Choosing a good tea can be as complex as or maybe more so than choosing a good coffee. See my other article “Coffee vs. Tea” for more tips and guides on how to choose a good tea. There are thousands of different kinds of teas, each with their own individual appearance, taste, and aroma. “True teas” refer to teas made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant versus herbal teas, which come from other plants.
Teas can be generally categorized into 4 major categories: black, green, oolong and white. Generally, these categories refer to how much a tea is oxidized. Oxidizing is an important step in the 5 steps of tea processing – from plucking, to withering, to rolling, then oxidizing and drying. Oxidation or sometimes referred to as “fermentation” in the tea production industry occurs when the enzymes in the tea leaf interact with oxygen to break down the cell walls of the leaves.
Types of tea
Recall there are 4 basic categories of tea – Black, Green, White and Oolong. Read on to find out a little more about each category and you might find yourself curious to try one or more of them today!
Black tea vs green tea
Until recently, green tea was thought to be the most effective antioxidant – containing “catechins”. But studies now show that there are also “catechins” made during the manufacturing process of black tea that is equally effective antioxidants. So, you can say that both are healthy to drink.
Black tea is probably one of the most commonly known teas of the 4 categories and the one many of us grew up with is the Lipton tea bag. Black tea is made when tea leaves are allowed to oxidize completely, and the color can range from dark brown to deep red. And because they are allowed more time for oxidation, they offer the strongest flavors and, in some cases, the most amount of astringency. Think English Breakfast tea and Earl Grey tea. Hence, they make great bases for iced teas and you can find black teas consumed with a little added milk and/or sugar.
Black tea benefits
Black teas are known for their high amounts of antioxidants and therefore are great for reversing the oxidation damage that your body is dealing with every day from free radicals, toxins, and other life stressors. Below is a quick list of 8 other amazing health benefits of black tea. 
- Boosts heart health due to high “flavonoid” content in black tea.
- Reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- The polyphenols and antimicrobial properties help to improve your gut health.
- Reduces and regulates your blood pressure.
- Reduces your risk of stroke.
- Helps balance blood sugar by helping your body use insulin.
- The caffeine and L-theanine (an amino acid that increases alpha activity in your brain) can enhance your mental accuracy and alertness.
- Reduces your risk of certain cancers due to the high polyphenols which help decrease cancer cells development.
Green tea is probably one of the most popular tea sipped across the world due to the successful marketing of its health benefits over the last few decades. Study after study shows it has great antioxidant benefits and aids in everything from reducing fibrocystic nodes to weight loss to digestive problems. Unlike black tea, green tea is not oxidized during the tea production process. Instead, fresh green tea leaves are either steamed or pan-fried to stop the enzymes from browning the leaf. Hence the green or sometimes yellow color of green tea leaves. Although different green teas can have different aromas and offer slightly different flavors, they generally offer a milder flavor and a more vegetable-like astringency.
Benefits of green tea
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that have powerful effects on your body including improved brain function and lowered risks for certain types of cancer. Maybe the best benefit of all for a lot of us is weight loss. Below is a list of 7 other good reasons why you should start to make drinking green tea as part of your daily routine if you actually need one. 
- The polyphenols in green tea can help reduce and reverse free radical damage in your body.
- Regular consumption of green tea has been shown to increase the metabolic rate in some of us, hence aiding fat burning and weight loss.
- The powerful antioxidants in green tea can help protect you against breast, prostate and colorectal cancer
- The bioactive compounds found in green tea may lower your risks of brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- The catechins in green tea can help your body fight bacteria thereby improving your dental health and reduces your risks for infection, cavities and tooth decay.
- Lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Boosts heart health and reduces your risk of heart disease through the lowering of the amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your body.
Oolong tea is a cultural staple for many Asians and it is almost always served at Chinese restaurants. Oolong tea is probably the most time-consuming to produce because it takes several iterations of rolling and oxidizing to produce the final oolong tea leaves. Sometimes a little gentle heat is applied in the production process to slow down the enzymes a little bit. Because oolong tea leaves go through so many different iterations of rolling and oxidizing, the resulting leaves offer a complex and beautiful layering of flavors and aroma. The flavor of oolong teas tend to be smoother and softer than black and green teas and they are usually rich in floral and fruity flavors.
Oolong tea benefits
Nutritionally speaking, oolong leaves are potent and can help with the formation of strong bones, preserve heart health, and strengthen the immune system. But these are not the only 2 health benefits of consuming oolong tea regularly. Below are 5 more reasons to make oolong tea your best friend if you need more convincing.
- The polyphenols in oolong tea can help regulate your blood sugar levels and insulin levels, thereby providing you with protection against type 2 diabetes.
- Oolong tea contains a lot of antioxidants that offer protection for your heart against various cardiovascular diseases.
- The high polyphenols in oolong tea are able to boost your metabolism and thereby aid your weight loss efforts.
