“Tea comforts the spirit, banishes passivity, lightens the body and adds sparkle to the eyes.” – Shen Nong
So. I am a tea addict. I drink tea most days. I mean most of the day. I mean all day. Yup, that’s the one. Oh, and I have a tea for everything:
Stressed? Here’s a green de-stress tea.
Tired? Here’s a nice, strong cup of Yorkshire tea.
Want to go to bed but think you’ll have trouble falling asleep? Have a Pukka Love tea.
I already strongly believe in the health benefits of tea, as have many others since the drink was first invented: in China, where it originated during the Shang Dynasty, it was first used as a medicinal drink. According to myth, Shen Nong, a legendary Chinese emperor seen as the father of Chinese herbal medicine, discovered tea some 4000 years ago when a few tea leaves were blown into a bowl of boiled water he was drinking. Surprised by the restorative and detoxifying properties of the drink, Shen Nong then proceeded to test the peculiarities of different plants and herbs on himself, which, in keeping with legend, led to his death.
From this point on, the medicinal properties of tea were more and more recognised, and it was prescribed in China against headaches, bad digestion as well as dark thoughts. According to Li Shizhen, author of Compendium of Materia Medica, published in the 16th century, tea can “regulate the body’s internal temperature, calm anxiety, dissolve fats and improve concentration”.
Modern science has only relatively recently started to confirm what the Chinese have known for years: tea does indeed have various health benefits, including antioxydant effects (due to the presence of polyphenols) which cancer prevention researchers have been taking an interest in, although no conclusive studies have yet been published according to the National Cancer Institute.
Most teas share a number of recognised benefits, including supporting the heart system, activating circulation, detoxifying and eliminating toxins, fighting hypertension, fatigue and slowing ageing, helping with digestion, strengthening the immune system…Too many to count, really! But different types of teas each have some specific perks.
Here’s a quick lowdown on the virtues of different types of tea:
White tea, as the least processed tea of all, may have the most potent anticancer properties of all different types of tea: indeed, white tea is steamed and dried, and as such only goes through slight oxidation, which preserves the high number of polyphenols it contains in their natural state. This gives it powerful antioxydant effects. According to Chinese medicine, white tea may also counteract excessive heat and alleviate the symptoms of menopause.
Green tea is also a great antioxydant: only slightly more processed than white tea, it contains a higher number of polyphenols than other types of tea. It also contains more iron, vitamins and catechins (a type of polyphenol) than black tea. Also, it’s got lower levels of caffeine in it than black tea, so it won’t get you wired and stop you from sleeping.
Wulong or oolong tea is produced through a unique process: before it is oxidised, it is withered in the sun. It is said to have a slimming effect over time, if you drink it regularly; apparently, it helps to metabolise lipids (fats). According to a study published in the “Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine” in 2009, overweight and obese participants who consumed oolong tea for six weeks both lost weight and had decreased waist size by the end of the study. It is also said to have a relaxing, almost euphoric effect.
Black tea goes through an oxidation process called fermentation to be created, which gives the leaves their dark colour. While this technique may destroy some vitamins and lower the number of antioxydant catechins present in the leaf, it allows the caffeine it contains to be released more rapidly into the bloodstream. As such, black tea is more effective as physical stimulant than green tea.
Pu’er tea has long been used as a dietary supplement by nomadic tribes and specific ethnic groups in Asia who ate mainly fatty yak meat, as it counteracts fat and has been shown in rats to lower triglycerides and total cholesterol. A fermented variety of tea, pu’er is also recognised as helping to regulate the body and stimulate digestion.
This information all seems to point in the same direction:
TEA IS AWESOME.
Great news for all fo us tea lovers/addicts out there!
I love testing out different types of tea, so you’ll find a number of posts on this subject on my blog. Right now, I’m trying out SkinnyMint’s Teatox – yes, yes, I succumbed to the pressure of constant advertising! Their adverts have been all over my social media feed for the past few weeks and I thought I’d give it a go. My opinion on it very shortly!
My main source for this post is the book Tea: History Terroirs Varieties, published in 2014 by the Camilla Sinensis Tea House and Firefly.