Tea is growing in popularity in the United States—from the warming teas we love in winter, to the refreshing ice teas we crave in summer and the blended concoctions in between. So it’s time we all learned more about tea and its health benefits, which are aplenty!
There are four primary types of tea, all made from the leaf of the Camellia sinensis plant: Green, black, oolong and white. The difference among them is the way in which they’re processed. Green tea is produced by drying and steaming unwilted tea leaves, whereas black tea is derived from leaves that are wilted and have been exposed to air, which oxidizes or ferments them (meaning the chemical compounds in the leaves begin to break down). White tea comes from young leaves and buds that have been exposed to minimal oxidation. Oolong tea is made from tea leaves that have been wilted, bruised and partially oxidized. And then there are herbal teas, such as chamomile and hibiscus, which come from different medicinal plants than green, black, white and oolong tea, but can also be beneficial and refreshing. (My favorite is Teavana’s youthberry wild orange blossom tea blend.)
All teas have zero calories and are loaded with health benefits, which are derived from the potent antioxidants they contain that can prevent and reverse damage wrought by the environment on our cells’ DNA. An analysis of 11 studies looking at daily consumption of black and/or green tea suggests that both varieties are beneficial for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels with little risk of adverse effects. There is little research on whether tea is healthier than coffee, but several studies indicate that both beverages, caffeinated and decaffeinated, may reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Disclosure: Teavana invited me as a guest to the opening of their store in NYC and gifted me with several teas and a tea dispenser.