Chinalife Camden - It's all about Oolong!

Courtesy of London Health Week, last night I attended a great event at Chinalife - a specialist herbal tea store and cafe on Camden High Street - where I learned all about the benefits and antioxidant powers of tea drinking. ( I also learned I'd been doing it all wrong - turns out even my Teapigs teabags - actually just a sub-brand of Tetley - don't have nearly the same powers as fresh leaves!)

Chinalife - inside
As I entered the store, I was greeted with an array of fresh and interesting looking tea leaves and herbs. We were offered a cuppa from the well stocked Tea Bar (where you can try out any of the interesting blends), before being directed to the back room where the event was taking place.

Presentation Room
After introducing himself, Chinalife Founder and Director, Don, told us the story of how this great venue came about. Founded in 2007, Don felt that the concept of natural healthy living with herbs and tea had, for far too long, been thrown together with images of perfectly pure people restricting themselves from indulgence. Don wanted to show that Tea and Chinese herbs can be enjoyed by everybody - no matter if you go to yoga or the pub every day!

Chinalife Cafe area
As the harvest is different every season, Don travels to China twice a year to ensure he sources the highest quality, finest premium teas.  Giving us a comparison we could all understand, he said tea is like wine - whilst all wine comes from grapes, you can get many different varieties depending on the process it goes through. Tea is the same - it all comes from one plant, however it is different levels of oxidation it goes through that distinguish the type of tea that will be produced.

Just a glimpse of the vast tea selection of offer!

It takes over 32 hours for each tea to be produced - from when it is picked to its finished state, with the oxidisation process being the key criteria to differentiate the different types:
  •  The tea that undergoes the highest oxidation is black tea, usually around 90%. 
  • White tea, on the other hand, has around 10% oxidation, as it undergoes a heating process that deactivates the oxidising enzyme. 
  • Green tea, the most widely renowned for health benefits, has the least oxidation - usually around 0-2%. 
  • Also, there's yellow tea- very rare and difficult to find, following the same oxidation process as green tea but then is steamed at a later date.
What was great to find out is that, not only does out one cup of tea has the same level of antioxidants as your full 5 a day, but also contains a healthy does L-Theanine, the amino acid which produces feelings of well being and relaxation. Hence why we all go for a cuppa when things get stressful!
Presentations galore!
Scientists tend to focus on the health benefits of green tea due to the fact it has the strongest content of the most potent antioxidant, EGCG - great for cleansing the body and increasing metabolic rate. However, as the tea gets darker, the antioxidant effect switches to have greater digestive and cardiovascular effects.... meaning black tea can be just as beneficial! What Don recommended, however, was the magic Oolong tea. Sitting in the middle of the oxidisation process of green and black tea, Oolong tea (generally the highest regarded amongst tea connoisseurs) therefore gives you the benefits of both!

So we tried out Oolong teas in 3 different varieties, and identified the tastes using the chart he helpfully displayed on the screen.Who knew tea could have so many different elements to it?!

Tea tastes!

Tasting Time
Here's what I thought of the three we tried:

  • Superior Iron Goddess - a very soft, buttery and milky tea. Easy drink and extremely comforting.... definitely my favourite of the three.

  • Amber Gaba - much more fruity and grassy, with a slightly nutty hint to it.... apparently if you drink a lot of this tea it can leave you feeling a little drunk! Taste wise, this wasn't my favourite, however apparently Gaba tea can both cure a hangover and contains enzymes to stimulate growth hormone.... so this may be one I resume with!

  • Frozen Summit - a spicy taste, very rich with popcorn and acorn hints. As a long-finish tea, this one coats your throat, meaning it can still be tasted up to 4 hours after consuming.

 My partner in crime and I testing some teas!

After finishing the tasting we went out to browse the shop. Having been fully inspired hearing the numerous health benefits of the innocent substance, I purchased myself a little bag of fresh leaves to make my own brew at home, following Don's simple instructions to make the perfect cup. Note: water should be around 80-90 degrees C, so stop the kettle just as you begin to see some steam coming out. Trust me, I tried it and it does make a difference!

 A tasty tea 'shot' and a cute little bag for taking home!

All in all, a fantastic experience, and I would definitely recommend all tea lovers to visit :-) (and even not tea lovers - I'm a coffee girl myself, but I have been converted!) The store even has treatment rooms offering everything from Thai Massages to Chinese Reflexology to Acupuncture.... which I'm very keen to try in an attempt to cure my on-going IT Band injury.... watch this space, I may be back to properly reviewing these fitness classes.... finally!

China Life Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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