Matévana herbal tea

MatevanaThere’s been a lot of talk about Teavana over the past year as they became part of Starbucks and then opened the first Teavana tea bar in New York. I’ve never tasted any  tea from this brand so I was delighted when my husband picked some up on a stateside visit.

There were definite grumblings when I saw that Matévana was a flavoured blend and I very nearly gave up altogether when I saw it had artificial flavouring. Look at this for a list of ingredients: Mate, cocoa kernels, red rooibos, chocolate chips (sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa powder), artificial flavouring, almond pieces, marigold petals. There is no real tea in the mix but part of me still wants to complain about the contamination of maté and rooibos, their intermingling, the use of artificial flavouring and the addition of sugar and cocoa mass.

Truth be told though, I surprised myself by liking this tea. The taste of cocoa matches the maté well. I don’t agree that it is dark, rich or robust as its description claims but it does have a smooth sweetness and a gentle flavour of roasted nuts.

Preparation: I used 3g with 200ml of water just below boiling and left it for several minutes. This tea was $6 for a 2oz pack but it looks it’s on sale at the moment on the Teavana site for $1.50 (for 2oz).

Truth or myth: Green tea and weight loss

Well it’s that time of year again when tea is peddled as a weight-loss product. Green tea is often the focus of this attention but a Cochrane review was published in December 2012. This work reviewed all the published experiments that had been done on green tea for overweight or obese adults. The conclusion was that “green tea preparations appear to induce a small, statistically non-significant weight loss in overweight or obese adults”. The study also concluded that “green tea had no significant effect on the maintenance of weight loss”.

The full text of the review is available here and it is worth downloading for the appendices alone. The rationale for the systematic review was to provide healthcare providers and consumers with reliable information on the impact of green tea in weight loss and weight maintenance. The authors only looked at randomised controlled trials (the most thorough of investigations). The studies were all at least 12 weeks in duration and compared green tea preparations with a control in overweight or obese adults who had no other health problems.

Bancha - Green TeaA search was done across a very wide range of databases (MEDLINE, CINAHL, AMED etc) for studies that investigated weight-gain and green tea in humans. The search was not limited by language and around 919 studies were found. 72 of those were relevant and 18 met the criteria of this review (randomised control trial with just green tea, greater than 12 weeks, on participants who were overweight but had no other significant illness) . In total 2,076 people participated in these 18 studies (ranging from 19 to 270 for each). Half of the studies took place in Japan with the other 9 conducted in Netherlands, Australia, China, Taiwan, Thailand and the US.

Higher weight losses were reported in the Japanese studies with eight studies reporting weight losses that ranged from -3.5kg to -0.2kg but overall, the author concluded that green tea produced a “very small, statistically non-significant loss of weight, decrease in BMI, and decrease in waist circumference” compared to those who did not have the green tea. The role of caffeine is not clear but there are some indications that the catechins in green tea, and not caffeine, may have been responsible for the “modest effect on weight loss”.

It’s not very encouraging for people who have started drinking green tea to help with weight reduction but swapping a double-mocha for a green tea would obviously be a different story.  And green tea does bring other health benefits so as the author says “even though the changes may be small, any small loss combined with minimal adverse effects may have an overall positive impact on an individual attempting to lose weight”.

Jurgens  TM, Whelan  AM, Killian  L, Doucette  S, Kirk  S, Foy  E. Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.  2012 Dec 12.

The Kombucha experiment – Part II

I’m tying up the loose ends of 2013 by writing Part II of the Kombucha experiment (see Part I here).

Since I the experiment started, I received a very kind offer of a SCOBY from the good people at l’Heure Bleue in Belgium. Unfortunately, security at Brussels Airport had other ideas about international trafficking of SCOBYs in containers that are larger than 100ml and sadly is was consigned to the bin.

In the mean-time, my own SCOBY seems to be doing pretty well. Three weeks after it started to grow, the SCOBY was thin looking but there was no mould and it had patches that were thick and white so I deemed it safe and went ahead a brewed my first batch of Kombucha.


I don’t know how important the rules of SCOBY-handling are but one of the most common rules is no metal touching the SCOBY so no spoons, jewellery, metal containers etc. Before handling the SCOBY hands should be clean but not with antibacterial soup. Cider vinegar seems to be the best way to clean your hands before handling.

Once you have successfully grown the SCOBY, here’s what is needed to prepare the first brew of Kombucha:

  • 200-300ml of the liquid that the SCOBY formed in
  • 2 litres of tea
  • 175g of sugar
  • A large, clean glass container
  • A tea towel and elastic band

Brew the tea by steeping the tea leaves in 2 litres of boiling water. Add the sugar and allow it to brew for at least 30 minutes. At this stage it is ok to use metal to stir because the SCOBY has not been introduced. Strain the leaves and pour into the clean glass container then leave to cool. It took around four hours for mine to cool to room temperature. Any hotter than this will harm the SCOBY but too cold is not good either (temperamental, these SCOBYs!!).

SCOBY in new homeOnce it is cool enough, slide the SCOBY into the large glass container and add approx. 300ml of the liquid that it grew in. The rest of the liquid that the SCOBY formed in can be discarded. Apparently it is safe to drink but is just very weak kombucha and not very tasty.

When the SCOBY is added it might float or sink or it might try some acrobatics with a half-floating manoeuvre, like mine did. It doesn’t really matter. Cover the glass container with a tea towel and elastic band and put it in a warm dry place.


Kombucha takes about 2 weeks to brew but the brew time can be adjusted to personal taste. It becomes less sweet with time but factors like temperature and surface area will also affect the speed of the process. Ideally, brewing should take place between 22 and 29°C. Mine is at 18°C so brewing time will definitely be longer.

Rehoming SCOBY

Once the first batch is ready you can bottle the kombucha and transfer the SCOBY (with 200ml of the brewed kombucha) to a new preparation of sweetened tea and the process starts all over again.

Kombucha naturally has very gentle carbonation that gives a tingling sensation but to get more fizz, let it sit in an airtight bottles at room temperature for a day or two. I’ve read about adding blueberries or ginger to boost carbonation but haven’t tried this yet.

Each time you brew a batch of Kombucha, a new SCOBY will grow adjacent to the original SCOBY. You can leave them together or separate to share with friends or start making jewellery!