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A coffee lover’s transition to loving teas and its medicinal properties – by Susan Tretakis

I must admit: I am a coffee-lover; a hard core coffee lover.

I was raised by long line of stubborn coffee lovers; my mother put chicory in the percolator (this was pre- Mr. Coffee and way before Keurig) to make the coffee “richer”.   My father was a NYC policeman who would not think of living a day without consuming 6 to 10 cups of coffee. The coffee pot was always on the stove and the last person in my house to partake was responsible for making a fresh pot.

Then there was my aunt who introduced me, at the age of 13, to dark roast coffee made in a French press and voila – a lifelong coffee addict was born. Every city I ever visited in the United States, be it Seattle, New Orleans, or Miami, as well other countries including Greece, Spain and France – were just additional opportunities to experience new and richer (think: thicker and more caffeine loaded) coffees.

Coffee powered me through college, graduate school and two internships. While living in New York, coffee kept me awake on my daily commute from Queens to Central Islip and from Queens to inner Manhattan. In Florida, coffee kept me going through the study of two more degrees, another internship and working three jobs at the same time.   Quite simply, I could not conceive of a day without coffee – as a stimulant and something that became with more and more frequency a social event.

Tea, on the other hand, was something that only wimps consumed – or something you sipped along with dry toast as you recuperated from an upset stomach.

So you can imagine my surprise at my desire to become a “tea person” after all of these years – and you may be asking yourselves why? My answer, quite simply, are the three life-changing words which seem to dictate most of my lifestyle choices lately: “Traditional Chinese Medicine”.

From Coffee to Tea Rific! – Tea and its health benefits have been enjoyed by practitioners for thousands of year. Since ancient times, green tea has been valued as an important tool for keeping the body and soul in optimum condition. Long been valued for its medicinal benefits, recent research has confirmed the healthful benefits of both Chinese and herbal teas.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is perhaps the most tested and experienced institution and currently serves more than one fourth of the population. The foundation of TCM is considered to be the four pillars of health: an appropriate attitude, proper rest, exercise to stimulate circulation and a balanced diet.

Research shows that tea manages to touch all four areas. It is well known – and documented – that tea both stimulates mental clarity and is able to soothe emotions. There are numerous scientific studies showing how tea invigorates the blood and vital energy, while relaxing muscles and clearing fatigue. Further benefits of tea include improved digestion, strengthening body systems and increasing longevity.

Various and recent studies also show that drinking certain teas may help with cancer, heart disease and diabetes; other teas may encourage weight loss, lower cholesterol and bring about mental alertness.

All my daily six to seven cups of coffee accomplished was to keep me going through the day – and well into the night! While it was relatively easy to discount the sleep disorders because of “too much coffee”, it was my neurologist who firmly told me my coffee consumption was a major culprit in magnifying both the intensity and frequency of my vertigo attacks. Vertigo is not fun – it is random and scary and debilitating. If I could stop these attacks without drugs, why wouldn’t I? Obviously, it was time for a change.

While I will readily admit I am not expert on TCM, research shows it to be a viable – and affordable – means of treating oneself – and for those for whom they care. While there are homeopathic treatments for vertigo as well as specific Chinese herbs, I believe it was the switch to tea that has not only lessened the frequency but the intensity of my specific vertigo attacks. However, I also discovered that tea has provided me with a variety of health benefits as well.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs prepared as a tea are considered the most beneficial form of consumption and it is encouraged to be consumed daily. In fact, there is a saying in Chinese culture that says “one can a day without food, but not a day without tea”. It is difficult to overstate the importance of tea in Chinese culture. This importance was centered in health long before the joy as a beverage was noticed.

The Chinese believe that we need to find an internal balance between cooling and warming. According to Wikipedia, “this balance between hot and cold, wet and dry, internal and external, ascending and descending is essential to maintaining ones’ health.” Additionally, research shows that “tea has the ability to drain excess dampness from the body, while moistening dryness”.