- Like green tea and black tea, oolong tea may also help prevent cell mutations and offer you protection against certain types of cancer such as oral, lung, pancreatic, liver and colorectal cancer. [3, 4]
- The polyphenols in oolong tea may also help relieve the symptoms of eczema in dealing with this chronic skin condition.
White teas are essentially unprocessed teas. White tea leaves are simply plucked and allowed to naturally wither and dry. They are very delicate in flavor and can come in pale green or yellow color. You may also find some white teas with a subtly sweet, mellow, nectar-like flavor with unique floral, wood and honey notes.
White tea benefits
Like the other 3 categories of teas, white teas also contain high antioxidant properties that can enhance skin, bones, heart health and offer many other health benefits.
- The high polyphenols in white tea can reduce your risk for cardiovascular diseases by relaxing your blood vessels, improve your immune function and reduce your “bad” LDL cholesterol. 
- The caffeine and catechins in white teas can give your metabolic rate a boost, thus helping with your weight loss efforts.
- White teas contain a high amount of catechins and tannins, thus providing protection against plaque formation on your teeth.
- White tea has been found to be capable of suppression the cell mutation and spreading of certain types of cancers.
- The EGCG found in white tea helps to lower your risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Despite all these health benefits, teas are not nature’s miracle drug for anything and everything, unfortunately. Teas naturally contains caffeine so it is important to remember that it is still key to consume in moderation to avoid side effects like nervousness, sleep issues, irritability, irregular heartbeat, and headaches. I recommend my patients have no more than 300 mg of caffeine per day (approximately 3-4 cups of black tea) and minimize drinking caffeinated teas in the evening. Herbal teas generally don’t contain significant amounts of caffeine and should be fine to drink in the evening.
Enjoying your cup of tea
Afternoon tea time is probably one of my favorite ways to catch up with friends or just to catch up with myself. You do not have to have all the bells and whistles when it comes to tea making equipment and accessories to enjoy a really wonderful and nutritious cup of tea. But there are a few things to consider and think about.
Loose leaf tea or tea bags?
One of the most important things to consider first and foremost is the type of tea – loose leaf tea or traditional tea bags. Tea bags although convenient, unfortunately, do compromise the quality of full leaf teas. The leaves used in most bags are actually from finely broken tea leaves that have likely lost most of their essential oils and aroma. When steeped, they release more tannins than whole leaf tea, resulting in bitter astringent brews.
The material, shape, and size of the tea bags are also important factors. Most tea bags constrain the tea leaves, keeping them from expanding to their full flavor and aroma potential. So, if you can afford it both in cost and time, go for the loose-leaf tea for a fuller flavor in general.
As mentioned, loose tea leaves are more aromatic and retain more of the tea’s natural nutrients. In order to brew loose tea leaves, you will need a tea infuser. A tea infuser is a small mesh ball or basket tool that allows you to steep full-leaf loose tea together. Tea infusers allow the aromatic tea leaves to float freely through your beverage while preventing them from disintegrating into your cup of tea, making it either too bitter or impossible to fully enjoy. Invest in a good one because it can make all the difference and a quality one can last for a very long time.
Do not over brew your tea
There is a right and a wrong way to brew tea especially when you want to ensure that you are preserving the catechins and other nutrients in the tea. Using hot boiling water to brew your tea is not a good idea because the heat from the water can destroy the nutrients in the tea. It is therefore recommended that you let the water cool a little before pouring it over the tea leaves and brew for about one minute before serving. For some teas, the brew time can shorter or longer, depending on your taste.
Now that you know a little bit more about tea and probably impressed with the health benefits of regular tea consumption now, check out my other article on “Herbal teas” to get more ideas as to the types of tea you can start incorporating into your diet. Also, check out my article “Coffee vs Tea: How to Choose?” to see my tips on selecting the right tea.
The many antioxidant protection from drinking tea is one of the benefits gained for many people, including myself. I definitely find it advantageous to drink my morning brew of black, green and other tea blends as well as my late afternoon teas for their many touted antioxidants. I prefer to make the loose tea version and add some anti-inflammatory fresh ginger root ( about 1-inch of grated ginger root) to my tea blends. Research has shown that the very act of relaxing with a cup of tea can reset our physical and mental states in a positive way.
Health benefits of EGCG
In addition to my daily tea consumption, I add antioxidant-rich supplements like EGCG. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is a key active component of green tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves as mentioned above. Studies show green tea and its extracts are valued for its antioxidant properties and have been researched extensively for weight loss through promotion of fat metabolism, reducing inflammation, for cardiovascular health, and for its role in supporting overall health and wellness.  This formula contains green tea standardized to 45% EGCG. When it comes to antioxidant protection, this is one way to get your daily dose. I feel more protection is a wise choice!
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- Health Benefits of Green tea.
- Oolong tea increases plasma adiponectin levels and low-density lipoprotein particle size in patients with coronary artery disease.
- Tea and Cancer Prevention.
- Effects of green tea and EGCG on cardiovascular and metabolic health.
- 10 Proven Benefits of Green tea (EGCG).