By Catherine Dunwoody
Photos by Nicol Spinola Photography
With over 150 types of tea sold, New Westminster’s Great Wall Tea Company, located in the River Market since 2010, has one of the most impressive selections in the lower mainland. With that much choice however, teatime could make your head spin a little. We asked co-owner of the shop, Lauren Bowler, for some tips on what tea can offer, so we can choose what suits us best.
Catherine Dunwoody: First off, how did you get into the tea business?
Lauren Bowler: I work primarily as an actor, but I was very intrigued by the idea of operating a small business. My business partner, Sean Smith, was also very interested in small start-ups and we knew we wanted to operate in a public market environment. I’ve had a passion for tea since high school, so when we brainstormed businesses we thought would both interest us and fit well in a market, tea was at the top of the list.
CD: Is it true that tea is good for you?
LB: Tea is a great source of anti-oxidants. More and more studies are continuing to show that green tea in particular has a positive effect on the brain, in helping memory, and in general well-being and mood.
CD: Is there a tea that jumpstarts you in the morning, like coffee?
LB: I personally choose matcha or organic cream Earl Grey. Those are my two favourites and I drink them religiously. Matcha is a fantastic stimulant. It’s higher in caffeine because you’re actually ingesting the leaves. It leaves your system slower than coffee so you don’t experience the debilitating “crash”. It’s great for your brain and your skin, and I feel pretty dang motivated to accomplish tasks when I drink it, making it a good pre-cursor to tackling the to-do list. Ha!
CD: Which tea do you suggest in the evening to help with sleep?
LB: Chamomile has a good reputation for a reason. It is a great option for people looking to calm themselves down and prepare their bodies and minds for sleep time. However, if someone finds they need something stronger than chamomile, I recommend visiting an herbalist, or someone that can recommend and oversee the use of herbs with stronger sedative properties.
CD: Is there a tea that acts like a natural sedative or calm one down during stressful times? Perhaps during the day that doesn’t make you sleepy but that helps you feel better?
LB: I love blending our organic honeybush with lavender. Lavender is a wonderful stress-reliever, and blended with organic honeybush gives it an earthy, naturally sweet finish. To be clear, these are herbal “teas” and do not come from the tea plant, which contains caffeine. Chamomile is also not technically a tea. Tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine that is known for stress reduction and relaxation, so some people find tea to be calming, this is really specific to each individual though. If someone were highly sensitive to caffeine, these wouldn’t be a recommendation at all. For me, green tea balances and grounds me, but black tea is very stimulating and I can’t drink it at night.
CD: Is there a tea that helps with curbing appetite or weight loss?
LB: I hesitate to comment on this because I don’t have medical training and I am not a scientist. There are so many beliefs around the health benefits of tea, but science is continuously working on supporting them and many of these benefits remain beliefs and not facts as of yet. However, many cultures around the world have been using tea therapeutically for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it is my belief that they aren’t to be discredited. Some people swear by green tea for appetite suppressing, for example. And pu-erh is often recommended for consuming with a fatty meal to help aid digestion.
CD: Some people think there’s more caffeine in tea than coffee, can you set this record straight?
LB: Kilo for kilo, there’s likely going to be more caffeine in tea. But that all changes with preparation. The average 8 oz cup uses 2 grams of loose tea, and 10 grams of coffee. There are varying levels of caffeine in different types of teas based on steeping times and water temperature, for example, but it’s a safe assumption that a cup of tea will always have less caffeine than a cup of coffee.
Great Wall Tea Company
810 Quayside Dr. (River Market)
New Westminster, BC