There are so many kinds of tea out there. Different countries have their own variation on this beloved beverage, with a wide array of roasts and aromas (yes, just like coffee!). To help you understand it better, we delved into the world of tea and compiled their health benefits, just for you.
Popular types of tea and their health benefits
There is a great variety of teas on the market that can be beneficial to our health. Here is a list of teas considered good for you along with their health benefits.
Variations: Sencha, Genmaicha, Matcha, Hojicha, Jasmine (infused) green tea.
Green tea and some other variations of teas, such as black tea, white tea and oolong tea come from the same plant family called camellia sinensis.
Green tea is made by quickly heating or frying the tea leaves. This step is used to prevent oxidation that turns leaves brown and creates a variation of black tea. Chinese green tea is mainly made using frying technique which produces a ‘gunpowder green tea’ and a ‘dragon well green tea’, whereas Japanese green tea uses a steaming procedure which gives its tea leaves a richer green colour. The leaves are then further processed to produce different variations: “sencha”, which is the basic green tea, is roasted over a high heat to produce “hojicha”. Sencha can also be put in a blend with roasted and popped rice to make “genmaicha”.
Health benefits of green tea: a high concentration of polyphenols contained in green tea helps to reduce inflammation and fight cancer. In addition, a substance called L-theanine stimulates the production of dopamine and alpha waves giving us a calming effect.
Variations: Ceylon, Darjeeling, Earl grey, English breakfast, Assam.
The only difference between black tea and green tea is the type of processing that has been applied to the tea leaves. After being picked from the plant, tea leaves are left to wither and oxidise under the hot sun. Once the leaves have dried, the next step is to collect the dry tea leaves, roll them up and crush them. During the drying process, tea leaves will gradually acquire a distinct black color.
Health benefits of black tea: since black tea is also a rich source of polyphenols and other antioxidant properties, it helps to minimise the risk of cellular diseases such as cancer. Furthermore, black tea can be used as a good replacement for coffee as it contains the highest percentage of caffeine amongst all other tea options.
While green tea and black tea come from the same plant family and share some common characteristics, oolong tea stands somewhere in between. In contrast to black tea, oolong tea is only partially fermented making it less strong.
Health benefits of oolong tea: this type of tea is highly popular in Chinese culture as it helps reduce blood sugar levels and speed up digestion. Oolong tea is an excellent middle ground option for those of you who still want to reap the caffeinating properties but don’t want to drink a lot of black tea. It is recommended to not drink more than one liter of oolong tea as more than that would be exposing yourself to too much fluoride (contained in the tea leaves).
There are other variations of oolong tea that are infused with other ingredients, these include ginseng oolong, which is a Chinese variation that incorporates ginseng in the processing of green tea leaves.
White tea is made from tea leaves that are harvested before tea plants’ leaves are fully open. The name “white tea” comes from the small white hairs that are left on the young buds during tea leaves’ picking process. White tea is a variety of tea that has the least processing since its tea leaves are subject to little or no oxidation. White teas are generally softer and bring more delicate flavors with hints of floral or fruity notes.
Health benefits of white tea: due to being picked at its freshest and having been through minimal processing, white tea is considered to be the tea with the highest amounts of antioxidants. White teas are also higher in catechins than other variations of teas; catechins are a specific type of antioxidant that can help boost metabolism and fight bacteria that causes plaque on our teeth.
Pu’er tea is a specific variation of green tea leaves produced in Yunnan.
Health benefits of pu’er tea: the processing of these leaves consists of a two-part fermentation procedure that makes use of the humid environment, increasing the beneficial bacteria and fungi that contribute to the health benefits of pu’er tea.
Other than containing the all-round antioxidizing properties that come with all “true teas”, pu’er tea is also specifically used in Chinese medicinal practices to support the spleen, and aid in filtering the blood to remove toxins from our circulatory system.
Tisanes are variations of tea that are not made with tea leaves from the plant camellia sinensis. These usually consist of other flowering plants and may also include spices and fruits.
Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free variation of tea that comes from South Africa. This tea stems from the plant Aspalathus linearis and is considered to be herbal. Some theories claim that rooibos tea is contains a specific antioxidant called aspalathin, which supposedly helps in balancing blood sugar levels for those with type-2 diabetes, but research is still being done to support this.
Chamomile tea is made from dried chamomile flowers. It is commonly used for its calming properties. Chamomile tea is also a good remedy for soothing menstrual pain, as well as reducing stress and anxiety to ease the mind for better sleep.
Chrysanthemum tea is a very popular drink that originates from southern China. It is made by brewing dried chrysanthemum flowers. Besides its calming properties, it helps to cool the body and is an anti-inflammatory agent which is why it is commonly used as a Chinese traditional remedy.
Peppermint tea is made using leaves from the peppermint plant. A high concentration of menthol serves some functions such as relieving headaches and refreshing our breath. The peppermint oil that is contained in the peppermint leaves can also produce aromas that, when breathed in, refreshes the mind and clears the sinuses, making it a great tea to drink when we feel a cold creeping up on us.
Chai tea is actually Assam black tea infused with spices such as cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. It is a drink that originated in India, and is a popular drink amongst Western cultures. Chai tea with ginger helps relieve nausea while other spices contained in chai help prevent digestive issues caused by harmful bacteria.
Can tea be bad for you?
Essentially, there are no bad teas. But drinking tea in large quantities can cause some problems like high blood pressure and digestive issues. Here are some things to watch out for:
Tea leaves over tea bags
The leaves for tea bags are generally less carefully selected, therefore, loose leaf teas are usually better quality. Furthermore, cheaper tea bags are more likely to have been made with cheaper materials or bleached in the production process so could be dangerous for our consumption.
Don’t over brew it
The caffeine content of the tea is directly linked with how long it’s been brewing for. But not only that, brewing for longer could also mean higher concentrations of metals such as lead. That is why it’s best to not steep tea for longer than 3-4 minutes. Limiting the brewing time not only reduces the absorption of potential metals, but also lowers our exposure to fluoride.
Teas to watch out for
Lemon tea has always been a very popular choice but experts are saying that adding lemon to black tea actually lowers the pH of the tea and creates an environment for harmful metals to seep into the tea.
Milk tea & Bubble tea
This is not so much about the tea itself, but about the ingredients that are added to the tea-based drinks. There is a lot of artificial sugars and flavourings added to these mixed drinks making them more unhealthy. Not to mention the use of substitute ingredients to cut down costs such as the case of adding milk powders instead of fresh milk or flavoured syrups instead of the real ingredients.
What to remember
- Go for purer types of tea leaves and try higher quality blends if you tend to drink more than 4 cups a day.
- Don’t over steep it, avoid brewing your tea for more than 4 minutes.
- Try to drink your tea at 60-80 degrees Celsius. Drinking tea when it’s boiling increases the risk of disease in the oesophagus area and minimises the nutritional benefits.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about the wide variety of teas available on the market and their various health benefits. Check out our other articles on healthy living, and subscribe to our newsletter for more updates!