4000 years ago an Emperor was traveling around the mountains of China. One evening he sat under a tree with a cup of hot water, the wind blew a leaf from a nearby tree into the cup. The Emperor didn't notice the leaf until he took a sip. His mouth was filled with a fresh and floral flavor. He knew we would never go back to plain water. Tea was born. - One of the origins of tea
Tea is one of the oldest and most diverse drinks in the world. The leafy beverage is the second most popular drink around the globe and is a key part of many cultures. However, in a coffee-obsessed world, many people are forgetting why we drank tea to begin with.
Yes, people did drink tea because they loved the flavor, but in many areas of the world, tea began as a form of holistic medicine.
This guide will show you why you should be drinking tea every day and how doing so can improve your health.
Four of the five major types of tea all come from one plant - Camellia sinensis. What makes the types of tea different is how and where the tea is grown, as well as how the tea is treated after it has been picked. The types of tea that come from this plant are black, green, white, and oolong tea.
Herbal tea does not contain any of the Camellia sinensis plants, instead, it is made of a mixture of herbs and spices and brewed the same way as the other types of tea.
Famous types of black tea include:
Black tea is the most processed of the four main types of tea. It is highly oxidized and this part of the process is what gives the leaves their dark color and rich taste. Black tea has the highest levels of caffeine and tannins.
The majority of black teas are processed in the same way, unlike green and white teas where the process can vary greatly. The key elements that affect the flavor of black tea are where and how they are grown, as well as how finely chopped the leaves are. The smaller the pieces the stronger the tea.
Some of the most famous types of black tea are grown in India - particularly in the Assam and the Darjeeling regions. Sri Lanka is also a key growing region for black tea - tea from this area is often called Ceylon tea.
Many of the world's favorite blends are made from black tea. Earl Grey is made from a mixture of Ceylon tea and Bergamot. Lapsang Souchong is a smoked black tea. Orange Pekoe is a nlack tea made up of leaves that are only picked from the top three branches of the bush - making them lighter and sweeter.
The black tea making process:
Famous types of green tea include:
Throughout most of Asia, green tea is the most popular form of tea. It can be drunk in whole leaf form, as a powder. Green tea is less processed than black tea and is, therefore, lower in caffeine and tannins. While it has fewer tannins, the more simplistic preparation method means that the tea retains a lot more of its natural benefits - including its high antioxidant content.
While green tea is grown across the majority of Asia, the two most famous sources are Japan and China. Japanese green tea tends to be wok or pan-fried, so the leaves are thin and flat. They have a more vegetal and oceanic taste. Whereas, Chinese leaves tend to be steamed. They have a lighter, more floral flavor.
Green tea that is shade-grown is known as Tencha. Shade growing the plant increases the chlorophyll count and makes the flavor more intense. Green tea that is roasted rather than fried or steamed is called Bancha. Bancha is a lot lower in caffeine and has a woody taste to it. It is often suggested as a low-caffeine alternative to black tea.
The green tea making process:
Famous types of oolong tea include:
Technically, oolong is the most processed of all the teas, but the leaves still remain greener than black tea in most cases. Tea experts often class oolong as the halfway point between green and black teas. As some oolongs can be very heavily oxidized (like black teas) and others can be very green.
Oolong teas are semi-fermented. This makes them a great option for anyone with bowel issues, as they are believed to promote healthy bacteria in our digestive systems.
China is one of the biggest producers of oolong. However, some of the most valuable oolongs are Taiwanese. Formosa was the name the British Empire gave Taiwan, so you may still see a lot of Taiwanese oolongs named Formosa.
One of the most famous types of oolong tea is milk oolong. These leaves have a natural vanilla taste. It got its name from the rumor that farmers fed the plant milk to get the leaves to taste so sweet.
The oolong tea making process:
Oolong is the only tea to go through all 5 stages of processing.
Famous types of white tea include:
White tea is the least processed of the teas. Because the leaves go through so little processing, the finest quality crops need to be used for this type of tea. For this reason, white teas tend to be a lot more expensive than other types of tea.
White tea is only withered and dried. Many white teas are dried in the sun to prevent over-processing. White tea has a very delicate floral taste but the notes of the tea can vary greatly depending on what part of the leaf is used.
