Tea has a long history in various cultures: from the southwest of China during the Shang dynasty, to the first Portuguese priests in the 16th century bringing it to Europe, to today where we can find tea at our local Tesco. In Yunnan, tea originated as a medicinal drink and now researchers and scientists examine this old wisdom through experiments. This article will explore the health benefits of five teas.
For tea fanatics; green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea are considered as the ‘real thing’ and all of them are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant.
Green tea is the most researched tea, and it is made with steamed leaves. A study in 2015 shows that one cup of green tea every day may result in a lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes. Additionally, other research shows that the consumption of green tea and black tea could reduce the risk of strokes and diabetes. Moreover, drinking green tea for 3 to 6 months could result in a decrease of blood pressure. Finally, drinking green tea (or taking supplements of green tea) reduces the blood concentration of total cholesterol. Even though research does not support that green tea helps with weight loss, we have to agree that green tea is not just an amazing beverage, but it could provide many health benefits too.
Black tea is made with fermented tea leaves and it is the one that contains the highest amount of caffeine of the five aforementioned teas. Black tea is the most used for flavored teas. As mentioned above, black tea could reduce the risk of stroke and diabetes and lead to a decrease of blood pressure. A study showed that three cups of black tea per day results in a reduced chance of developing heart disease by 11%. Black tea contains polyphenols which maintain the health of the human gut by promoting good bacteria and inhibiting bad bacteria. Finally, another study on black tea’s polyphenols showed that the consumption of tea could prevent the spread of hormone-dependent breast tumors. I don’t know about you, but I am going to continue drinking my morning black tea.
White tea is uncured and unfermented. Interestingly, white tea does not have a universally accepted definition, but everyone agrees that – because it is not rolled or oxidized – it has that characteristic light flavor. Like green tea and black tea, white tea also reduces heart disease, alongside reducing the risk of insulin resistance. Moreover, white tea contains fluoride, catechins and tannins, and their combination helps to strengthen teeth by fighting bacteria and sugar. Catechins that are found in white tea also suppress cells that break down bones, hence protect against osteoporosis. However, if you do not like the taste of white tea, you can still get some health benefits by applying it to your face. Before you laugh, some studies show that the compounds in white tea protect skin from damage that links to aging.
Oolong Tea and Pu-erh Tea
Oolong tea differs because of the way it is processed because it goes through a partial oxidation. Like all the above teas it could reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. There is one study that shows that oolong tea (as well as green and black) could be associated with decreased risk of ovarian cancer. Pu-erh tea is under the expansive category of traditional Chinese fermented dark teas. There is some evidence that pu-erh tea helps with weight loss. There are several studies that show that pu-erh tea extract may reduce cholesterol levels .
Both teas are the less researched ones but also the most traditional out of the five. Oolong and Pu-erh tea have complicated processes in order to be made, with legends surrounding their origins.
Tea could be much more than just a beverage.
Tea tempers the spirits and
harmonizes the mind, dispels
lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens
thought and prevents drowsiness,
lightens or refreshes the body, and
clears the perceptive faculties.
Lu Yu, Eighth Century Chinese Poet.
Written by Angeliki Glarou of Swansea Tea Society (@SwanseaTeaSoc)
Image from Forbes