To Tea, or Not to Tea

While all teas have flavonoids and other polyphenols that appear to work as antioxidants and most likely help to neutralize free radicals which damage cells, there are differences you should be aware of. The four types of teas are black, white, oolong (wulong) and green.

So-called “herbal teas” (or Tisane) are not true teas as they do not come from the Camellia Sinesis plant, as the four true teas do. Instead they are derived from dried flowers, stems, leaves or berries of numerous other plants.

By the same token, supermarket teas that come in teabags are the lowest grade of tea because they are made up of fannings, or dust (tiny particles that break off when processed). They do not have much flavor, aroma, or as much beneficial qualities as whole leaf teas.

The main difference in the four types of teas is how they are processed, but there are some differences in health properties and preparation as well. The following is what I know about each type of tea:

Partly dried, crushed, and fermented so the leaves blacken. Due to the longer fermentation there is a weakening of it’s natural cancer-fighting compounds and an increase in the amount of caffeine. However, a cup of black tea still has less than 1/2 the caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Black tea is said to aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke. In fact, one cup a day could cut your risk of a heart attack 44%. Black tea should be brought to a full boil. Use it for one brewing only and remove and discard the leaves.

Very limited quantities as it is only produced in China and Sri Lanka. The new buds are picked before they open, left to wither, then dried. Due to the minimum amount of processing, white tea is said to exhibit potent disease fighting potential as well as high immune system building properties. In fact, recent studies reveal more antioxidant or cancer fighting benefits than green tea. Some researchers feel this is due to the increased caffeine content.

The water should not be too hot or too hard – some prefer bottled or spring water. Be generous with the tea leaves. The water temperature should be 185 to 190 degrees. White tea is best consumed after a meal.

Oolong (Wulong)
Semi-fermented, Oolong tea falls between the black and green teas as far as processing is concerned. It is best with light, savory meals, spicy foods, fish and poultry.

Oolong tea is said to increase metabolism, aid digestion and weight loss and ease eczema and psoriasis symptoms. It is also best prepared at 185 – 190 degrees.

Green tea is unfermented. The leaves are steamed, dried and heat treated to stop fermentation and oxidation. Due to it’s processing it is said to have 1/2 to 1/3 the caffeine of black tea, although I have seen figures as high as 1/15. Green tea is good with a light savory meal, spicy foods, fish, and strong cheeses.

Green tea has three times the antioxidants of black tea. Numerous cancer studies have been done to show it’s tremendous cancer fighting properties. (Even prostate and skin cancer) Green tea is best when freshly brewed in water just under boiling, remove leaves. You may brew leftover tea with leaves removed over a few times if desired. Allow green tea to steep one to five minutes.