Some white teas only use the bud of the plant, while others use the leaf and branch to give more depth of flavor.
One of the most famous types of white tea is called Silver Needle. When this tea was first made it was only allowed to be drunk by the Chinese Emperor and his family. Rumor has it that the buds were cut from the bush with golden scissors. Silver Needle is made from the buds of the tea bush and are so gently processed that the buds retain their downy hairs.
The white tea making process:
Famous types of tisanes include:
Teas that we class as fruit and herbal teas actually contain no tea leaves. Sommeliers generally refer to fruit and herbal teas as tisanes (this comes from the French word for blend). A tisanes can be made up of any blend of herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables - but cannot contain tea leaves.
Many of the most popular types of tea around the world are actually tisanes. Including yerba mate, which is a tobacco-like plant that is very popular in South America (note: yerba mate is not caffeine-free). There's also peppermint. While lots of Western countries use this herb for cooking, in the Middle East it is drunk instead of tea leaves or mixed in with them.
Rooibos is also considered a tisane. Rooibos is a tea-like plant that is grown in South Africa. When milk is added to a strong rooibos it can taste very similar to black tea. Rooibos is caffeine-free and much higher in antioxidants than black tea.
Most tisanes (particularly herbal tisanes) began their life as some form of medical treatment. Masala teas were given to soothe toothache, ginger for sore throats, and peppermint to settle the stomach.
As you can see, the word tea actually covers a huge variety of drinks. There really is a type of tea out there to suit every taste.
However, there are many other reasons to drink tea other than for the delicious taste. Tea has remained so popular for many years thanks to the culture surrounding it and the near-infinite amount of health benefits that it offers.
Neither of us has enough time to read through all of the ways tea can improve your health. So, we have narrowed the list down to the top 9 health benefits of tea.
Let's start by talking about one of the major benefits of drinking tea - green tea, oolong tea, and white tea are incredibly high in antioxidants - as is rooibos.
Studies have shown that antioxidants can protect the cells in your food from free radicals. Free radicals cause mutations in our cells that can lead to diseases like cancer. Free radicals are found in heavily processed foods, alcohol, and tobacco.
Tea is actually one of the best sources of powerful antioxidants. Particularly matcha green tea. Matcha is a powdered form of shade-grown Japanese green tea. Not only does growing the plant in the shade increase its antioxidant count, but with matcha, you ingest the whole leaf, so you can get over 100x the amount of antioxidants than you would from a cup of white tea.
If you are looking for the biggest hit of antioxidants then you should try ceremonial grade matcha (this should be made out of shade-grown Japanese tencha) or honeybush tea.
Coffee, tea, and cocoa plants have all developed caffeine as a defence mechanism. When a bug bites the leaf they can only taste the bitter caffeine and are put off. However, they do not all produce the same effects.
The caffeine in coffee is gets to work quickly, and causes spikes and troughs. The caffeine in cocoa is even more intense. However, the caffeine in tea is slower to release thanks to L-Theanine. It comes on smoothly and drops off gently without a sudden energy crash.
If you are someone who drinks a lot of coffee then you might want to consider switching to tea. Black tea contains a considerable amount of caffeine, and strong African black teas can often taste just as strong as coffee.
Green tea contains roughly half the amount of caffeine as black tea, and white tea contains half the amount of green tea, on average. Most herbal and fruit teas are caffeine-free. Teas with cocoa husks and yerba mate tea are both high in caffeine.
When switching from coffee to tea you will probably notice that you are sleeping better. This could be because most teas are sugar-free, unlike takeaway coffees. But there are other ways that tea can help us to sleep better.
Only 30% of Americans get enough sleep every night, so this health benefit of tea is something we could all benefit from.
There are 6 amazing herbal ingredients that have been used for thousands of years to improve our ability to sleep - they are chamomile, lavender, valerian root, lemon balm, magnolia bark, and passionflower.
A study on passionflower tea showed that one cup a day could improve an adults' ability to sleep. Tests on mice showed that magnolia bark tea improved the quality of sleep. While studies on lemon balm showed that the drink had sedative effects on humans.
