I’m an avid tea drinker, so much so that almost not a day goes by without having at least a cup full. (And by cupful I really mean a mug full). See, my early introduction to tea began as a youngin’. Lipton was a staple in my household. And then there was Tetley. Bold, stern and dignified.
Growing up, coffee was definitely not an option as far as warm beverages were concerned. However that did little to stop me from falling in love with its enticing aroma. And no, this post is not about the forbidden warm beverage which I didn’t get to try until I got into college. That, I will talk about that in a later post. This post is of course about tea.
Now where was I? Yes, Tea. Tea was always there. Embedded in an almost ritualistic form at mealtimes. Always comforting and warm and sensible and just, charming. However, even with that much awareness and association, I did not realize how fun and adventurous it could be until in my teens when I tried flavored tea. Suddenly, my taste buds were awakened by the zing of lemon infused with herbs, and Hibiscus infused with what have of you (You get the point, I’m sure). And thus my experimenting with different kinds and types of tea, began.
Fast forward to present day and I have an entire section of my kitchen cabinet dedicated to tea. There are just so many enticing flavors out there; coupled with genius packaging that is bound to pique your interest. Personally, whenever I go to the grocery store, I have to will myself not to walk through the tea aisle because it’s almost hard to resist purchasing something new.
Before I got to where I am now, a tea fanatic, I will take it upon myself to enlighten you about the different types of tea out there, and their health benefits.
All types of tea- white, green, oolong and black tea come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Each type of tea has its own characteristics with regards taste, differing health benefits, and even different levels of caffeine which can be attributed to its degree of processing. Let’s explore each.
White Tea is known to be the ‘purest’ of all teas. This is because it has undergone the least amount of processing. It is derived from immature tea leaves that are picked right before the buds are fully developed. Due to this, they have the least amount of caffeine and are a good choice of tea for those that may be watching their caffeine intake. The result is a sweet, light and delicate flavor. Also, due to minimal processing, they contain more nutrients than their black or green counterparts.
- The abundant antioxidants boost the immune system
- It consists of flavonoids, a class of antioxidants which inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent the development of new ones
- It has the most potent anti-cancer properties compared to other teas due to minimal processing
- It contains catechins, an antioxidant that reduces ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL)
- It promotes healthy, radiant skin
Black tea is made with fermented tea leaves and contains the highest caffeine levels out of all the teas. Due to this characteristic, this type of tea is fitting for one who may be seeking a boost of energy. It serves as the backbone of blended and instant teas such as Chai and Earl Grey. It is robust, with a strong flavor.
- It provides an efficient energy boost
- It contains flavonoids that promote cardiovascular health by preventing damage to artery walls
- Polyphenols in tea seem to help in preventing the formation of potential carcinogens
- It is composed of catechins which studies have shown to help suppress tumors
- It aids digestion
Green tea originated in China, and it is processed in a variety of ways depending on the type of green tea being produced. It is unfermented, and the tea leaves are usually steamed or heated with dry heat which preserves most of the antioxidants. It has an earthy, bitter-sweet taste.
- Green tea extract can boost metabolism to help the body burn fat
- It has been found to effectively lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the body
- It contains antioxidants that are helpful for warding off aging and cellular damage
- Green tea has been linked to reduce the risk of several types of cancer such as skin cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer
Oolong tea is partially fermented, with the taste deeply varied within its subgroup. Flavors span thick and woody to sweet and fruity. Greener oolongs will have less caffeine content and darker oolongs contain high caffeine content. It is full bodied with a flavorful fragrance.
- It contains significant levels of fluoride, which helps prevent against the formation of dental carries
- It combats skin aging
- It lowers levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL)
- It aids digestion
Pu-erh tea is made from aged, fermented leaves. It is made either as loose leaf tea, but most commonly, the leaves are pressed into cakes. The process of fermenting the tea refines its flavor and character. It has a rich, dark, earthy flavor.
- It contains high amounts of flavonoids, which are aggressive in lowering blood pressure and ‘bad cholesterol’ LDL
- Studies have shown that this tea may decrease body mass and increase metabolism
Herbal teas are not ‘true teas’ because they are not made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant which the aforementioned teas originate from. It is sometimes referred to as tisane. Herbal teas can be broken into three categories: rooibos teas, mate teas, and herbal infusions.
This also known as red tea, and is made from South African red bush. It has a high level of Vitamin C and antioxidants, and it is caffeine free. Rooibos teas aid digestion, and help to support your immune system.
Mate tea is derived from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant. It contains caffeine, so this type of tea is ideal for coffee lovers. It also consists of antioxidants, amino acids, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals. It supports cardiovascular health and it boosts the immune system.
Herbal infusions are comprised of pure herbs, flowers, and fruits. Examples are Chamomile, which is purported to promote relaxation and Peppermint, which aids in digestion.
In conclusion, all types of tea have numerous benefits and are a healthy addition to any diet. It is my hope that you will become (1) just as passionately gaga about tea as I am or (2) incorporate it more into your diet.