Friday, January 13, 2012

Tea for Two - how about 3, 4 or even 5?!

You have probably heard that green tea is good for you.  Do you know why?  Is it the only tea that is good for you?  What about the caffeine?

First off, let's clear up what tea actually is.  Green, Black, Oolong, and White teas are actual tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis (true tea) plant - the color refers to how long they are fermented and other processing that is or isn't used (There is also yellow tea. Red tea is actually black tea, unless it is Rooibos which is herbal).  Herbal teas are also very healthy in most cases, but each one contains different beneficial qualities from the various plants.

On the caffeine question, yes, if it is a true tea, it will have caffeine.  The content is much lower than coffee.  Black tea contains half or so than coffee.  Green is 80-90% less and oolong is in the middle.  White and yellow teas are even less than green.  You can choose decaffeinated versions, but the caffeination processes destroy the polyphenols (which is a health benefit we want!).  There is one process called effervescence which retains the polyphenols.  Hopefully, labels will tell you which process was used.  Herbal teas do not contain caffeine.

As for the health benefits of tea, those flavonoids are really beneficial, but there are lots of things going on with tea.  Studies often site high numbers of cups of tea 5-6 cups per day as beneficial, but it's really easy to drink that much or just half that since most of our mugs are 2-3 cups.  Longevity seems to be positively affected by drinking any type of tea. Recovery from surgery, particularly heart surgery improves.  Bone density is greater in tea drinkers.  Green, yellow and white tea have higher levels of flavonoids than the others.  Flavonoids increase our ability to fight cancer and also heart disease.  Adding black pepper to your digestive juices increases your absorption of the flavonoids.  No one has suggested how to do this, but I've decided to add a peppercorn to the brewing process - it is filtered out before I drink.  As for weight loss and green tea, the evidence is sketchy, but worth a try.

As for herbals, there are so many, I recommend finding a good resource.  Chamomile is calming for the mind and the digestive system.  It might also provide some heart health benefits as an anti-coagulant.  Peppermint tea has anti-viral and antioxidant qualities.  And hibiscus tea has helped with lowering high blood pressure.

Make sure to follow the brewing directions on the package.  This allows the tea leaf or the herb to release the taste and health properties correctly.

What type of tea will you try this week?

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