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Ann Arbor authors share tips from new book: 'Tea for Dummies'

'Tea for Dummies' Co-authors Lisa McDonald (left) and Jill Rheinheimer (right) in front of tea tins at Ann Arbor's TeaHaus, 204 N 4th Ave, Ann Arbor.
'Tea for Dummies' Co-authors Lisa McDonald (left) and Jill Rheinheimer (right) in front of tea tins at Ann Arbor's TeaHaus, 204 N 4th Ave, Ann Arbor.


Cathy Shafran: This is 89 one WEMU-FM. I'm Cathy Shafran, and for the next few minutes we're going to be talking t how to choose it, how to drink it, how to determine if it has the benefits you're looking for. We're talking t today with Lisa McDonald, owner of the TeaHaus in Ann Arbor, and Jill Rheinheimer, who is the tea shop's media specialist. Together, this team has penned a book called "Tea for Dummies." I know I'd fit into the clientele pretty well. The book comes out in March, but the authors have agreed to join us today with some tips that you'll be able to find in the book once it's out. Lisa, Jill, thanks so much for joining us today.

Lisa McDonald: Thank you so much for having us.

Cathy Shafran: Okay, So, Lisa, your TeaHaus on Fourth Avenue, it has hundreds, more than 200 tins of tea. I'm curious, for the novice, for the tea for dummies. You walk in there. How do you know what tea that you are looking for?

Lisa McDonald: That's the most fun part of my job is to find the perfect tea for the customer. So, when you come in, our tea is very well situated visually and also, it's broken down into different sections. We have the black tea section, the green, the long, the herbals and so on. And then within that they're then even more diversified by the type of tea, if it's an aroma tea or if it's a classic tea. So classic teas are ones that don't have anything added to them. Whereas in Aroma, tea would have something fun like cinnamon or pineapple or flowers or whatever. So, I think it's just a matter of questioning the customer, what do they like? It's not about which tea to drink, but what they like to drink. So, if they like it more floral or more spicy or fruity, and then we can just kind of go from there.

Cathy Shafran: So, it's basically it's first deciding on the mood that you're in and what you're looking for the tea to provide in you, Is that it?

Lisa McDonald: Absolutely. And I think most people can narrow down what they don't like quicker than they can narrow down what they do. Like, I know people come in and they say, I don't like floral or I don't like spicy. And that's a really good way to start as well. We can also go and if they want a classic tea, then we can break it down. If they want something green or if they want something black or if they want something with caffeine without caffeine. But there's always ways to get the questions and the answers that you need to help them find the perfect cup.

Cathy Shafran: I see the table of contents. One of the chapters is drinking tea like an expert. How does one drink tea? Like an expert?

Lisa McDonald: Well, I think drinking tea like an expert is learning how to determine different flavors in your mouth. Like. Like wine or coffee or with any other beverage. You have different ways of tasting, so you taste bitter, you taste sweet, sour. Your tongue receives different flavors in different places. So it's just kind of training yourself to be able to pick out the different levels of flavor within a cup. So I think drinking tea like an expert would be making sure you brew it correctly, which is very important. Oliver Teas have very specific directions on how to brew. I think that's probably the most important thing using good water, using the right brewing equipment, but then really sitting down and letting your palate figure out all the different layers in the tea that you're drinking is probably the most important part as a quote, expert.

Cathy Shafran: Now you are an expert. You're a tea sommelier, as I understand it. So, what's your go-to tea?

Lisa McDonald: That's a really hard one. I love milky jade oolong. It's a greener oolong that's been steamed over milk. So it has this amazing creaminess. It's a classic tea. There's nothing added to it, but it kind of brings in the elements of green, but also the creaminess and the sweetness. I don't add anything to my tea, so it's kind of nice that that he offers at all.

Cathy Shafran: You're listening to 89 one WEMU. We're continuing our discussion about tea with a pair of local authors Lisa McDonald and Jill Rheinheimer who are also known from the TeaHaus of Ann Arbor. And, Jill, you've been eight years working at the Tea House and in the back side of things, doing a lot of design and writing. There are many people these days talking about tea in terms of their medicinal qualities, how they can help with various ailments in your body, neurological weight, gain, pain, the health effects of green tea, for example. What are you telling people they can find in terms of health benefits?

Jill Rheinheimer: They contain a lot of polyphenols, which are the antioxidants that people are looking for. And we know that polyphenols, we need them. We get them through all the fruits and vegetables that we eat and tea is very high in them. People looking for very specific things that he can do. That's not quite how the polyphenols work. Whatever we consume, our body has to metabolize them. So even though the potential may be very high in any given food, including in tea which is high in polyphenols and antioxidants, your body may or may not be able to use them. So if you think of tea as generally a very healthy beverage, that will give you a lot of these polyphenols that may have a positive effect in your body, that's great. Any tea will do that. And green tea. It has different polyphenols than black tea, but they both work as antioxidants. The problem is when people think that I have X disease and if I drink five cups of tea a day, it will fix that. That's where the science isn't there yet.

Cathy Shafran: I have found that green tea helps with arthritis type conditions. Are there any studies that they're connected, or is it all in my head?

Jill Rheinheimer: No, there have been studies on that. But the jury's kind of out on these things there. Yes, because this in tea is an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. It should theoretically help with information such as including arthritis. The problem is that the cause and effect isn't so clear yet.

Cathy Shafran Well, what about those who say, "I'm looking for something to calm me down. I want to go to sleep tonight. I need some chamomile."

Jill Rheinheimer: No. No scientific connection.

Lisa McDonald: No, there's no scientific there. And, honestly, if you drink too much of that before bed, you'll have to get up and pee anyway. I think it's more of the ritual. I think a lot of that has to do more with the ritual. If you think of the ritual of drinking coffee, it's usually making a quick pot of coffee or grabbing a quick cup of coffee to go. Whereas I think there is something to be said about the ritual of having a cup of tea no matter what you do. You have to wait for the water to boil the tea, to brew for it to cool and to have your first set. And I think a lot of that just comes from the inherent time it takes to brew a cup of tea. And in our busy lives, even if it's a two-minute break, it's a break that tea allows you to take. And I think that's very much important as well. I mean, there are no studies that say it's bad for you. So, in the end, drink up.

Cathy Shafran: Lisa MacDonald and Jill Rheinheimer, authors of "Tea for Dummies", thank you so much for joining us.

Lisa McDonald Thank you.

Cathy Shafran Definitely. It's been a learning experience for me. This is 89.1 WEMU-FM. I'm Cathy Shafran.

Here is alinkto the book. "Tea for Dummies" on Amazon

Here is alink to learn more about the TeaHaus in Ann Arbor

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Cathy Shafran was WEMU's afternoon news anchor and local host during WEMU's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered.
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