Now don’t get the wrong idea about Nick Hand. He’s not a terrorist, or a weirdo, or anything like that.

But Hand, believe it or not, doesn’t start his day the way most Americans do – with a cup of coffee.

Of course, why would he? He’s British. Tea’s more his bag.

“It’s the first thing I do every morning – make a cup of tea,” he said. “Americans make first-class coffee, but they make crappy tea.”

Hand added, however, that once he’s had his morning tea, he’s just as American as anyone else in Tahlequah.

“As soon as I step out of the house, I’m a coffee drinker,” he said. “But I always start with tea. So does Laurie [Nick’s wife], but she’s from Boston. They drink tea, too.”

(This is, they drink tea in Boston when they’re not dressing up like Indians and throwing it into the harbor.)

With January being “National Hot Tea Month,” all Americans are encouraged to be a bit more British.

According to Jeffrey Blumberg, chief of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University, tea is not only a good way to get some caffeine in you, it’s also got several health benefits.

“It's no longer a matter of considering just the vitamin and mineral content of our diets,” said Blumberg. “People now need to recognize that foods and beverages can contribute important phytonutrients, like the antioxidant flavonoids. Flavonoid-rich and virtually calorie-free, tea is an ideal choice for those looking for a delicious drink that fits perfectly into a healthy diet.”

Wow! It almost sounds like he was paid to say that!

Which he very well may have been, considering his comments were part of a press release sent out by the Tea Council of The U.S.A.

But he may be onto something, corporate sponsorship or not.

A recent study examined 340 men and women who had suffered heart attacks and found that those who drank a cup or more of black tea daily had a 44 percent reduction in heart attack risk compared to non-tea drinkers.

The study was conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston (where they also drink tea, remember!) and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

A separate study by Dutch researchers found that participants who drank one to two cups of black tea daily had a 46 percent lower risk of severe aortic atherosclerosis, one factor contributing to cardiovascular disease. Those who drank more than four cups of tea a day had a 69 percent lower risk. The study was published in October in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

These days, some health-conscious Americans are discovering the pleasures – and health benefits – of green tea, too. That’s not news to the Chinese, who have been using it as a medicine for at least 4,000 years, treating everything from headaches to depression.

Scientific research in both Asia and the West is proving the benefits of drinking green tea. In 1994, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute conducted an epidemiological study, which showed drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by almost 60 percent. Researchers surmised a compound in the tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Other studies indicate green tea may help lower total cholesterol levels and improve the ratio of good cholesterol to bad. And it is reportedly helpful in losing weight, preventing tooth decay, warding off infection, repairing immune function, and fighting the affects of rheumatoid arthritis.

The secret of green tea, proponents say, is its high concentration of catechin polyphenols, especially epigallocatechin gallate. That won’t mean much to non-scientists, but regular folks can appreciate the translation: EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant, which is known to kill cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It also inhibits abnormal formation of blood clots, which are a major cause of heart attack and stroke.

What’s the difference between black and green tea? Well, it’s all in the process. Green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG compound from being oxidized. Black tea leaves have been fermented, which can convert the EGCG into other cpmounds that may not ward off the same diseases.

For some Tahlequonians, the data doesn’t matter much.

“I don’t care if it saves my prostate, or my brain, or my liver or any other part of me,” Braden Chronister (who isn’t British) said of tea. “I’ll stick to coffee. It seems like I’ve read some health benefits of coffee, too.”

(And indeed he probably has – maybe even right here in the pages of the Daily Press, when it was National Hot Coffee Month or some other such designated celebration.)

Mark Landry works at the Iguana Cafée, which sells several varieties of liquid caffeine. According to his admittedly unscientific opinion, most of his customers probably feel the same way as Chronister.

“I think we sell one tea for every 200 coffees,” said Landry. “So that’s half a percent – not a lot of tea.”



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