Any time is a good time for tea, that’s what I always like to say. I’m delighted that tea houses are booming in popularity. In a trendy artist village within the city where I live, my sociable twenty-something elder son loves hanging out with his fellow Art College students and friends in a popular tea house drinking Oolong, drawing and visiting.
Also, I love tea cups. From china painted with delicate roses and leaves, to handle-free pottery which allows the steamy goodness to warm my hands and my belly. And tea pots! It’s true… I have a thing for both cups and teapots. But as I live in a small house my storage capability has capped my collection at six, with half being somewhat utilitarian yet still lovely for daily use, and the others for more special occassions. Like a tea party! I will be doing a post soon with photos and details on how to throw a tea party that every one will enjoy (even with sons as I have!).
For today I’d like to focus on how tea goes beyond filling us with warmth and flavor, to how this simple-seeming beverage packs a wallop of incredibly healthy side benefits. Let’s pour another cup!
Health Benefits of Tea: Green, Black, and White Tea
Tea is a name given to a lot of brews, but purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea the real thing. They are all derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub native to China and India, and contain unique antioxidants called flavonoids. The most potent of these, known as ECGC, may help against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries. All these teas also have caffeine and theanine, which affect the brain and can heighten mental alertness.
The more processed the tea leaves, usually the less polyphenol content. Polyphenols include flavonoids. Oolong and black teas are oxidized or fermented, so they have lower concentrations of polyphenols than green tea; but their antioxidizing power is still high.
Here’s what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea:
Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
Oolong tea: In one study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One study showed those given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.
Health Benefits of Herbal Teas
Made from herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots steeped in hot water, herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas. Their chemical compositions vary widely depending on the plant used.
Varieties include ginger, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, hibiscus, jasmine, rosehip, mint, rooibos (red tea), chamomile, and echinacea.
Research has been done on the health benefits of herbal teas, but claims that they help to shed pounds, stave off colds, and bring on restful sleep are largely unsupported.
Chamomile tea: Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.
Echinacea: Often touted as a way to fight the common cold, research on echinacea has been inconclusive.
Hibiscus: A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels.
Rooibos (red tea): A South African herb that is fermented. Although it has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, medical studies have been limited.
Please exercise caution, or avoid, using teas/supplements containing:
Aloe; Buckthorn; Chaparral; Comfrey; Ephedra; Germander; Lobelia; Senna; Willow bark
At the very least, when using plants do your research and learn all you can.
My teapots are absolutely repurposed as a vase-holder for flowers (I tuck a smaller vase inside). Like the tulips in this delightful painting by my equally delightful friend Lorlinda.
As with all images shared here in my blog, please click the link provided embedded in the image or at the bottom of the post to visit the source and learn more about the artist (unless the source cannot be located as with the shamrock teacup painting).
My favorite tea of choice is Green tea, made in one of my favorite teapots to be enjoyed in abundance. Today it has also been poured into my special green teacup, perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day. Have a great one, and let’s drink up! Cheers!
Related reading at artist and writer Patricia Saxton’s blog post on her love of tea:
Also may you enjoy this article by Diana Chaplin on 7 Awesome Reasons to enjoy tea: