So the holiday season is over, and the reality of the New Year has landed upon us. The extreme emotions of Christmas, running the whole spectrum from exhilaration and joy to panic and angst, have finally subsided. Now we are faced with the emotional lull of the year’s early months, a time when the snow drifts seem just a bit more discoloured and the winds seem to bite at the face just a little bit harder. On top of it all, there are those reckless resolutions to lose weight, pay off the credit cards, get in shape, get more organized, and perhaps find a cure for all the world’s ills that seemed such a good idea after a few glasses of bubbly. Adding to the doldrums year, of course, is the unwanted prospect of a looming federal election. It may be true, as T.S.Eliot once claimed, that April is the cruelest month, but all-in-all January has always seemed to me to be in the running.
Having lived through a good many Januarys myself, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to approach this month is to slip into a lower, more comfortable gear. Instead of trying to improve myself and save the world all at the same time, I have come to the conclusion that the first thirty days of the year are to be reserved for “baby steps.” If your resolution is to lose a bit of weight, for instance, perhaps now is a good time to think about stoking your feelings of well-being by means of a soul-reviving bowl of hot and sour soup, followed by a brisk walk, rather than heading straight for the celery sticks and twenty minutes on the treadmill.
One of my very favourite ways of sliding into a slower rhythm of life during these grey days is by spending some serious quality time curled up in a nice warm spot with a cup of steaming tea. The robust flavour and caffeine rush of cappuccinos and espressos may be just the ticket for the adrenaline-fuelled weeks leading up to Yuletide, but the January afterglow requires something a lot more subtle and sedate.
Besides, tea just happens to be one of the best liquids that you can put in your body. According to Dr. Pat Kendall, Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist at Colorado State University Cooperative Extension (www.ext.colostate.edu), tea is, after water, “the most commonly consumed beverage in the world.” Kendall goes on to say that “all green, black and red (oolong) teas” contain the chemicals known as polyphenols that have antioxidant (cancer-fighting) properties. Some research has also pointed to the fact that these chemicals “help prevent blood clotting and lower cholesterol levels” (Dr. Kendall cautions, however, that the “majority of evidence comes from studies done on lab animals [and the] effect on people is unclear). She goes on to advise that the healthiest teas “are those brewed from loose leaves or tea bags of black, green or red tea, as they have the most antioxidant power.” She advises that all tea should be “steeped for three to five minutes to allow the maximum amount of antioxidants to be released,” and that iced teas are just as healthy as hot teas. Bottled teas, however, “often have a lower antioxidant level because they contain mostly water and sugar.” As added incentives, tea also “has fluoride for strong teeth, virtually no calories, and half the amount of caffeine found in an equal-sized cup of coffee.”
So the next time you’re feeling guilty because your new running shoes haven’t been broken in yet, perhaps you should just put on the kettle, stoke up the gas stove, and bask in the smug realization that your are about to do something positive for your body.