Health Benefits of Drinking Tea

Why drink tea?

Well, if you’re anything like me you are not a big fan of tea, such as black or green tea. Today, I’m going to convince myself and you that it’s worth adding a cup or more of tea to our day.

Let’s see first what’s special about tea.

  • Tea is an all-natural beverage with no additives, artificial flavorings or colors.
  • It has no calories when enjoyed without milk, sugar or honey.

Top Phytochemicals in Tea

Fresh brewed tea is a source of antioxidants called flavonoids – specifically, catechin flavonoids. These natural compounds are released into the cup through contact with boiling water. All black, green and oolong teas contain antioxidant catechins, including common blends such as Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey and English Breakfast. Decaffeinated tea also contains catechins.

  • According to researchers from Britain, two cups of black tea (500 ml) has the same antioxidant power as one glass of red wine, seven glasses of orange juice, or 20 glasses of apple juice.[1]

How do black teas compare to green tea? Black tea is lower in polyphenols like flavonoids because the tea leaves are fermented during processing. Among green teas, Japanese green teas contain more catechins than Chinese green tea – nearly 60 times more in some cases.[2]

Varieties of Tea

There are four basic types of tea: black, green, oolong and white. They all come from the Camellia sinensis bush that grows in tropical or subtropical climates. The process of oxidation, where oxygen comes into contact with enzymes in the tea leaf, is the difference between black and green teas.

Black Tea:

  • This is the type of tea you’ll find most commonly used in tea bags.
  • Black tea is made from leaves that have been fully oxidized or fermented. The resulting brew has a rich hearty flavor and is a deep amber color.
  • Types of black tea include: Orange Pekoe (which refers to the size of the leaf only), Assam, Yunnan, Nilgiri, Keemun, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Darjeeling and Earl Grey.

Green Tea:

  • Green tea is not fermented and thus has a more delicate taste and a light green color.
  • The tea leaves are withered, immediately steamed or heated to prevent oxidation and then rolled and dried.
  • It is more popular in Asia, but is gaining in favor in North America.
  • Types of green tea include: Gunpowder, Sencha, Genmaicha, Dragon Well and Jasmine.

Oolong Tea:

  • Very popular in China, this tea means “Black Dragon.”
  • The tea leaves are partially oxidized. This gives it a combination of taste and color qualities found in black and green tea.
  • Oolong teas should be served without milk or sugar as they are extremely flavorful and highly aromatic.
  • Types of Oolong tea: Formosa Oolong, Formosa Pouchong and Black Dragon.

White Tea:

  • This rare and expensive tea is minimally processed.
  • Generally it is only air-dried and slightly oxidized.
  • Of all teas, whites have the least amount of caffeine.
  • White tea should be steeped in warm not boiling water for at least 4-5 minutes.
  • Types of white tea include: White Peony, Drum Mountain White cloud, Darjeeling White and Yinzhen Silver Needle.

Tea Tips

How to Choose Tea

  • In general, you will get a fresher, more vibrant flavor from loose tea.
  • Be sure that the tea you are buying is fragrant and for loose tea, not powdery or limp.

How to Store Tea

  • Store both loose tea and tea bags in opaque, airtight containers.
  • Place in a cool spot and keep away from direct sunlight.
By OZphotography
By OZphotography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Prepare Tea

1. Fill the kettle with freshly drawn cold water. (oxygen brings out the full flavor of tea)
2. When the water is nearly boiling, pour a little into the teapot to warm it. Swirl around and empty. Or fill teapot with very hot tap water and let sit until tea water is ready.
3. Use one teabag for each cup or adjust to your personal preference of strength.
4. As soon as the kettle comes to a rolling boil, pour it directly onto the bags or loose tea leaves.
5. Replace the lid and set aside to infuse or steep for 2 to 4 minutes. (or to taste)
6. Remove tea bags. Pour. Use tea strainer if using loose tea leaves.
7. Optional add milk, lemon or honey.
8. Enjoy!

How to Enjoy Tea

  • Tea can be an ingredient in ice creams, chocolates, baked goods, and even marinades or rubs for meat.
  • For the most part however, we like to drink our tea. We all have a favorite – sweet, fragrant Jasmine green tea, slightly spicy Earl Grey, piquant and peachy Formosa Oolong or a flavored tea – like apple or blackcurrant. My favorite one is Chai Green Tea. Here are some expert tips on how to truly savor your daily “cuppa”:

1. Before steeping your tea, twist and smell the dry leaf. Enjoy its fragrant aroma.
2. After adding hot water to your tea leaves, note the brightness and odor of the infusion. (Color does not reflect upon its quality. Some teas brew lighter or darker than others.)
3. Take a slow sip. Note the strength and pungency of the tea. The ideal tea is brisk, flavorful and rich in color.

Main Health Benefits of Tea

Drinking tea may also reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and cut the risk of some cancers, including stomach, lung, colon, skin and oral cancers. Here are some the highlights from the extensive research on tea and health:

  • Breast cancer – Drinking at least five cups (1.25 L) of green tea has been linked to 22 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared to women that drink less than one cup per day.[3] Women who drink that much green tea also have lower risk of breast cancer recurrence – that is, treatment of breast cancer is somehow more successful in women who drink lots of green tea.[4]
  • Ovarian cancer – Drinking at least two cups (500 ml) of green tea per day, as oppose to less than one cup a month, has been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer 46 percent.[5] Green tea drinkers with ovarian cancer were also found to have 56 percent lower risk of death from this type of cancer as compared to their peers who didn’t enjoy green tea.[6]
  • Heart Disease – Drinking more than 2.5 cups (625 ml) of green tea lowers the risk of hypertension by 65 percent[7] and if you drink more than five cups of green tea per day, you could be lowering your risk of heart disease by as much as 23 percent.[8]

Herbal teas are not actually teas, but are tisanes or infusions. Although herbal blends are just as tasty and relaxing as actual tea, the health research does not apply to them.

Fun Fact

  • Did you know that about 85% of the caffeine in tea is dissolved in the first 45 to 60 seconds of steeping? If you love tea, but want to cut down on the caffeine, steep tea for one minute, pour out the liquid and discard. Pour fresh water back into the cup or pot and steep for the usual time (2-4 minutes).

I hope we are now convinced we need to add more than a “cuppa” of tea to our daily beverage intake.

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[1] Free Radic Res 1999, 30(2):153-62

[2] Foods that Fight Cancer, 2006.

[3] Carcinogenesis 2006, 27(7):1310-15

[4] Jpn J Cancer Res 1998, 89(3):254-61

[5] Arch Intern Med 2005, 165(22):2683-86

[6] Int J Cancer 2004, 112(3):465-69

[7] Arch Intern Med 2004, 164(14):1534-40.

[8] Int J Epidemiol April 11, 2007 (published online ahead of print)

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