place 2 g of tea or 1 tea bag per 8 oz of water in pitcher
  2. Steep for appropriate time (based on tea type)
  3. Add ice
  4. For extra flavour add your favourite fruit, such as lemon, lime, orange or even peaches
  5. Pour a glass and enjoy!

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On hot summer days what’s more refreshing than grabbing a cool drink? Enjoy hydrating with iced tea! Staying hydrated is especially important in hot weather or when you are active. Since tea is 99.5 % water, it can count towards your fluid intake for the day – plus it tastes great!

Your body is made up of nearly two-thirds water so it is really important that you get enough fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated. Remember ‘fluid’ includes water and additional drinks that give you water such as tea, herbal tea and other beverages. You also get water from the foods you eat. On average most people get about 80% of their fluid intake from drinking water and other beverages, and the other 20% from foods.