Lavender has long been used in Europe to help people sleep. One study showed that drinking a cup of the tea before bed could improve sleep for most people. Chamomile buds contain a chemical called apigenin that has been shown to improve sleep and reduce anxiety levels.
Valerian root is perhaps the most promising choice for anyone who really needs to sleep. The drink has a strong sedative effect on humans. However, it can affect some antidepressants' ability to work - so talk to your doctor before you drink any.
The antioxidants that are in tea have been linked with boosting heart health and stroke prevention. Some teas can also improve heart health by reducing blood pressure and by helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
Both tea leaves and rooibos teas have shown the ability to inhibit angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE) being released into the body. This is the process that can lead to raised blood pressure. Preventing this process can help to manage and possibly reverse high blood pressure and its related conditions.
In another study, rooibos reduced the amount of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) by just drinking one cup a day. On top of that, the study also recorded that drinking one cup of rooibos a day can increase the amount of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) that the body naturally produces.
A major study done by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggested three cups a week could improve heart health.
The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences did a long-term study on over 100,000 people that showed that drinking at least one cup of tea a day can reduce your chance of developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke. The study also showed that people who drank tea every day lived longer - a median time of 7.3 years.
There are many ways that tea can help you lose weight.
Firstly, tea can be used as an alternative to more calorific drinks like sugar-filled lattes, soda, and fruit juices. If you swapped your morning Starbucks for a green tea with lemon you could reduce your calorie intake by over 200 calories with that one swap. Ice fruit tea is a great alternative to fruit juices and you can add soda water to them to replicate sweeter fizzy drinks.
Secondly, some studies have shown that tea - particularly matcha tea and oolong tea can improve our metabolism. They contain a type of catechin, called EGCG, which has been linked with boosting metabolism. However, avoid taking this catechin in the form of a pill as overdosing on it can cause permanent liver damage. Some pills have been found to have the same amount of catechin as 30+ cups of tea.
We could do an entirely separate article on why we should all be drinking a cup of turmeric tea every day. Turmeric has over 150 scientifically proven health benefits. One of which is its ability to improve and support our immune systems.
Turmeric has been used as a cure-all in ayurvedic recipes for thousands of years, but it has recently been discovered that the root is so powerful because it contains a lot of a compound called curcumin. Curcumin has antimicrobial properties that help the body to ward off illnesses and infections. Ginger has a similar effect on the body. Both of the roots also contain a little bit of spicy heat that helps the body to clear its sinuses.
Licorice, peppermint, and chamomile all have antiviral properties and contain immune system boosting vitamins that help our bodies to stay well. Peppermint is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is often a symptom of a struggling immune system and peppermint (as well as rooibos and lemongrass) are believed to help provide pain relief by reducing inflammation.
As flu season approaches each year, you may want to consider adding at least one herbal tea to your daily routine.
If you are looking to improve your skin there are three things you should do - start drinking more water, consume less dairy, and consume more vitamin E. Drinking tea can help you do all three of these things.
Did you know that most experts consider drinking a cup of tea (without milk) as providing the same amount of hydration as drinking a cup of water? In some cases, drinking a cup of herbal tea is better than drinking water because of all the added health benefits.
Swapping out one milky coffee or tea a day for a cup of herbal or fruit tea could not only help you lose weight but can also improve your skin.
Vitamin E is one of the key vitamins needed for good skin. It helps our bodies produce collagen that keeps our skin young and helps us heal any wounds.
Hibiscus is incredibly high in vitamin E and can be found in most fruit and herbal teas. It can be tart on its own but blends nicely with other flavors. Another tea that is high in vitamin E is honeybush tea. Honeybush has also been used for hundreds of years in South Africa to topically treat wounds and skin conditions.
There are certain points in the year where it can be hard to escape outbreaks of cold and flu. We have talked about how some teas can improve your immune system, but tea can also help you if you do end up catching a cold or the flu.
If you are looking for ingredients to help soothe a sore throat and to stop you coughing all night then you should look into finding a tea with eucalyptus, lemongrass, or peppermint in it. All three of these ingredients contain soothing oils that will coat the throat when the tea is drunk. They will help to prevent your throat from feeling dry.
