That first sip of hot, freshly brewed Earl Grey tea is what awakens my taste buds and opens my eyes every morning. I love tea, and so do over 158 million Americans. Tea is the most consumed beverage (besides water) in the world. However, it is also a very misunderstood drink.
There are five different main types of tea, all which come from the same plant. The Camellia sinensis, a shrub native to India and China, is the same plant that produces green, black, white, oolong and pu-erh tea. The difference in these teas has everything to do with how the leaves of the Camellia sinensis are processed.
Green is made with steamed leaves, black with fermented, white with uncured and unfermented, oolong is partially fermented and pu-erh is made from fermented and aged leaves. Not only does these different processes effect the flavor, taste and color, but also the benefit levels of the tea.
All tea contains antioxidants called flavonoids, the most talked about being EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate), which may help in fighting free radicals that can contribute to health problems such as cancer, clogged arteries and heart disease. They also contain theanine and caffeine both of which affect the brain and help with mental alertness without a lot of caffeine. Tea has roughly half the amount of caffeine as coffee.
According to WebMD, “Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol and bring about mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.”
Green tea has been the most widely studied for these health benefits, but all types of brewed tea have levels of these healthy benefits. It should be noted that brewed teas are a better choice over bottled, especially the ones that have been sweetened and flavored with all kinds of… well, all kinds of who knows what!
At the onset of this article, I mentioned my love of Earl Grey tea. Earl Grey is traditionally a black tea that has been flavored with oil from the rind of the bergamot orange, which gives the maltiness of black tea a pleasant citrus note. This is the type of flavoring that one wants to see and taste in a healthy cup of tea.
There is also a big difference in tea that is steeped from a bag rather than loose-leaf tea. The tea in the bag is usually of a lower quality and made from the dust also known as fannings, whereas loose leaf is usually whole leaf. Whole leaf tea will generally give a better and less bitter flavor because the whole, loose leaves retain more of their essential oils that also give a better aroma. Steeping whole leaf tea allows for more circulation through the boiling water thereby releasing more of the teas flavor and healthy benefits.
However, the tea bag does offer a great convenience. In my opinion, a tea bag is better than no tea at all especially when that tea is in a better bag. Many tea companies offer a better bag such as round unbleached or sachet tea bags, which allow more water to flow through, expanding the potential of the tea. One such brand is Teatulia. Based in Denver, CO., teatulia is a clean, fresh, organic tea grown in a sustainable and regenerative method in the northern region of Bangladesh. This tea company also provides the women of the local communities where the tea is grown with opportunities to better the lives of themselves and their children through employment in the tea garden and a very unique cow-lending program. Teatulia is a tea brand that is new and available in many Coborn’s Natural Foods departments.
So, tea is relaxing, refreshing, healthy, calorie-free, oh so wonderful in so many ways. Not to be confused with tisanes, which is a French word for herbal drinks steeped in the same fashion as tea but made of dried flowers, roots and spices, containing no leaves from the tea bush. These herbals are caffeine free and also have many healthful benefits. Tisanes are also a topic for another day.
For today, I encourage you to try a quality green, black, white, oolong or pu-erh tea for the great health benefits found from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis.
Coborn’s Clearwater Natural Foods Manager
Click Here for more blogs written by Cheryl