A hot cup of tea has long been a daily thing for me. I grew up drinking hot tea and am one of the few non-coffee drinking adults I know.
In fact, almost half of the people in the US drink tea too.
Americans are new to the world of tea compared to other countries where people have been drinking it for centuries, believing it to improve their health.
Many in the East believe herbal tea can improve the mind, body and spirit as well as increasing their longevity.
Besides the warmth and nostalgia of a good cup of tea, are there actually health benefits one can derive from a cup of tea?
Is there one kind that is better than others in terms of health benefits?
Tea time is sought for relaxation, a getaway from the day’s activities, but is it super or just another way to quench your thirst?
Health Benefits of Tea
Many people believe that tea can benefit their health because of the known chemical properties found in the tea plant.
Tea contains polyphenols, antioxidants, and flavanols which have been shown to contribute to reducing disease risk but do not contain any specific essential nutrients, with the exception of manganese.
Researchers try to prove claims of health benefits but, at this point, no definitive proof of risk reduction has been adopted by the experts.
Current research is pointing to the presence of catechins, which are known to inhibit free radicals.
Researchers believe that green tea may reduce the risk of prostate, ovarian, and breast cancer. Therefore, studies continue to attempt to prove these claims.
Compounds in tea may lower the rate of heart disease, as well as lower cholesterol.
Some believe that tea drinkers in general lead a healthier lifestyle so find it difficult to isolate a cause and effect between tea and health benefits.
Hydration may be the primary benefit of tea drinking but the soothing, calming effect it has is a close second.
Types of Teas
There are many varieties of teas, including popular flavors of all kinds.
Which is your favorite?
All from the same leafy plant native to Asia – Camellia sinensis, the following tea varieties differ in the way they are produced. They may vary in the age of the leaf or the amount of oxidation of the leaves (think cutting into an apple causing it to turn brown from the air).
Green, Black, Oolong, Yellow, and White Teas all contain compounds that can improve health.
- White tea is the least processed, therefore contains the most health-inducing compounds.
- Chai tea is native to Persia. It usually refers to a black tea that is mixed with honey, spices and milk. Darjeeling tea refers to the region in India where it is grown and can be black, green, or white.
- Herbal teas are derived from different plant sources or combinations of different infusions, including fruit or spices. Popular varieties include chamomile and rosehip.
- Fermented tea, or kombucha, is a good source of probiotics to help achieve a healthy gut microbiome. They use sugar and yeast to ferment; some preparations may contain alcohol.
Tea contains caffeine but in much lower amounts than coffee. Four cups of black tea equal the caffeine in one cup of coffee. Black tea has more caffeine than green tea so many feel more energized drinking it.
Most tea sold in the US in bags or loose is a blend.
Many popular teas have flavors added to them such as jasmine tea which contains jasmine oil, Earl Grey which contains the addition of bergamot, or lemon or ginger tea with those flavorings.
A Truly Good Cup of Tea…
To make the most flavorful cup of tea, there are a few things to remember.
The water used to steep the tea should be hot – ideally near the boiling point.
The tea should also be steeped for a specific period of time to allow the leaves to fully produce the flavors. Black tea should steep between four and five minutes and green tea for fifteen minutes.
It is also preferred to serve tea in a warm cup or brew in a pre-warmed pot. Keep the pot warm while you drink it too. Have you seen a tea cozy?
My tea cozy is on the pot of tea above!
Some say that stirring the steeping tea or squeezing the tea bag will bring out tannins which could give the tea a more bitter flavor.
Sounds to me like it’s Time for Tea!