In his article “Secrets of Longevity”, Dr. Mao Shing Ni, writes, “skin blemishes would be an indication of too much internal heat. A cooling tea (i.e. mint) would be used to recreate balance. Problems with digestion would be an indication that the body is too cool and a warming tea (i.e. ginger, cinnamon) would be appropriate.”

I would caution anyone choosing a tea for health reasons to speak with a specialist – and if you are reading this post, the practitioners at both Boca Raton Acupuncture and at Care Wellness Center in Margate are knowledgeable and extremely willing to share their knowledge. My choice of tea is made with an eye toward the amount of caffeine and what additives – if any – are added to the final product – as well as input from my acupuncturist – who seems to know me better than my daily cup of coffee.

Through John Lennon and Yoko, most of us first heard of green tea in the mid 60’s. A quick Google search will tell you green tea helps to reduce inflammation, is a potent antioxidant and while it may help with weightloss, it does promote a general feel-goodness.

Green tea is what I used to rid myself of my excessive coffee habit – primarily because I knew that going “cold turkey” from caffeine would result in a somewhat sharper-tempered, grouchier person that I am on any given day. Green tea does have some caffeine, but studies show it is not as “caffeine rich” as coffee – and for me, it made an easy substitution for my morning coffee. It should be noted that most “tea practitioners” do not recommend green tea close to bedtime.

Two months ago, I would have said that I readily admit to NOT brewing my own tea. We live in a wonderful world where an excellent variety of both loose and bagged teas are available at local markets and health food stores. I do stay away from bottled teas – and partake only if I can read the label and see zero additives. However, since lately, I have been home more than usual, I find brewing a pot of tea just as simple as brewing a pot of coffee.

One concession that I did make on becoming a frequent tea-drinker was based on the realization that I would be using more hot water than usual. Rather than use my microwave multiple times during throughout the day, I did invest in an under sink hot water dispenser – a small price to pay for instant hot water for my tea without continual microwave nuking!

There are basically six categories of Chinese tea: green tea, black tea, yellow tea, dark tea, white tea and oolong tea. There are also many herbal teas, such as mint, chamomile, passionflower, and peppermint. I strongly suggest you spend some time in the tea aisle on your next trip to the supermarket or health food stores. Do you your “due diligence” online – there is a ton of information available. Some companies have created “blends” of herbal teas designed to treat depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.

One of the biggest benefits of both Chinese and herbal teas is that they are quickly absorbed by the body, and you are not waiting for some pill to be digested. For me, tea has relieved many of my health issues almost immediately. Turmeric blended white tea has helped ease the pain of my arthritis, the citrus and cinnamon blended teas have aided in my anxiety and improved my mood – all without caffeine and without added calories.

Peppermint tea cheers me. Right now, as I type this and a plumber works on a clogged bathroom drain and I await his “to be announced” bill, chamomile and ginger tea is quieting both my nervous mind and stomach.

So, how does one go from pure caffeine to a tea-based lifestyle?   Truthfully, it was one of the easier health transitions for me to accomplish. The best tea for me – quite candidly – is the one I enjoy the most.

The biggest hurdle I faced was explaining to friends why I was skipping my usual coffee for a cup of tea. Their concerned “Are you feeling all right?” made me realize just how many people equate tea with sickness when the opposite is true. Most coffee shops offer tea substitutions and, if not, it is easy to carry my own tea bags and simply request a cup of hot water.

I encourage you to begin substituting a cup of healthy Chinese or herbal tea for one cup of coffee a day. I think you’ll find – as I did – that you will be drinking more cups of tea – more kinds of tea – and I think you’ll be pleased to see how “tea-rific” you’ll begin to feel!



  • “Tea Therapy: Natural Remedies Using Traditional Chinese Medicine”, Amazon.com
  • Amy J. Jirsa, “How to Use Tea AS Medicine”. September 2017; Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Dr. Mao Shing Ni, L. Ac. D>OM, Ph.D, “Secrets of Longevity”, October 2015
  • “Medical benefits of Tea”, English Tea Store, The English Tea Store, www.englishteastore.com
  • Google: WebMd., Health and psychological benefits of tea / Chinese Tea vs Herbal Tea, 2014, revised 2016