It can be hard to sum tea up with one general definition, since it comes in so many varieties. Some teas are steeped and some are iced, some are made with spices, others are made with herbs, some are mixed with milk, others are frothed and the list goes on. However, the general understanding is that tea is an aromatic drink that is made by pouring hot water over cured or fresh leaves. It’s kind of similar to coffee, only instead of being made from beans, it’s made from leaves.
However, if you wanted to get fancy with your terms, tea in the most authentic form possible refers to beverages made from the Camellia sinensis plant. Everything else, such as chamomile tea, rooibos and fruit teas would be, technically, herbal teas or tisane.
Now, teas processed traditionally are called orthodox tea. This means that the top two most tender leaves and an unopened leaf bud are handpicked and processed following a specific five-step process. The ‘unorthodox’ way of making tea consists of a much faster style of production and is the most common form enjoyed today. This method was originally created for black tea but has now become pretty mainstream, as it allows harvesters to ‘mow’ the top of the bushes to get new leaves.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying one or the other, but a true tea artisan might argue that the only way to enjoy a brew is the orthodox way.
Types of Tea
When I say there’s no shortage of tea varieties, I wasn’t kidding. It’s estimated that more than 3000 varieties of tea exist, with each offering its own individual characters and flavor. That’s quite amazing if you think about it – there’s no other beverage in this world that comes with so many different options.
With that said, we aren’t about to start listing over 3000 types of teas. Instead, let’s narrow in on the main types of tea, which are:
- Black tea: A popular breakfast blend that is high in caffeine, with a more robust flavor than other varieties. It has a more astringent and bitter taste than other teas due to its high tannins content.
- Green Tea: Quick literally, a tea that brews up as light green and that tends to have a milder taste and lighter body. It doesn’t contain as much caffeine as black tea. It has a lower level of tannins as compared to black tea, but It has the highest amount of antioxidants.
- Oolong Tea: Tea that is partially oxidized that can be similar to black tea characteristics or more like green tea, or right in between.
- White Tea: A delicate variety that is popular amongst connoisseurs. It’s low in caffeine and has a light body with a crisp, clean finish and mild flavor.
- Pu-erh: Tea that has been aged and partially fermented to have a full body with a rich, deep flavor. Similar characteristics to black tea, including being high in caffeine.
Some other popular varieties of tea you have likely heard of before including matcha tea, herbal tea, Ceylon tea, rooibos tea, and so on and so forth. Again, the options are endless.
Different Types of Nutrients Found in Teas
Just when you think choosing the perfect tea for you comes down to flavor (it is a major factor), you discover that different teas contain different nutrients which offer different benefits. For example, Oolong tea is high in L-theanine, which is an amino acid that studies have proven to have many benefits for your cognitive health, such as improved brain activity, increased sleep quality and reduced stress and anxiety. And that’s only just one of the many nutrients that can be found in tea!
Here’s a crash course on the different types of benefits you can expect from the different nutrients in teas. Let’s categorize them based on the main types of tea mentioned above:
Fast Facts About Tea and Antioxidants in General
- High in antioxidants that can improve heart and gut health, lower bad cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Antioxidants can help remove free radicals to decrease the risk of chronic health and decrease damage in the body
- Antioxidants in green tea can reduce the risk of some cancers, including breast, prostate and colorectal cancer
- These antioxidants help protect your cells from damage caused by things, such as aging, the environment and your lifestyle
- Some research studies that show milk may reduce the antioxidant effects of tea. So you may want to cut down or eliminate milk from your cup of tea.
- Green tea contains the highest amount of polyphenols, catechins, flavonoids and l-theanine content, and is recognized as the healthiest type of tea
- Black tea contains the most caffeine and has the highest tannin concentration
You may have heard of terms like “flavonoids”, “catechins”, “tannins”, and so on. All of them are categorized under the polyphenols family, and tea is rich in them. These compounds have antioxidant properties that provide many health benefits, such as:
- Lower blood sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance and lower the risk of diabetes
- Lower blood cholesterol levels
- Assist in breaking down triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood that affects the thickening of artery walls and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other heart diseases.
- Reduce the risk of skin, lung, breast and prostate cancer
- Reduce inflammation
- Supports heart health
- It may give oral health benefits such as preventing cavities and gum diseases.
The amount of caffeine in any tea is usually lower than what you will find in coffee. Caffeine provides many health benefits, such as:
- Increase metabolism, which aids weight loss
- Decrease fatigue, improve mental functioning and improve memory
- Caffeine can help improve brain function, including mood, reaction time, vigilance and memory
A stimulant and amino acid. L-theanine provides health benefits such as:
- Increase dopamine and improve the production of alpha waves in the brain
- It has synergistic effects when combined with caffeine, which provides many benefits to the brain
- Improve your cognitive health, by improving brain activity, increasing sleep quality and reducing stress and anxiety
- Can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Studies have found L-theanine is able to reduce blood pressure levels
Tips for Boosting the Benefits of Tea
Tea is exceptionally healthy as it is. In other words, you don’t have to add anything to your brew or make any changes to start harnessing the vast array of health benefits. However, there are some tricks that can certainly boost those benefits to give you the best of all worlds.
- Add vitamin C into your tea to increase recovered levels of catechins
- Add citrus juice, such as lemon juice, to plain green tea, black tea or oolong tea for five times the amount of recovered levels of catechins
- The most effective juice additions to follow are orange, lime and grapefruit juice
- Brew with freshly boiled water for two to three minutes, as per the brand’s instructions to ensure you get the most of the bioactive compounds
- Brewing tea in the microwave for 1 minute after steeping with freshly boiled water for 30 seconds to increase the levels of bioactive compounds
- Use loose-leaf teas vs. tea bags as they tend to contain higher quality leaves, thus more bioactive compounds
- If you have to choose lower quality tea, look out for those that contain more stems as they have more L-theanine compounds.
- Opt for organic-grown and GMO-free tea leaves, if possible. You don’t want any pesticides or chemicals in your cup of tea after brewing.
- Adding slices or pieces of fresh fruit for a boost of health benefits and flavor. Try any of these flavor-compatible fruits to your tea: lemons, strawberries, peaches, apples, blueberries, raspberries, mango, oranges, pineapples, pears, cherries, passion fruit, or grapefruit.
- A sprinkle of ginger into your tea can reduce inflammation, calm the stomach and aid digestion. It can also help soothe a sore throat when combine with lemon and honey
- Cinnamon in your tea can help lower blood sugar levels and has many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
- Add a dollop of honey for a rich source of amino acids and antioxidants and an extra boost for your immune system
- Add mint leaves to your tea for a more refreshing taste. It can also help your sinus problems.
- Lavender flowers added to your tea can help reduce nervous tension and provide many other mental health benefits.
- Basil has Vitamin As and is great for your cardiovascular system as it contains numerous antioxidants that can even help prevent cancer
- Cayenne pepper is great for killing cancer cells. You can add a dash of cayenne pepper to your cup of tea.
- Nutmeg adds an excellent form of pain and digestion relief, while also being beneficial for the brain and oral health
- There are supplements available that can amplify health benefits simply by adding them to your cup of tea. One of them is Tea Burn (click to learn more).
Tea isn’t just a delicious beverage to enjoy. It also offers a plethora of health benefits that can do everything from boosting your immune system and mental health to curbing cravings and reducing your risk of serious diseases, including cancer. And that’s only to name a few of the advantages you get every time you take a sip of this aromatic, therapeutic drink. So, grab some loose leaves or a tea bag, add a sprinkle of some herbs, spices or citrus fruit for an added boost, and start boiling some water because the tea benefits aren’t something you’ll want to miss out on.