Time off from teatime

Let’s talk about another beverage for a change: tea.

I like tea, especially black tea. The black teas made by Equal Exchange are my favorite and I usually start the day with a cup of Organic Irish Breakfast or Organic English Breakfast. I prefer the Irish version because the flavor is more robust. (I am not sure how authentic they are since I have never been to Ireland or England, but I hope they are comparable.) My morning ritual has become: boil water, let the kettle sit for five minutes, pour into a cup with a tea bag, steep for five minutes, then enjoy as I work.

I often follow that first cup with another cup of black tea — usually Equal Exchange’s Organic Black Tea — or green tea. Then, in the afternoon, I have a cup of Bigelow’s English Teatime.

I started drinking tea only three or four years ago. At first it was that one cup in the morning, but I eventually added a cup in the afternoon and a second cup in the morning. For me, tea provides a pleasant and warm start to the day and a tasty treat in the afternoon. Sure, I pee quite a bit because I also drink a lot of water (tea also helps loosen the bowels in the morning), but tea is something I enjoy drinking.

Now, let’s shift gears for a moment.

Over the past couple years I have felt more and more harried and stressed. I have been losing my famous easy going and relaxed demeanor. My heart rate and blood pressure have been on the rise, too. Every time I turn around there seems to be something else I need to do, something else I am forcing myself to do for the sake of doing something, and something else I am obsessing over or worrying about. For a long time I attributed it to my increasing workload, an incessant personal conviction to be productive, and a possible genetic predisposition to OCD and anxiety kicking in. However, I recently began to wonder if there is another explanation — perhaps one that stains my mugs.

Could it be the tea? I’m not sure, but I decided to not drink it this week to see if it is a factor. I am on Day 5 and do feel more relaxed, more chilled out, less tense.

I suspect caffeine may be the culprit. I don’t drink pop anymore, and do not touch energy drinks, so tea is my only source of caffeine. (I recently dreamt that I popped open a can of Mountain Dew and started drinking it. After finishing half of the can, I thought, “Oh shit! My pop-free streak is over!”) I cannot find exactly how much caffeine is in the tea I drink, but the range for black tea printed on the box of Bigelow English Teatime is 30–60 milligrams. The range for green tea is 20–50 mg. So say each bag of black tea I use contains the maximum 60 mg. My (formally) daily three cups would mean I was consuming 180 mg of caffeine.

Is that a lot? According to a Mayo Clinic article about caffeine intake, “[u]p to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That's roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two ‘energy shot’ drinks.” Damn! That’s a lot of caffeine, and no where near what I apparently consume. The article goes on to define heavy caffeine use as over 500–600 mg per day, so I am definitely on the light side of the spectrum.

That’s good news, apparently, because I miss my morning ritual and have a cupboard full of tea I need to use. (I am sure The Loud Sister and J-Rod do not miss the beeping of the microwave timer.) However, I am not sure how to reconcile that fact with my lower heart rate, decreased stress, and returned relaxation. (Oddly, my tension began to rise when I started writing this post. Maybe blogging has become detrimental to my health. Lord knows I turn everything I am interested in into a series of blog posts.) I’ll have to play this by ear.

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