BY ANDREW MCDONALD
Write a list of stereotypically Irish things and it’s guaranteed “a cup of tea” features prominently. In recent years this has changed with coffee becoming more popular. Almost 60% of Irish adults drink the bean-based beverage at least once a day with about a third consuming several cups on a daily basis. Tea is still the clear winner though with Ireland’s population downing four to six mugs of the leaf infusion every 24 hours.
There aren’t many situations where a cup of tea isn’t a perfect accompaniment. Whether sitting down to chat, grabbing a quick break at work, working through a difficult issue with friends or family, tea is there as a crutch. Well, except for oddballs like me who actually don’t like the stuff (give me coffee or yerba mate – more of that later) but I’m very much in the minority.
There are several reasons why tea is good for both body and mind which help explain why it has such an important role to play in daily life. It hydrates the body and none of us can function properly without taking sufficient liquid. Secondly, it’s a good source of anti-oxidants which can help to prevent heart disease. Tea, the green variety at least, is also known to protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s. It can help to lower the stress hormone cortisol and guard against depression. Some scientists suggest it is also anti-carcinogenic.
Coffee does many of these things too including preventing fatigue and depressed mood. It also helps the body ward off diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer. Furthermore, coffee leaves you feeling energised and, perhaps by virtue of that fact, helps burn fat.
It’s no wonder then that Ireland is so keen on cups of tea and coffee. The actual action of consuming a warm drink is in itself soothing, particularly given we’re not blessed with the greatest weather in the world. Additionally, there are all the other positive health benefits.
Comforting drinks don’t stop there though. Obviously there are the old cold remedies of hot whiskey for adults and warm blackcurrant for children. However, Irish people are also opening up to other beverages enjoyed in parts of the world which have, until recently, had less influence on our dietary habits.
Japanese matcha’s popularity is growing quickly. It’s a powdered green tea, in form a bit like instant coffee though the similarity ends there, matcha being much healthier and more natural. Yerba mate is probably a bit behind matcha in terms of becoming a go-to drink for many people in Ireland. However, health stores are catching onto it and it is extremely popular in South America. Both drinks are known for helping mental health as well as being powerful dietary aids in addition to providing many other mental and physical health benefits.
Whatever you choose to put in your cup, you’re sure to be helping boost your overall wellness in both mind and body! Another reason to put on the kettle!