Just add hot water.

By Stacey Ballis
February 11, 2021
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Winter is hard under the best of circumstances. The inclement weather, the short daylight hours, the post-holiday letdown: Winter can be the hardest season on many of us, physically, mentally and emotionally. Add in the current piling on of circumstances, and this winter more than ever before, we need a little something extra to get us through our days.

And the answer just might be as simple as starting a daily tea practice.

I don't mean just swapping in tea for your usual coffee, but rather, exploring both the ritual of making tea and the various health and wellness benefits of tea to help you move through your days with a bit more ease.

Credit: Getty / Tim Macpherson

Why tea is such a good thing to drink

Tea has long been associated with healthy benefits: A recent large-scale study showed that drinking just 3 cups of tea a week can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke. Add into that built-in benefit the psychological good that comes from a bit of ritual that making a cup of tea requires, and you're helping your mind deal with all kinds of challenges, from stress and sleeplessness to energy lag and overall COVID winter blahs.

Want to get tea into your life in a fun way that will pay feel-good dividends? Build a little tea practice into your schedule, using this guide for times of day paired with teas that are perfect matches.

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

When you wake up: Republic of Tea Hi-Caf Breakfast Black

Let's be honest: When that alarm goes off in the winter to a dark cold morning, getting out of bed and getting going is hard. So, start your day with a warming cup of a high-caffeine black tea to get you going. Black teas are still less caffeinated than coffee, so a highly caffeinated tea will not make you jittery but will give you that little bit of eye-opening to help get you started. Drink a cup (or two) with your breakfast and you'll be ready to get to your day.

Buy it: Republic of Tea Hi-Caf Breakfast Black ($14), amazon.com

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

The late-morning lull: Taylors of Harrogate Classic Chai Tea

The British understand that there is that late morning lull, usually around eleven, that can be addressed by a break for some tea and maybe a little snack. The tradition of elevenses is one we should absolutely adopt here. In no small part because it is a reminder to get up from our desks and move around for a few minutes. Taking a break late morning gives you a 10-15-minute recharge that can make a huge difference. For this break, I love a spicy tea or Indian chai blend, which feels like a treat in and of itself. The spices help to pop your eyes open a little wider. And if you are indulging in a little snack, the flavors tend to pair well. While you are waiting for your water to heat and your tea to brew, do a little stretching, walk around, get your blood moving, and if possible, don't look at your phone or computer to give your eyes and brain a break.

Buy it: Taylors of Harrogate Classic Chai Tea ($5.69), amazon.com 

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Lunchtime: Pure Leaf Unsweetened Green Tea

Drinking tea with your midday meal is a great way to get hydrated and continue to get the health benefits of tea. This is the ideal time for a green tea, which is milder in flavor, less caffeinated, and is credited with the greatest health benefits. It is a tea that is wonderful when served iced, which you might want with your midday meal, and the flavor is a lovely counterpoint to most foods (consider drinking it unsweetened).

Buy it: Pure Leaf Unsweetened Green Tea ($17 for 12-pack), amazon.com 

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Late afternoon: Twinings of London Decaffeinated Lady Grey Black Tea Bags

Sure, we tend to think of afternoon tea as a sit-down affair with tiered trays of sandwiches and sweets, but really, much like elevenses, this afternoon break is just another opportunity to get up, stretch, let your brain settle, and have a little something to tide you over till dinner. I get a mental slump around 3:30-4 every day and staying focused becomes difficult. I try not to have caffeine after lunchtime if I can help it, so I turn to decaf black teas for great rich flavor without negatively impacting my sleep. I love a classic Earl Grey in the afternoon, or even better, a slightly more elegant Lady Grey if I can get it. Twinings is the original.

Buy it: Twinings of London Decaffeinated Lady Grey Black Tea Bags ($20.94 for 6 boxes of 20 bags each), amazon.com 

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

After dinner: Republic of Tea After Meal Orange Ginger Mint Tea

Meals in the winter months tend to be on the heavier and richer side—comfort foods we crave for warming us from the inside out. But those delicious dinners can also be a little bit leaden on our tummies. Teas and tisanes have long been used as after-meal stomach settlers and ways to help us digest better. For me, they also can help stave off cravings for sweets, which I try to limit. I love an herbal tea with natural digestive benefits—ingredients like mint, ginger, fennel, caraway, and rosemary are all known to help after meals. And herbals are caffeine free, so no worries about sleep disruption.

Buy it: Republic of Tea After Meal Orange Ginger Mint Tea ($11), amazon.com 

Credit: Courtesy Amazon

Bedtime: Harney and Sons Tilleul Mint Herbal Tea

Winter nights are always a combination of chilled body and seriously un-chill mind. Getting your nerves and head settled a bit before bed, while also bringing physical warmth to your body is a nice combo for an easy drift into sleep and a restful night. I love a soothing herbal before bed, using it in a meditative way, really focusing on the taste, the feeling of the warmth, the steam in my face. Classic bedtime teas often have chamomile, but for me, in winter I love the combination of mint and linden.

Buy it: Harney and Sons Tilleul Mint Herbal Tea ($69.95 for 6 boxes of 20 sachets), amazon.com