If you are a tea-drinker perplexed by the many varieties of teas out there, you are not alone. Life-long tea drinkers and recent converts from coffee find themselves scanning the aisles in stores feeling overwhelmed by the many choices. What’s the difference between green tea, black tea, and white tea? Can oolong tea really help you lose weight? Are the health benefits listed on the box of herbal teas really true?
When it comes to black, green, white, oolong teas, all of the tea leaves actually come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. The reason there are unique flavors is that the teas are processed differently. The main factor considered in these leaves is oxidation, a process in which the tea leaves are maintained in a climate-controlled room. The darker they get, the more oxidized they are, which leads to a stronger flavor and color.
White tea is the least processed, almost no oxidation in fact. The leaves are picked when they are young and steamed right away to maintain the green color. They may also be shaded for a month before picking the tea leaves, which produces catechins, a natural antioxidant. There are many possible benefits of drinking white tea, including, cancer prevention, cardiovascular health, and healthy bones. White tea has a mild flavor and about 15mg of caffeine per cup.
Green tea leaves are next lowest in oxidation as they are heated after picking to stop the oxidation process. A cup of green tea contains 25 mg of caffeine per cup and is also known to have catechins, which some doctors believe have health benefits for fighting off cancer and heart disease. Many studies show that you can reap the benefits of green tea in just one cup. Many people like green tea because of its light flavor.
To make oolong tea, the leaves are wilted and shaken to cause small tears in the leaves to start the oxidization process. Oolong teas vary in how long they are oxidized for, but what it’s most known for is as a weight-loss tool. According to Oolong Tea Benefits, “Oolong tea can also help you lower your triglyceride levels and even stave off the onset of type II diabetes.” Many studies support the fact that people who drink oolong tea burn more calories than those who drank just water. Oolong tea can vary in flavor, and it contains about 30mg of caffeine per cup.
Black tea is one of the most common varieties of teas. It has a slightly bitter taste and has almost as much caffeine as a cup of coffee (40 mg/cup). A cup of coffee has about 50-100mg/cup. Black tea has been fully oxidized and is known for having several antioxidants compounds – theaflavins and thearubigins. The Color of Tea points to many benefits of drinking black tea, including a study out of Rutgers University that “reveals that black tea may help prevent stomach, prostate, and breast cancer.” Drinking black tea regularly (about 3 cups/day) is linked to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke as well.
What about herbal teas? In reality, herbal “teas” are not technically teas; they are usually composed of herbs, dried fruits and flowers, and they usually don’t contain tea leaves or caffeine. While there’s ongoing research on black, green, white, and oolong tea, there’s not as much research on the many herbal varieties to back the many claims on the boxes. Researchers and doctors are more confident in the claims in that chamomile is relaxing and promotes sleep while peppermint tea is soothing to the stomach. However, there are so many varieties and claims that more research may be needed to support the claims. Web MD lists many herbal teas and their benefits. Be careful when choosing an herbal tea for weight loss as many can have a laxative effect.
My favorite tea indulgence is chai tea, a type of tea that originates in India where “chai” literally translates to “tea.” We see chai tea as a type of spiced tea because it is black tea that includes ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, fennel and star anise in many varieties of the tea. These spices are said to improve circulation, aid digestion, and reduce blood sugar. Adding milk can means that the drinker gets additional protein and nutrients from the milk as well.
It takes 2,000 to 3,000 leaves to produce one pound of finished tea. That’s a lot of hard work that goes into one cup of relaxation, rejuvenation, or energizing your day! Whatever your choice of tea, you can now appreciate the benefits in that little (or big) cup of tea.