Originally Published: July 12, 2008 9:09 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Tea - usually associated with English aristocrats and Asian royalty - is becoming a favorite of health-conscious Americans in ever increasing quantities and for good reasons.
"Tea is very young in America, but people are drinking more and more for its health benefits instead of taking pills and drugs," Klaas Reinbothe, sommelier and co-owner of West Coast Tea in Prescott, said. Reinbothe and his wife, Melanie Gurvits, serve fresh-brewed imported teas and wines in their Gurley Street store.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in 1994 Americans drank 2.25 billion gallons of tea - hot, iced, spiced or flavored, and with or without sugar, honey, milk, cream or lemon.
"It's refreshing. It makes you feel good if you are sick," Sera Klamper-Wacker, 13, said. Sera and her family recently were sampling a free cup of yerba maté at One Root Tea & Herbothecary, formerly called Magpie Natural Foods, on Gurley Street.
In 1995, the FDA reported that because of contradictory test results, it would not endorse health practitioners' claims that drinking green tea reduces the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
"In the practice of Chinese medicine, tea is always a part of the protocol," Jean Painter of Harmony Integrative Medicine said. Painter is board certified in Chinese medicine and herbology. She moved her practice from Los Angeles to Prescott years ago and recently moved into a new suite on Iron Springs Road.
"There are specific teas for specific ailments," she said. "Some teas are gender-specific. For example, there are transition teas specifically for women during menopause."
Reinbothe, of West Coast Tea, imports well-known and exotic teas.
"It's all about the freshness, the harvest, the quality of the leaves and its production," he said. The highest quality teas are half-shade teas and teas whose ingredients are still active, he said.
"Plants grown half-shaded have the most active ingredients. They are grown the closest to natural conditions," he explained.
Some teas have caffeine and some do not. Some energize a person and others help a person to sleep. Some are better for men and others for women.
"Tea is good for a person's spirit as well as their health," Jan Wakefield, Sera's mother, said. "We drink a lot of echinacea tea in the winter as a prevention against colds or the flu and now we are trying mint and licorice teas. They are good for the stomach."
The most common teas that people drink for pleasure or health reasons are green and black. Rooibos, red tea, and oolong are gaining popularity.
"Rooibos is a miracle tea, especially for stomach-aches," Reinbothe said.
Margaret Mendoza, of One Root, each day offers a different tea for visitors to sample. She recommends drinking green, black and yerba maté teas for a healthy routine.
Sandi Powell, of Bowenwork Wellness Center in Prescott, and Mendoza collaborate on remedies and information regarding holistic health practices.
"I use teas a lot for relaxing and medical reasons," Powell said. For women, she recommends pau d'arco tea to help "regulate women's issues and thyroids."
"I've been drinking tea since I was little," Christophe Hileman, 12, said. "I like it. It's refreshing."
"Tea is a huge world," Mendoza said.
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