Health Benefits of Tea

Health Benefits of Tea

by Suzanne Duval d'Adrian

Everyone used to just reach for the canister on the counter or in the cupboard that said “Tea” in big, black letters. It didn’t matter what kind it was, as long as it steeped long enough, stayed hot and warmed you up. Those times are long past. Tastes have elevated, palates have changed and now, it’s not just certain cultures that appreciate a good oolong or herbal. Tea is something we can all enjoy.

There's a long list of health benefits associated with this ancient power-drink, but the key is knowing which type does what.

White Tea has the lowest caffeine content and is lightest in color. The leaves are harvested while still immature and covered in hair-like fibers that turn white with drying, hence it’s name. The lower processing results in leaves with a high level of antioxidants, making it great for skin and complexion and a host of other benefits including combating cancer cells, reducing plaque and risk of stroke, and defending against certain bacterial infections. The flavor is very subtle and tends to be sweeter.

Oolong Tea is truly artisan crafted — it’s dried, oxidized, and curled or twisted. It also contains approximately 15% of the caffeine found in a cup of coffee. Semi-fermentation results in the presence of a unique compound called polyphenol which is responsible for a host of health benefits including weight loss, removal of free radicals, treatment of skin disorders, improved bone structure, diabetes control, protection against cancer cells and stress reduction.

Green Tea — Considered the beverage of choice in Asia, green tea undergoes minimal oxidation during its processing which gives it the highest concentration of polyphenols and benefits. For over 400 years, it’s been recognized for its healing properties treating everything from headaches to depression. Like oolong, green tea contains EGCG, a special polyphenol and tannin with antioxidant qualities. It’s thought to build up the immune system and battle cancer cells, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, plaque and improve cardiovascular function. With about 30% of the caffeine found in coffee, green tea is best paired with fruity overtones or spices.

Black Tea — You’ve heard of Earl Grey and English Breakfast, right? This is the go-to tea in Western culture. It’s full bodied and strong, great for either hot or iced tea and has approximately 50% of the caffeine found in a cup of coffee. Black tea is fully fermented and can help to maintain cardiovascular function and a healthy circulatory system.

Rooibos Tea is also called 'Red Bush Tea.' It’s an herbal infusion made from (you guessed it) a South African red bush. Enjoyed either hot or iced, it contains high levels of polyphenols or antioxidants, promotes digestion, supports the immune system and promotes healthy skin, teeth and bones. It’s also thought to be anti-carcinogenic. Another little known fact is that it contains calcium and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. Some people aren’t fond of the taste (it’s slightly caramel-like), but I love it - especially with a hint of vanilla.

Mate (or Maté) Tea is lesser-known but considered the coffee lover's tea. This herbal brew provides the same energy boost as coffee, but without the jitters. Like the other herbals, it’s high in antioxidants but it also increases your metabolism, helps increase the ability to focus and can act as both a digestive aid and appetite suppressant. Mate contains 21 vitamins and minerals.

Now I understand the reasoning behind the ancient Chinese proverb, “Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one.” After realizing just how much this power-drink has to offer, I know I’ll certainly be reaching for a cup more often and suggesting that my family and friends do the same. Don’t be surprised if you stop by the studio and hear, “Would you like a cup of tea?”