All true tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. This ancient drink dates back to 2737 BC and is the second most consumed beverage in the world (only behind water) - and for good reason! The tea plant has many proven health benefits, including inducing a sense of calm alertness. The amino acid L-Theanine is found almost exclusively in Camellia sinensis and produces this wonderful relaxing effect, without causing drowsiness. Combine this with the uplifting moderate caffeine boost and you have the perfect no- jitters daytime pick-me up!
Tea is also high in healthy antioxidants and it has been suggested that drinking tea is even healthier than water! Green, Black, Oolong, White, and Pu-erh are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant. The unique processing for each tea category develops different flavours and highlights different health benefits.
It has taken some time for tea to regain popularity in North America after heavy taxation and the protest of the Boston Tea Party. Thankfully, the growing research in the scientific community has sparked a renewed passion for tea in recent years. January is now recognized as National Tea Month, and is considered a positive addition to a healthy lifestyle.
Leaves from Camellia sinensis undergo exposure to air and this "oxidation" process changes the essential oils in flavour, colour, and property. It develops a deep, dark aromatic leaf that produces a bold, astringent reddish liquor that holds up nicely to cream and sugar. There are many different types of black tea depending on the tea region and season. Flavours can range from fruity or floral to rich and malty.
The processing of black tea produces complex flavonoids known as thearubigin and theaflavin. These powerful antioxidants have been demonstrated to lower the risk of heart disease by preventing oxidation of LDL cholesterol, as well as improving coronary vasodilation and reducing blood clots. Three cups of black tea per day provides the recommended 600 mg of flavonoids. Black tea also contains tannins, which give this tea its characteristic astringent taste (the dryness you feel on the tip of your tongue). These tannins have been linked with fighting viruses, killing bacteria that prevent tooth decay, and assisting with digestive ailments.
Leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant are heated quickly to prevent oxidation and retain the flavour and attributes of the fresh leaf. Chinese green teas are typically pan-fired which yields a slightly toasted flavour. Japanese green teas are usually steamed to retain a sweeter more vegetal "grassy" flavour.
Green teas are very high in catechins suchs as EGCG. These antioxidants have excellent microbial action and help prevent cell damage. Green tea health benefits have been studied extensively and are reported to assist a multitude of conditions including brain health, diabetes, weight loss, skin care, heart disease and cancer.
Green tea also makes excellent iced tea and is a healthy alternative to water throughout the day. Alternatively, Matcha is a concentrated form of green tea and is a fantastic option for acquiring the health benefits of 10 cups of green tea in a single serving!
White tea is the most delicate and least processed of the tea types produced in the Fujian Province of China. Buds and tender immature leaves of Camellia sinensis are hand-picked and left to wither and dry naturally. These young silvery buds and tea leaves produce a soft yellow liquor with a light, delicate, subtly sweet and slighty floral taste.
Comprised of the youngest, freshest buds and leaves that are packed with antioxidants and are extremely nutrient dense, white tea is the ``microgreen`` of the tea plant. All the amazing health benefits of green tea are only amplified in white tea! With it`s mild and pleasant flavour, white tea is a great alternative to those seeking optimal health benefits from tea and do not want to vegetal flavour from a cup of green tea or matcha.
A semi-oxidized tea, oolong tea offers a perfect balance between a green and a black tea. Much variation exists in this tea category, as some lean closer to a green and others are closer to a black – depending on the level of oxidation. There is certain to be an oolong for everyone. This very pleasing tea often lacks the astringency of a black tea and the vegetal flavour of a green tea and is an excellent option for new tea drinkers.
Because oolong tea is only partly oxidized, it retains many of the catechins (and their associated health benefits) of green tea. Oolong tea has the added benefit of additional thearubigins and theaflavins that are created during the oxidation process, and found in black tea. Thus, oolong has many of the health benefits of both black and green tea! For many people oolong is the perfect cup of tea due to its appealing flavour and combined health benefits.
Produced in the Yunnan province of China, Pu-erh tea is a carefully crafted fermented black tea. The tea is aged from several weeks to years in warm and moist cellars. This process causes an enzymatic reaction which matures and mellows the tea, leading to a deep and earthy dark cup without the astringency typical of a black tea.
The fermentation process also produces beneficial micro-organisms which makes pu-erh unique amongst the teas. New studies suggest that the microbial reaction can produce small amounts of a natural statin which can lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol. Pu-erh is also the active ingredient in many weight loss teas, as studies suggest that pu-erh can suppress Fatty Acid Synthesis. To inhibit fat storage, it is best to drink pu-erh tea 30 minutes after each meal and use in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle practices. Pu-erh tea is a good choice for those seeking the health benefits of Camellia sinensis, but with a lower caffeine level which is reduced during the fermentation process.