There are four basic types of tea: black, oolong (red), green and white. The difference between the four types is essentially how they are processed, with green tea being the least processed.
What gives tea its distinctive flavor is the degree to which this plant is processed. Processing can include oxidizing, heating, drying – which determines the type of tea – and the additions of flavoring like vanilla, herbs, flowers, spices and fruits. The addition of natural flavors and essences can create unlimited amounts of exciting flavors.
Tea is prepared by steeping leaves, buds and stalks from different varieties of an evergreen known as camellia sinensis. Tea has many health benefits because its leaves contain chemicals called polyphenols. These chemicals give tea its antioxidant properties, and are a natural source of the amino acid theanine.
Herbal tea, which some experts call the fifth type of tea, usually contains no camellia sinensis, but rather herbs, flowers and fruit infusions. Herbal teas are the most convenient form of herbal remedies and may be used daily as tonics, for energy, or for overall wellness.
There are literally thousands of variations of tea, and finding the kind of tea you like is a life adventure. Tea is second to water as the most consumed beverage in the world, and has become an integral part of life and of culture in many countries.
Besides being particularly rich in polyphenols, what sets green tea apart from the other types of tea is the way it is processed. Green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the good stuff from being oxidized, while black and oolong tea leaves are fermented. The fermentation reduces its polyhenois qualities and, therefore, these teas are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.
Polyphenols in tea have been known to help:
- protect our cells
- prevent blood-clotting
- lower cholesterol levels
- reduce cancer
- stimulate the immune system
Theanine (combined with teas’ vitamins, minerals and methyxanthines) are known to help:
- fight against mutagenic agents
- reduce aging
- fight blood pressure
- fight against viral and bacterial infection
- improve the functions of the digestive and excretory systems
Tea also has natural fluoride for strong teeth.
Researchers believe that drinking green tea provides additional benefits:
- lowers total cholesterol levels and improves the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol
- Inhibits the growth of cancer cells, especially gastric, esophageal, and skin cancers
- Inhibits the formation of blood clots, which can reduce heart attacks and strokes
The only downside of drinking tea is that it contains caffeine, but the good news is that it is only about 60 percent of the caffeine one would find in a similar size cup of coffee