Beloved children’s author C.S. Lewis once said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” From China and Turkey to Ireland and the UK, tea suits the palate more than any other drink and is consumed at levels only secondary to water. Tea is a social event, a source of happiness, and the perfect complement to meditation. The benefits of tea aren’t all anecdotal, though. In recent years, Western research has illuminated tea’s abilities to lower cholesterol, encourage weight gain, lower disease risk, and enhance mental alertness.
“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD told WebMD. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”
Types & Health Benefits of Tea
All these teas come from the Camellia sinensis plant, but the difference is in the way the leaves are handled once picked. As popular tea maker Celestial Seasonings explains, “Green tea is gently steamed or pan-fired right after picking to preserve its bright green color and fresh taste. White tea is made from very young tea leaves and buds that are minimally processed after picking. Black tea is allowed to oxidize slightly before being dried to bring out a richer flavor.” Researchers have discovered that the different ways of processing the leaves may affect their health benefits as well.
- Green Tea: Unlike other teas, green tea is never fermented – and, therefore, the flavonoid epigallocatechin gallate does not get oxidized and exists in higher concentrations. Green tea is believed to inhibit cancers of the bladder, breast, lung, stomach, intestines, colon, and pancreas. It helps people burn fat, may help prevent artery clogging, and reduce the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The antioxidants in green tea may be effective against the flu virus and may help to boost immune system functioning. The mental benefits of green tea have been a popular topic in the news lately. Matcha green tea, in particular, is my “go-to” jitters-free energy drink when that dreaded midday slump strikes, as it has 137x the antioxidants of a brewed green tea and a substance called L-theanine, which supports a healthy mood and energy to fuel your day.
- White Tea: With large leaves that have undergone the least amount of overall processing, white tea has the highest content of polyphenols and contains less caffeine than other teas mentioned. A review of current literature done by the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine found that white tea has the power to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the body with more success than other teas – the focus was on bacteria that causes Staph and Strep infections, pneumonia, and tooth decay. One study showed that white tea can be nearly as effective as prescription drug sulindac at the prevention of colon tumors. The polyphenols in white tea help to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, and help you fight fatigue.
- Black Tea: The bold, strong flavor of black tea makes it the most popular. Early Grey, Darjeeling, Yunnan and Chai are all black teas. After a process of dyeing, rolling, fermenting and firing, the potent enzymes become different molecules that affect the body in different ways. For instance, black tea may be especially helpful in preventing mouth cancers and may even protect the lungs from cigarette smoke damage. The tannins and other compounds work to increase the acid resistance of the tooth enamel to prevent decay. Black tea may also help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke.
How To Get The Most From Your Tea
To maximize the health benefits of tea, it is recommended that you:.
- Buy tea from a store with high turnover to ensure freshness.
- Consume tea within 2 years of purchase.
- Use spring or filtered water.
- Steep loose tea in a tea ball for the maximum amount of B9.
- Heat black teas to 212 degrees or white and green teas to 170-180.
- Opt for 1 tsp of black tea or 1.5-2 teaspoons of white and green tea or as desired.
- For a stronger tea, add leaves, not time.
- Black tea requires 3-5 minutes of steeping, while white and green tea require just 2-3.
- Drink tea between meals or within an hour of eating to ensure proper iron absorption.
- Buy organic when possible