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Benefits of Drinking Tea

Posted on February 23rd, 2016

There are hot tea drinkers and iced tea drinkers, and those who switch based on the weather. Any way you like it, tea has been around for centuries, and other than water, is the world's most consumed drink. Tea has been widely studied for its health benefits and is a great calorie-free drink option if you don't add milk or sweeteners like sugar or honey.

Tea is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, native to China and India, and includes four specific varieties: white, green, oolong and black. All contain antioxidants, consisting of polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins, which have a positive effect on our bodies, and according to WebMD, may help against free radicals (the toxic by-product of natural biological processes) that can contribute to cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries and is also thought to heighten mental alertness from the caffeine.

Other research documented in a Harvard Health Publications article shows that tea drinkers may be less likely to develop diabetes because the polyphenols help regulate blood sugar, and that substances found in tea may help lower blood pressure, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve cholesterol.

Tea 101
As tea leaves are processed, their flavor gets stronger. The level of oxidation, or exposure to the elements, is what determines whether a tea is white, green, oolong or black. Each variety has a different flavor and level of caffeine.

  • White tea – the least processed of the four varieties, white teas generally contain only buds and young leaves which are dried right away. This makes the tea light in color with a fragrant, sweet flavor and only about 15 milligrams of caffeine per cup. For comparison, a cup of coffee has 50 to 100 milligrams.
  • Green tea – with a grassy or lightly toasted flavor, green tea leaves are generally heated before they are dried to bring out more natural flavor. As expected, the liquid color is greenish in hue, and offers about 25 milligrams of caffeine in each cup.
  • Oolong tea – a partial oxidation process includes bruising or tearing oolong tea leaves to give it a rich color similar to black tea. It has a floral scent and contains about 30 milligrams of caffeine per cup.
  • Black tea – with the highest caffeine content of 40 milligrams per cup, black tea is bold and full-bodied. The leaves turn black before they are dried due to more oxidation, which gives black tea its astringency (the "dry mouth" sensation) left by the tannins. The liquid is a reddish-brown color.


Herbal Tea
A category of its own, herbal teas are made from plants other than Camellia sinensis, such as herbs, flowers, berries, spices, roots and fruits. They are caffeine free and are known for their natural medicinal qualities. Research suggests that chamomile tea may promote sleep, peppermint tea and ginger tea may reduce nausea, and rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss) may contain 50% more antioxidants than green tea. Be careful to avoid herbal weight-loss teas, which may contain dangerous laxatives.

Tea at its Best
Who knew that enjoying a simple cup of tea involved more than a tea bag and boiling water? Apparently, there are some things you should know about brewing it best. In an article in Fitness Magazine, tea expert Bruce Richardson explains that loose tea leaves provide the most health benefits and flavor (over tea bags) and that different tea varieties require different preparation.

  • White tea – prepare with water that is 155° F (boiling is 212° F) and let the water rest for three minutes before pouring.
  • Green tea – prepare with 165° F water, which should boil first and then rest for two minutes to cool before pouring.
  • Oolong tea – Get the water close to a boil before pouring, or let it rest for a minute after boiling, so it cools to 200° F before pouring.
  • Black tea – Pour at boiling temperature of 212° F with no resting.

In addition to the water temperature being cooler for lighter tea, Richardson says to watch your steeping time. Three to five minutes is a safe guideline for loose tea, but stay closer to three minutes for tea bags, which steep more quickly. If you oversteep, add a little more water to dilute the flavor.

This article has been provided for educational purposes only and is based on the most reliable information available on the date of publication.  If you have questions about whether or not tea is right for you, please consult your physician

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