Tea is world’s second most popular drink after plain cold water. It has been enjoyed by the Chinese for many centuries, and by the rest of us for 300 years. In fact, the Americans felt so strongly about their right to enjoy tea that it triggered a revolution!
The four types of tea you’ll find in the supermarket are black, green, white and oolong. They are all made from the leaves and leaf buds of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, and the different styles are created in the processing.
Black Tea: Manages Blood Sugar Levels
‘Black tea’ doesn’t refer to tea drunk without milk, but to the old-fashioned tea that we all knew before green tea, white tea and herbal teas became popular. It’s still the most common type of tea drunk in the West.
The fresh picked tea leaves are allowed to wither and then are fermented or oxidised at controlled temperatures to create the familiar dark shreds with a high tannin content. The tannin gives black tea its characteristic colour and smell.
All forms of tea are rich in antioxidants which help protect the body’s immune system, lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart and circulatory problems. New research published in the Journal of Food Science shows that black tea can also help people with Type 2 diabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance, a precursor to diabetes.
Black tea has long been known by the Chinese to control glucose levels in the blood after a meal, but only recently has scientific evidence backed this up. The Chinese scientist investigating the effect tested three types of tea – black, green, and oolong – and found the polysaccharides in black tea were the most effective at controlling glucose levels.
Green Tea: Full of Antioxidants
Green tea leaves have a much shorter fermentation process than black tea. Once brewed, green tea has lower levels of caffeine and tannin than black tea and a milder taste.
While green tea also has glucose controlling polysaccharides, it’s better known for being high in antioxidants. Regular drinkers of green tea benefit from these antioxidants with improved immune systems, cancer prevention, (especially colorectal cancer), reduced risks of heart disease, improved cholesterol levels and reduced pain from rheumatoid arthritis.
Don’t destroy these valuable antioxidants when brewing green tea! Always allow the boiling water to cool for two or three minutes before pouring it on the leaves or teabag.
White Tea: Mood Enhancing Drink
White tea is a specialty of the Chinese province Fujian. The young leaves are not fermented at all during processing, resulting in an even lighter and more delicate flavour than other teas. Strangely enough, white tea has a higher caffeine content than green tea!
The lack of fermentation means the leaves are also higher than green tea in theobromines, which assist the circulation, and gallic acid, which fights fungal infections and viruses. White tea also contains more of the amino acid theanine than green and black teas. Theanine is a mood enhancing chemical with relaxing properties.
As with green tea, don’t use boiling water to brew white tea. White tea’s flavour and health properties take a while to develop, so allow the tea to brew for five minutes, or even longer if you like.
Oolong: Black Dragon Tea
Oolong literally means ‘black dragon tea’, possibly because the uncut leaves are long, dark and curly. Sometimes the leaves are rolled into balls like gunpowder tea.
Oolong is most often served in Chinese restaurants, but can be bought at specialty tea shops and some supermarkets. As the leaves are partially oxidised in the production process, its flavour is between green tea and black tea.
The health benefits of oolong are also midway between black and green, and it is generally enjoyed for its flavour. It is usually served strong, without milk, and has a slightly bitter flavour with a sweet after-taste which many consider delicious.
Enjoy Your Cuppa!
Whether you drink black tea (with or without milk), green, white or oolong (all served ‘black’ – no milk, please!), relax: savour the aroma, enjoy the flavour, and thank the tea bush for your peaceful mood and better health!