Ingredients like chili and peppermint have an aromatic effect on the body. They encourage sinuses to open and help them to clear themselves. The heat from the chili and the menthol from the mint are very powerful and effective relief for many cold and flu symptoms. They also tend to be one of the few things you can taste when you are sick.
Teas that are high in vitamin C are also great for anyone who is suffering from a cold. If you are looking for vitamin C keep an eye out for teas with rosehip, hibiscus, and pomegranate.
Every woman should have a box of tea containing hibiscus in their cupboard. Not only is the ingredient great for the skin, but it contains all the essential vitamins for good female reproductive health.
If you are suffering from bladder infections then a tea with both hibiscus and cranberry in it can help to relieve symptoms and pain. These ingredients are also believed to help with menstrual cramps.
Raspberry leaf tea is also believed to help reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps. It is also believed to help bring on late periods and to induce labor. It is recommended to many pregnant women at the end of their third trimester.
Nettle tea has long been used as a fertility treatment, and while the jury is still out about how effective it actually is, many women swear by it.
Sadly, not all tea is made equal. There are many types of tea out there that don't contain any of the helpful ingredients that we mentioned above. In fact, the teas that we are going to talk about below can be detrimental to your health.
There have been dozens of documentaries that have exposed the dangers of diet and detox teas. Even Dr. Oz (king of fake health products) has done an exposé on detox teas.
We have talked about how teas can benefit weight loss in the article. However, we have only talked about specific ingredients and have shown scientific backing for all our claims. You won't find any research that supports the use of detox teas.
In case you have missed all of this, here is everything you need to know about detox teas.
Ignoring all the fake advertising, body shaming, and celebratory endorsement surrounding the products - there is a lot wrong with detox teas.
Firstly, they aren't really teas, they're laxatives in disguise. If you lose any weight while drinking these teas will be because you are using the toilet constantly. This laxative effect can cause you to become dehydrated.
The claims that they boost metabolism are false. These teas exist to make a profit. They don't contain high-quality ingredients or enough of those ingredients to see any real health benefits.
If you follow the #iweigh movement online, you will find advice on how to avoid these scams.
This one is pretty obvious, but if you buy pre-made tea you may be shocked to see how much sugar is in one bottle. This is particularly common for bottled iced teas.
The good news for you is that iced tea is incredibly easy to make yourself and if you use a tea with high-quality ingredients you won't need any sugar to get a sweet taste.
Be aware of sweet teas that are being offered by big coffee chains, they are usually full to the brim with syrup.
Our first problem with bubble tea is that it is expensive. You are paying over $6 for one cup of tea. Traditional tea is much better value per cup.
Secondly, when you order bubble tea you don't know which ingredients they are using to create the flavor. They usually use large amounts of artificial sweeteners and flavors - both of which are full of artificial sweeteners and flavorings. It is also not uncommon for bubble tea to be full of sugar and high fat cream to make them taste better.
Our final piece of tea-related health advice is to always read a tea's ingredients list and to be aware of what those ingredients can do.
While many herbal ingredients have been shown to improve your health, some ingredients can also cause unwanted (and unexpected) side effects.
If you are pregnant then you should get a clear list from your doctor of what you can and can't have. Some ingredients can be completely harmless for most people, but very dangerous for pregnant women. There are some herbs like raspberry leaf that can induce labor early or cause miscarriages. In non-pregnant women, raspberry leaf is believed to reduce period pains and increase fertility.
Another ingredient to be aware of is saint John's wort. This herb can stop contraceptive pills from working correctly and can even interfere with the performance of SSRIs. But the root can improve the quality of sleep for many.
If you are taking any medication, then it is important that you talk to your doctor about what you are eating and drinking to prevent any unintended side effects.
Tea is an amazing plant that has been drunk by humans for thousands of years. Throughout history it has been used to aid meditation, it has started wars, and it has been used as medicine.
Tea can be made using a wide variety of ingredients, all of which have their own health benefits that can add to the health benefits of the tea leaf itself. These ingredients, when brewed with the right dosage and when they are high enough quality can be used to treat a wide range of ailments and problems.
And the best news is that tea tastes delicious as well as improving your health! So, what are you waiting for - put the kettle on!